2024 Hyundai Santa Fe First Drive: Land Rover Vibes And Packed With Value, But That DCT Must Go - SUV VEHICLE

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe First Drive: Land Rover Vibes And Packed With Value, But That DCT Must Go

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Summary

  • The 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe undergoes a complete identity shift with a new rugged design and standard three-row seating.
  • The turbo engine provides punchy performance while the interior boasts practical storage solutions and increased cargo space.
  • Despite some handling and transmission issues, the Santa Fe’s transformation aims to attract adventurous consumers on a budget.



During the first drive event for the 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe, the company’s product planners were rather vocal about the vehicle’s identity crisis. When you think about it, although this SUV has been around for no less than four generations, the Santa Fe was always hard to qualify.

Often deemed too small to fit within the midsize, three-row category, and at times only offering the extra row of seats as optional equipment, the Santa Fe didn’t seem to know what it was supposed to be, which forced it to occupy an awkward space in the industry. Things got even weirder when Hyundai introduced the Palisade, Hyundai’s first true three-row SUV. The final nail in the coffin was the three-row Kia Sorento, the Santa Fe’s mechanical twin. I was personally wondering if Hyundai was even going to keep the Santa Fe in its lineup.


As it turns out, it will, which brings us to this: the fifth-generation model. It’s a product that looks nothing like the rounder and more organic Santa Fes of yore. It was also completely overhauled as a true three row midsizer, while presenting itself as a visually more rugged and squared-jawed machine. Apparently, this is the Santa Fe’s true identity now, its final form, if you will, or so Hyundai says. Will it work at attracting outdoorsy folks to this nameplate? Your guess is as good as mine, but what I can say from my initial first impressions is that Hyundai did many things right with this thing.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Front Three Quarter
2024 Hyundai Santa Fe

For its fifth generation, the Hyundai Santa Fe gets a complete makeover that seems to have been taken straight out of the Land Rover design book. While it looks more rugged than before in an attempt to attract new buyers, and now comes standard with three-row seating, the new Santa Fe still rides on a familiar platform and is powered by tried and proven engines.

Model
Santa Fe

Engine
2.5L Inline Four-Cylinder

Transmission
8-Speed Dual Clutch Automatic

Horsepower
277 HP @ 5,800 RPM

Torque
311 LB-FT @ 1,700 RPM

Driveline
AWD

MSRP
$33,950

MSRP (As Tested)
$48,300

Fuel Economy
23 MPG

Towing Capacity
3,500 LB (4,500 LB For XRT)
Pros
  • Looks like a budget Land Rover
  • Spacious, comfortable and loaded with neat storage solutions
  • Punchy turbo engine
Cons
  • Clunky dual clutch transmission
  • Sloppy handling
  • Plug-in hybrid version now a thing of the past

Hyundai Canada flew me to British Columbia for the 2024 Santa Fe first drive event. They paid for my food and my lodging and provided me with a press unit for a full day to review. For detailed insight into testing procedures and data collection, please review our
methodology policy
.



2024 Hyundai Santa Fe First Impressions

Whether you like the Santa Fe’s new styling or not, it’ll definitely get you talking and, perhaps, have you comparing it to a Land Rover product. The similar styling queues are obviously found in the vehicle’s blocky demeanor, straight edges and flared wheel arches, resembling, at times, an early 2000s Land Rover Discovery.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Tailights

I personally really like what Hyundai has done here, and I especially dig the big, Lego-like taillights nestled way down over the rear bumper. This new Santa Fe is a breath of fresh air in this world of crossovers that all look like melted jelly beans.


That being said, while I get what Hyundai is trying to do with the H patterns inside the head and taillights, I personally find this very gimmicky. I do not think it’ll age well. Their font is also ironically similar to the Honda logo, which had me giggling inside. Bold, nonetheless.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Side Profile

Then there was the decision to fit some top-tier Calligraphy models with blacked-out 21-inch wheels. I just don’t find they fit well with the otherwise stunning Earthy Brass matte paint my test unit was wearing. They just sort of disappear, which is a shame, because their styling is fabulous.


We also had the all-new, more adventure-ready XRT model at our disposal. It wears smaller 18-inch wheels (also black), all-terrain tires, a slightly lifted ride height and a 4,500-pound (versus 3,500 lb) towing rating.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Side Handle 2

My personal design feature on the new Santa Fe doesn’t really have anything to do with the design itself, but rather its practicality. I’m talking about the subtle little handle that was installed on both sides of the car, on the C pillar. It can be locked into place using a physical key to stay shut, or unlocked, so it opens, allowing you to grab it when attempting to strap your gear on the roof rack. It’s a simple, yet witty way to get your supposedly outdoorsy target audience to care about your product.


Exterior Dimensions

Length

190.2 in.

Width

74.8 in.

Height (with roof rails)

67.7 in.

Wheelbase

110.8 in.

Front Track

64.8 in.

Rear Track

65.1 in.

Curb Weight

4,222 lb.

Driving Impressions And Performance

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Front Three Quarter


As I’m writing this, Hyundai only sells the turbocharged 2.5-liter model. The hybrid will arrive later this summer. The main reason for this is that the regular gas models are being built right now at Hyundai’s USA plant in Alabama (HMMA), while the hybrids will soon come out of South Korea.

And, no, Hyundai doesn’t plan on bringing back the plug-in hybrid model to our market. At least, there are no short-term plans for it.

In the 2.5T configuration, the Santa Fe is good for 277 horsepower and a segment rivaling 311 pound-feet of torque. That engine is mated to a wet-type dual clutch automatic transmission (DCT). In Canada, all Santa Fes come standard with all-wheel drive, while U.S. consumers get to choose between front and all-wheel drive. Canada will also get a super-cool NHL Edition when the hybrid hits showrooms. See the differences between the U.S. and Canadian trim hierarchy in the table below, along with pricing for each trim.


2024 Hyundai Santa Fe: Differences Between US And Canadian Market

US Market

Canadian Market

SE FWD ($33,950 USD)

Preferred Hybrid ($40,999 CAD)

SEL FWD ($36,450 USD)

Preferred Hybrid with Trend ($44,999 CAD)

Limited FWD ($43,350 USD)

XRT 2.5T ($46,999 CAD)

Calligraphy FWD ($46,500 USD)

Luxury 2.5T ($49,999 CAD)

SE AWD ($35,750 USD)

Ultimate Calligraphy 2.5T ($53,499 CAD)

SEL AWD ($38,250 USD)

NHL Edition Hybrid ($TBD)

XRT AWD ($40,600 USD)

Limited AWD ($45,150 USD)

Calligraphy AWD ($48,300 USD)

SEL Hybrid FWD ($36,950 USD)

Limited Hybrid FWD ($43,850 USD)

Calligraphy Hybrid FWD ($47,000 USD)

SEL Hybrid AWD ($38,750 USD)

Limited Hybrid AWD ($45,650 USD)

Calligraphy Hybrid AWD ($48,800 USD)


On the road, the Santa Fe feels a lot more grown up than the model it replaces, in the sense that its cabin considerably improves on general build quality and sound insulation. It also feels a lot more grounded on the road, almost BMW-esque from how heavy and stable the entire thing feels. But I must warn you, the steering wheel is vague and not particularly quick to react.

The turbocharged four, on the other hand, is never disappointing. It’s punchy, lively, and the amount of low-end torque deployed early on in the rev band allows this big guy to get up and go without too much slouch. A brief towing exercise involving two jetskis was non-dramatic. I honestly didn’t really feel like I was towing anything.

That drivetrain would, however, be stellar if it weren’t for the dual-clutch transmission. Punch the accelerator from a standstill, and there are considerable delays before the Santa Fe actually starts moving. It’s the same story when you ask for a lower gear.

At certain times, the downshifts were quick and smooth, while at times, they were laggy and unrefined. I also noticed some worrying clunking sounds when approaching a stop. I can only imagine how much better the drive would have been had the Santa Fe been equipped with a conventional, torque-converter gearbox.


2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Front Side

Don’t expect the 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe to be an athlete in the corners. Then again, this was never its mission. While its suspension damping presents a good balance between stiff and soft (on the 21-inch wheels, it leans more on the stiff side), this midsize SUV will quickly reveal its size, weight and height when sent too hard into a corner.

I quickly discovered this while pushing the darn thing to full boil on British Columbia’s picturesque winding roads. Body roll quickly creeps up on you, so you’d better dial things back a notch and drive the Santa Fe casually.


2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Engine

Performance Specifications

Engine

Turbocharged 2.5L Four-Cylinder

Turbocharged 1.6L Four-Cylinder Hybrid

Transmission

8-Speed Dual Clutch Automatic

6-Speed Automatic

Horsepower

277 HP @ 5,800 RPM

231 HP (Combined) @ 5,600 RPM

Torque

311 LB-FT @ 1,700 RPM

271 LB-FT (Combined) @ 1,000 RPM

0-60 MPH

NA

NA

Top Speed

NA

NA

Towing Capacity

3,500 LB / 4,500 LB (XRT model)

2,000 LB

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Fuel Economy

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Front Section


Hyundai still hasn’t released official EPA or Natural Resources Canada fuel economy numbers for the hybrid model. Those will come later when the carmaker adds it to the lineup.

As for the 2.5T, I drove the car over 102 miles, on a cool rainy day. The Sunshine Coast region where we were hosted is mostly made up of constant elevation changes and steep inclines. In these conditions, as I attempted to control my right foot, I averaged 22.4 MPG, which isn’t too far from official EPA numbers. See the table below for reference.

City

Highway

Combined

EPA Rated Economy

20 MPG

28 MPG

23 MPG

Fuel Economy As Tested

22.4 MPG

Interior Design And Comfort


The Santa Fe not only looks different from the outside, its cabin is a completely different experience than all generations that came before it. The straight-edged theme continues inside in an attractive, multi-decker fashion for the dashboard, with the massive curved screen (housing both the instrument cluster and the infotainment system) on the top, air vents with more integrated H patterns in the middle, and physical redundant controls on the bottom.

Generally speaking, everything is well put together, covered in soft-touched materials and generally enjoyable to look at. I just don’t get why Hyundai copied
Land Rover’s steering wheel designs
. In the Santa Fe, it comes off as a cheap replica instead of something that’s truly unique.


Overall, ergonomics are good in the Santa Fe in the sense that everything is where it should be. A column-mounted shift selector clears the center console, giving way to no less than two wireless cell phone chargers. That floating console also houses some neat storage tricks of its own, like a separate storage tray underneath and a center storage compartment that opens in the front, but also in the rear.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Center Console 3

Out the back, that console yields a fairly sizable tray. An additional storage compartment was also added over the glove box, complete with an integrated UV sterilizer system. Hyundai says this gimmicky feature was something its customers asked for, but I’m trying real hard to believe this.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Second Row


The second row yields more than enough head and legroom for tall passengers. Seats can be moved around electronically or manually to access the rear seat area, but I must say, the level of complexity involved in getting those seats out of your way is a bit overkill. Some models, like the Nissan Pathfinder, simply require the push of a button. That’s how it should always be.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Third Row


Once back there, I was impressed by the level of leg and headroom I had at my disposal. Usually, in three-row SUVs, my 6-foot frame feels trapped back there, but not in the Santa Fe. I was actually quite comfortable, and I never felt like the second row was breaking my knees.


Interior Dimensions

Front

Second Row

Third Row

Headroom

41.9 in.

39.9 in.

36.6 in.

Shoulder Room

60 in.

58.1 in.

47.9 in.

Hip Room

NA

NA

NA

Legroom

39.8 in.

37.6 in.

33.3 in.

Technology And Ease Of Use

Just like the new Kona and the soon-to-be released updated IONIQ 5, the Santa Fe inherits Hyundai’s latest infotainment interface. Its main new feature is the ability to receive over the air (OTA) updates, so it can change over time, also allowing the carmaker to fix glitches on the go. The entire layout also changed, but not so much as to throw off existing Hyundai owners. The main screen now regroups vital information in a tile configuration, while the main menu separates each feature into neat, horizontally stacked tabs.


2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Infotainment System 003

Generally speaking, this system is attractive to look at, quick to react and never really complicated to understand. I got to say, those physical buttons make it all so much better. When I didn’t quite know where to swipe to set up my smartphone, for instance, I just smashed the setup button underneath and there was the menu. This is something all carmakers need to start doing again.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Center Console


Wireless Android Auto (in my case) – a standard feature across the lineup – also operated seamlessly and without glitches. Having my phone on the dual charging tray really made me realize how convenient that center console really is and how much space a conventional gear lever takes up.

Cargo And Storage Space

Since this new Santa Fe is 1.8 inches longer, 1.4 inches taller and rides on a wheelbase that’s almost two inches longer, total cargo space also increases dramatically. For starters, the fact that the rear hatch essentially opens up the entire car’s rear section gives way to a massive opening that stretches lower than hip level. This feature alone should help shorter people throw their gear in there without too much of a stretch. Total cargo space is also now on par with some true, midsize three-row SUVs.


Minimum Cargo Capacity (All Seats In Place)

14.6 cu-ft

Cargo Capacity Third-Row Folded Down

40.5 cu-ft

Cargo Capacity All Seats Folded Down

80 cu-ft

How The 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Compares To Its Competition

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Headlights

It’s obvious that, since it’s now offered in a three-row configuration, the Santa Fe now faces a full plethora of rivals coming from basically all carmakers. Key contenders would be the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander/Grand Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, Ford Explorer and Mazda CX-90, just to name a few.


However, none of those models present themselves as rugged options, nor are they of the same dimensions. While large, the Santa Fe remains slightly smaller than those vehicles. Hyundai says it wants to take on the Subaru Outback, but to me, that doesn’t really make any sense, as the Outback is mostly a lifted station wagon that only offers two row seating. I’ll go ahead and say that the new Santa Fe is sort of alone on its rock along with only one, true competitor; its corporate twin, the equally classless Kia Sorento.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe vs 2024 Kia Sorento

2024 Kia Sorento

While they look very different, these vehicles ride on the same platform, the Hyundai group’s N3 architecture. The Santa Fe is a tad longer overall, about 0.8 inch more. This allows the Hyundai to offer a tad more legroom in the second and third rows. In the front, however, their interior dimensions are identical.


Under the hood, they even share the same drivetrains. Interestingly enough, the Kia’s 2.5T is a tad more powerful than the Santa Fe’s at 281 horsepower versus 277. Both offer a 3,500-pound towing rating. The Sorento X-Pro model equals the Santa Fe’s XRT version, also boasting a 4,500-pound towing rating. However, at every equivalent trim level, the Santa Fe is a tad more expensive, about $2,000 more each time.

Related
2024 Kia Sorento Highlights And Features Explained

A mid-cycle refresh sees the Kia Sorento inherit the newest features from larger counterparts coupled with spacious third-row seating.

Get The Santa Fe For Its Land Rover Vibes

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Rear Three Quarter

The 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe may not be a real off-road ready vehicle like a Land Rover or a Toyota Land Cruiser, but it’s also not sold in the same price bracket. Sure, that squared off vibe is mostly show and no go. After all, its bones are shared with the Sorento, a car-based SUV that comes off as a more urban-friendly machine.


But you are getting a lot for the price. That alone, the fact that the Santa Fe looks and at times even feels like a Land Rover, could be enough to convince a new kind of consumer in search of something sensible and attainable; a product that also looks like it can do more than what it actually can.

We’ll need to wait a few more years to really see if this strategy paid off for Hyundai and, perhaps more importantly, if this new bold styling will age well. As for us at Topspeed.com, we’ll need to give the new Santa Fe a longer test to properly evaluate it, along with the upcoming hybrid model. So stay tuned for more.

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