The Hyundai Santa Fe debuted in 2001 as the Korean brand’s first SUV. Hyundai now has a full line of passenger carriers, both smaller and larger than the Santa Fe (the long-wheelbase version of which was replaced by the Telluride), with hybrid powertrains to match.
The 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) comes standard with four-wheel drive and delivers 48 kilometers of all-electric driving range. Unlike the Tucson PHEV, it takes about 3.5 hours to charge on a Level 2 charger (the Tucson only takes about 2 hours).
The Santa Fe was all new for 2019 but got a quick facelift in 2020 to the front which can now be seen. The SUV comes with a wider three-dimensional grille than the previous model with new T-shaped LED lighting in the headlamps. The front is busy but it looks great at night with just the headlights lit up.
The Santa Fe has a long hood and scalloped doors along with sharply creased character lines. The windows feature a satin trim, while new 20-inch wheels complete the package in the PHEV models. The roof rails have also been redesigned; electrically folding mirrors with turn signals and courtesy lights are now offered.
A 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system centers in the cabin of the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe with numerous physical buttons to provide haptic feedback when pressed. They are much easier to press while driving, although the push-button transmission takes some getting used to. The drive mode button is located on the center console and invites you to switch from Sport to Smart mode.
It feels more luxurious than Hyundai’s previous vehicles with soft, perforated, heated and cooled leather-trimmed seats. They are adjustable in every way, including the angle of the seat base. There is plenty of storage space and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. The touchscreen is a little far away, but the buttons help to not always have to. Visibility is good from most angles and a 360-degree camera covers the few blind spots.
It only has room for five passengers, as the seven-passenger Santa Fe was replaced by the three-row Telluride SUV. But for three adults it seems comfortable. The cargo space is about the same as the Nissan Rogue at 36.4 cubic feet, but more than the Nissan Murano. The Toyota RAV4 comes in at 37.5 cubic feet, while the Venza has just 28.8. The Honda CR-V has the most space of the bunch at 37.6 cubic feet.
The 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV will have a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a new six-speed automatic transmission. The motor alone makes 178 horsepower and when combined with the 44 kW electric motor, the total power is 225 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. It is rated at 76 miles per gallon equivalent (mpg-e) and 33 mpg combined on the gasoline engine alone.
Like many hybrids, the 2022 Santa Fe is fast from a standstill. The four-wheel drive layout, with variable torque distribution between sides and front to rear, minimizes wheel slip. It loses a bit of oomph at higher speeds and overtaking maneuvers require a full kick of the accelerator. However, the automatic transmission is quiet and unobtrusive, as is the road and wind noise.
The brakes are better with bigger discs and a bigger master cylinder than the previous model, making for confident stops. They require a slightly harder press due to the energy regeneration of the hybrid system. The stock suspension covers the average pothole, even with the 20-inch wheels, and steering inputs are accurate, if not sports-car quick.
Hyundai Smart Sense is standard across the range with Forward Collision Alert, Blind Spot Alert, Lane Keeping and Tracking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Parking Sensors and Safe Exit Alert, which keeps the doors locked if a car approaches from behind when exiting the vehicle .
The 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in Hybrid starts at $40,000 for the SEL trim and $46,010 for the Limited as the test vehicle. The base Santa Fe starts at $27,700, for reference. It falls in between the compact and mid-sized classes, larger than the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, but smaller than the Subaru Outback and Jeep Grand Cherokee.
The CR-V Hybrid starts at $32,010, but has no electric range. The RAV4 Prime starts at the same price as the Santa Fe PHEV and arrives with 42 miles of electric range. The Outback doesn’t offer a hybrid or plug-in, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe is much more expensive at around $58,000. On the luxury side, the Lexus NX is a bit smaller, but starts around the same price as the Hyundai Santa Fe.
Ultimately, it’s the looks of the Santa Fe that will or won’t sell this vehicle. The interior is comfortable and the travel is efficient, but the front is a lot. But if buyers can get past that, a solid SUV awaits.