- Blocky new styling mimics a certain legendary British brand.
- 2.5-liter turbocharged engine delivers 277 horsepower and 311 lb-ft or torque.
- Turbocharged 1.6-liter hybrid powertrain makes a combined 232 hp and 271 lb-ft.
- More interior room benefits passenger comfort and cargo capacity.
The 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Is as Comfortable as It Is Distinctive
Style and substance in equal measure
The Hyundai Santa Fe three-row SUV used to be one of the more conservatively styled models in the brand's lineup, but that's changed in a big way. The new 2024 Santa Fe is fully redesigned, with a boxy, extremely angular shape that makes it stand out from the rest of Hyundai's wide-ranging fleet of crossovers. We think the aggressive new look bears a striking resemblance to the current Land Rover Defender.
That's no accident. Hyundai has said the car's design has been shaped around "the latest outdoor lifestyle trends." The Santa Fe, then, is being positioned as a more rugged alternative that blurs the line between a city-dwelling SUV and one that can handle roads less traveled. This is especially true of the new XRT model, which is an off-road-inspired offshoot of the ultra-luxe Calligraphy trim. The XRT takes the Santa Fe's adventuring cred to the next level with 30-inch all-terrain tires and an additional 1.5 inches of ground clearance over the street-oriented variants. There's no doubt the new Santa Fe will be one of the most interesting-looking vehicles in its class, and though its showstopping exterior might be what draws people in at first, it's the improved interior packaging and new technology that will seal the deal.
What's under the Santa Fe's hood?
Things are a little more familiar underhood. The Santa Fe's powertrain options have been condensed from four to two, though there is a PHEV-sized "for now" caveat (look for a plug-in hybrid to potentially reappear in the next couple of years). The old naturally aspirated four-cylinder has been gently sent to the retirement home, with the previously optional turbocharged 2.5-liter unit returning to provide power for most models. It makes 277 hp (slightly down from last year's 281 hp) and 311 lb-ft of torque, and sends power through an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
There's also a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine paired with a hybrid system, which also makes a comeback from the last-gen Santa Fe. Combined output from that powertrain is 232 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque, running through a six-speed automatic transmission. Expect front- and all-wheel-drive versions of the Santa Fe to be offered once more.
Though the ground clearance of the new Santa Fe hasn't changed much from the last generation's 8.2 inches, Hyundai says that the vehicle will feature suspension changes including updated dampers, hydrobushings, and a more rigid chassis for greater stability. There's also an improved air filtration system to keep dust out of the cabin.
How does the Santa Fe drive?
We had the chance to spend time in the new Santa Fe in each of its powertrain configurations. As you'd expect, the turbocharged 2.5-liter engine gives the Santa Fe ample shove and will probably be the favorite engine for buyers with larger families or those looking to do a bit of towing. But our time in the 1.6-liter hybrid model gave us a new appreciation for Hyundai's more fuel-efficient option.
The assist delivered from the electric motor helps mask the diminutive size of the gasoline engine and shifts from the six-speed automatic transmission were reasonably quick while remaining subtle and unobtrusive. But once you load the Santa Fe up with people and gear, we think the hybrid might start to feel a bit winded with the extra weight.
Largely unchanged for the 2024 Santa Fe is the way it goes down the road. Despite its more angular and blocky exterior styling, the Santa Fe feels far more gentle and serene than it looks. Steering effort is light but remains accurate, and the Hyundai proves easy to navigate down either a highway or a more narrow country road.
How comfortable is the Santa Fe?
Two positive improvements with the 2024 Santa Fe are the more controlled ride and the excellent visibility. One of our few complaints with the outgoing Santa Fe was its somewhat soft ride, which led to unsatisfying handling. The new model feels considerably more taut and shows far better body control, even when it's being driven at only moderate speeds. As with any vehicle, the larger wheel options tend to spoil the ride and the Santa Fe is not immune. Our time in an example with 21-inch wheels returned a busier ride than another example shod with 20-inch wheels.
Visibility is also improved and the Santa Fe's boxy styling should surely gets the lion's share of the credit for the better views. The low dash looks out over a relatively flat hood, and the tall side glass aids side-to-side visibility just as much as it helps mostly eliminate the rear-quarter blind spots.
Both engines sounded and felt well isolated from the cabin, and the highly optioned examples of the Santa Fe we drove offered plenty of comfort for passengers of all sizes in the first two rows. The third row of seats is certainly a nice-to-have feature, and while they can support taller adults, the seats are better suited for kids.
How's the Santa Fe's interior?
The newly styled exterior is grabbing the headlines, but we're even more excited about the changes to the interior. Though the Santa Fe is a bit longer, it's still half a foot shorter than the Palisade, Hyundai's other three-row midsize. But clever packaging and this new boxy shape mean that if you measure from the dashboard to the tailgate, the Santa Fe is just as long and it now has improved interior space. In a welcome change from the last generation, its third row can finally fit adults. Hyundai has significantly boosted the Santa Fe's third-row headroom, which makes its back seat feel less claustrophobic than the third rows of rivals.
The second row can be had with captain's chairs or a bench, for six- or seven-passenger seating, respectively. Those captain's chairs offer power recline as an option. We also see the introduction of the Relaxation Seat that debuted in the Ioniq 5. This feature allows the seat to lean back into a nearly flat position with a leg rest that pops out as well, like a lie-flat seat on an airplane, making it an ideal spot for quick naps on the go. And second-row passengers will also have access to the center console between the front seats, thanks to a secondary opening at the rear of the console. Sounds like a great place to store (and share) some snacks.
The Santa Fe's rear cargo opening is massive. The taillights have been mounted low to allow the struts to move outward, so when the hatch lifts, it seems as though the entire rear of the car is opening up. The opening measures 50.2 inches across, an increase of 5.7 inches over the last-generation Santa Fe. This, combined with the flat-folding second row, creates easy loading into a large, flat cargo area that's perfect for bulky items or an inflatable bed. We still don't have all of the official cargo measurements from Hyundai, but cargo room behind the second-row is estimated at 40.5 cubic feet, an increase of 4.1 cubes.
How's the Santa Fe's tech?
The Santa Fe's in-cabin technology also takes a big leap forward in this redesign. There are dual 12.3-inch screens up front like you'll find in other Hyundais, but the multimedia system adds two crucial features: wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. These have been offered on lower-end Hyundai screens for years, but the upgraded larger screens curiously required a cord. No more. Keeping with the wireless smartphone theme are two wireless charging pads that can both charge at 15 watts and come with a fan underneath to keep the phones cool.
Improving rearward visibility is a digital rearview mirror so even if the cargo area is full of suitcases, you'll be able to see behind you. There's also a secondary glovebox that comes with a UV sanitizer that works for phones, masks, or anything else that needs disinfecting.
How economical is the Santa Fe?
Official fuel economy numbers for the 2024 Santa Fe have not yet been released by the EPA. But since the engines and transmissions more or less carryover from last year's model, we expect the hybrid to return 32 mpg (33 city/30 highway) and the 2.5-liter turbo to deliver 24 mpg (21 city/28 highway) when equipped with all-wheel drive.
The Santa Fe takes a back seat to the Palisade no more. With improved technology and interior space, a more refined driving experience and the off-road-ready XRT, it appears that Hyundai will have a formidable duo in this midsize SUV segment for years to come.