The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe surprised us all recently with a face that went quite aggro. Given that’s the trend of all cars today, it’s not completely unexpected, I suppose. But the Santa Fe wears its new face well. And it has some features that are very nice and thoughtful. Especially in its top-tier Limited trim.
(Full disclosure: We asked Hyundai to borrow a Santa Fe and it let us have this 2020 Limited 2.0T FWD version, which came with a full tank of gas.)
The act of driving the Santa Fe is thoroughly unremarkable, keeping in mind that unremarkable does not mean bad. Our Limited loaner was spec’d with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder that’s good for 235 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. All that’s hooked up to an eight-speed automatic. The car has just enough pickup to merge and pass safely, but it’s happiest just sitting at a constant speed and keeping the revs low.
The steering is very numb and vague in the car’s comfort setting; changing it to sport mode only improves it marginally. Paired with how big the car is, maneuvering it in tight places takes a little getting used to. But for people who merely want a large car for shuttling friends and family members between outings and filling up the trunk with supplies, this is a great car to do it with.
I’ll be straight with you: This review would have been a lot harder to write had the Santa Fe not come with anything that distinguished it apart from the rest of the competition. But it did! So here’s what we liked.
Jalopnik used the Santa Fe during the week of the LA Auto Show to drive all over Los Angeles. We took it on the highway, on big surface roads and quieter back roads. Outside noise from the tires, engine, wind and other traffic was never a noticeable problem for us. The car was well-insulated from all that stuff, which meant nobody had to shout to be heard, even when sitting in the back.
This might seem trivial, but a surprising number of so-called luxury European cars don’t offer heated back seats, even with all the options boxes checked. Our Santa Fe came in the top-tier Limited Trim, so that meant heated front and rear seats were standard.
Not only that, but the front and rear seats were spacious and comfortable. Legroom was aplenty, as was back support. I generally feel downgraded when I sit in the back seat, but the Santa Fe offered a very nice back seat riding experience. In fact, I preferred to be driven around in this car than drive it.
Now, you could just slap any old piece of perforated plastic over a set of speakers and call it a day. Many other automakers do that. But in this Santa Fe, the speakers had some fun, undulating and geometric plastic covering them.
It was a small detail, but still indicated to us that some care went into picking out trims and textures here.
It seems to me that headliners only come as one of two types of material: Alcantara or that shitty fabric that’s either black or gray. The Santa Fe’s headliner is gray, but it isn’t that boring flat gray everything else has. Rather, it’s an attractive heather gray, with flecks of alternate colors.
The heather gray brings more overall dimension to the ceiling of the car. It’s not something most people probably look at, but you notice it.
The Santa Fe Limited comes with a bunch of advanced safety tech. Among them is a feature I haven’t yet experienced in any other car: a backwards-facing camera that’s activated when you put on your turn signal. When you do this, the image appears on your center gauge-cluster and you can see if something is coming up behind you when you need to make a turn or merge.
The camera’s eye peers down the side of the car, so you have a frame of reference and it helps enormously with seeing what’s approaching from behind. This works for both turn signals, by the way.
True, it’s worth asking why the car got so big in the first place to necessitate such a camera, but I’d rather have it than not.
The 2020 Santa Fe may not be the most interesting or exciting car on the road, but little touches such as these made it significant. The only downside is the Limited trim is pricey. At nearly $40,000, you have to wonder why you wouldn’t just go for the better-looking and more luxurious Palisade.