Overview

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Overview (Final Score: A-)
The Santa Fe is a strong entry into the small and midsize crossover markets. Hyundai is stepping up their game overall as a company, with their on-point marketing strategy focusing on the surprise many might have at the quality and bold styling the company is bringing. Hyundai is doing a good job of moving away from the "knockoff next door" label that many have attached to them and becoming a self-identifying brand throughout their lineup. The 2015 Santa Fe is a big part of that.

The 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe is offered in both a three-row standard model and a two-row Sport model. Both offer similar, muscular styling and beautiful interiors that rival even some premium brands for comfort and accommodation. On the road, the standard V6 in the Santa Fe and the optional 2.0T in the Sport model are solid goers with more punch than expected. These combine well with the nimble chassis of this surprising crossover.

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What We Loved About the 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe


  • Excellent handling characteristics.

  • Upscale interiors with a lot of room and cargo capacity.

  • Smart infotainment that's easy to use.


What We Didn't Love About the 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe


  • Base level engine in the Sport is doggish.

  • Fuel economy is sub-par at all levels, especially in the Sport model.

  • Headroom can be an issue in front if sunroof or panoramic glass is opted for.


Exterior View (8/10 relative to market)
The Hyundai Santa Fe has a contemporary design that is sporty and forward-leaning with lines that accentuate that overall impression. Although the roof line is flat, a downward-tilted belt line, body accent line, and clearance line follow the angle of the sloped hood to create this muscular tilt. It's a somewhat bold and very stylish look; and a bit of a surprise on a Korean make.

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The front fascia holds a trapezoidal grille and squared, peering headlights. The notched fog lamps (optional) are a nice touch and the black lower bumper cover pushes the eye down to the skidplate at its bottom. The hood has a rounded lip at the front and two light accent lines to help push out the fenders.

Around at the rear, the "bulge" usually seen in crossovers of this size is de-emphasized with a more squared off look for the rear paneling. A spoiler at top and a repeat of the black bumper cover with lower skid and hitch cover is punctuated with the dual exhaust tips in some models.

The overall look of the 2015 Santa Fe speaks towards motion and refinement and it stands out for its ignorance of the conventional curvy bodies we often see on the market.

Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (9/10)
The overall impressions given by the 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe's interior are of quality, spaciousness, and ergonomics. The materials quality inside the Santa Fe, even at the base level, will make most do the Hyundai commercial double-take: "That's a Hyundai?" Gone are the cheap interior fittings and low-rent look of the 1990s Hyundai and in is a trend-setting Korean upgrade from the norm.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe - interior 2 - AOA1200pxThe front driver's and passenger's seats are very comfortable and have a lot of adjustment options, especially in the upper trims. Headroom is good, though taller folks with mid-level trims that don't have a seat height adjustment may find this a bit cramped if the sunroof or panoramic roof option is included in their Santa Fe. Legroom and knee room are excellent and the new dashboard and center console design for this generation Hyundai makes this one of the most accommodating crossovers in its class.

Driver ergonomics are verging on the point of being on par with luxury European cars, with controls placement and a simplicity of function that is hard to match.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe - interior 6 - AOA1200pxIn the second row, seating is also very good with perhaps only a couple of rivals in the segment having more comfort and adjustment. Only a very few can boast the kind of seating adjustment the second row of the Santa Fe has. The Santa Fe in its full-sized package (versus the smaller Sport model) offers a third row that is also readily accessible, with the second row folding forward, and sized well enough to offer children and teenagers a viable seating option. Smaller adults will also find it good enough for short trips.

Cargo space in the 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe is huge. With the third row folded it's a very good 41 cubic feet and with the second row down, it expands to a massive 80 cubic feet.

Technology (9/10)
Technology in the 2015 Santa Fe centers on the infotainment system, which has been revamped recently to make it much better than it has been in the past. Menus on the touchscreen are intuitive and easy to use, making this one of the best in the segment for its low learning curve. Functionality is good, though some rivals are a bit better. Hyundai adds unexpected smartphone integration in late-year models and that adds much more functionality to the mix. Our test model Santa Fe did not include this, but another model tested, the Sonata, did. It's worth the upgrade if you're a heavy smartphone user (Android or iOS).

Several audio options for the 2015 Santa Fe are available with the top-most Infinity 12-speaker system in surround-sound being offered in the Limited trim.

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Fuel Economy (6/10)
There are several fuel economy ratings for the 2015 Santa Fe, depending on trim level and powertrain choice. The front-wheel drive models offer 21 mpg combined, with 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. A point of mpg is lost when upgrading to all-wheel drive. The Ultimate trim level, with its heavier equipment, loses a further point of mpg off the combined score. These scores are roughly on par for the segment when a V6 is equipped.

In the Santa Fe Sport models, the base 2.4-liter engine offers 23 mpg combined in FWD and 21 mpg combined in AWD (20/27 and 19/25 city/highway respectively). These are below par for the segment with a four-cylinder. The upgraded 2.0T model's turbocharged four-cylinder receives EPA economy ratings of 22 mpg combined and 21 mpg combined in FWD and AWD respectively. Again, below par in comparison to many rivals.

Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (9/10)
Although J.D. Power and Associates only rates the 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe as just above average in expected reliability, the Santa Fe has had no recalls and Hyundai offers the most comprehensive warranty in the business. Those latter two points prompt us to give the Santa Fe high scores for reliability and quality. Especially given that segment-leading 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

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Safety (8/10)
The 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe has good safety ratings, scoring an overall top score of "Good" in the testing done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. We note that it only scored a second-worse "Marginal" score in the small-overlap front-test, but that is a sticky point for many small and medium crossovers.

As of this writing, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not crash tested the 2015 Santa Fe. Given the tests from the IIHS and the large number of safety systems in the crossover, however, we expect it will do well when those results are announced.

Optional safety equipment includes rear parking sensors, blind spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert. Hyundai's Blue Link emergency telematics system is now standard equipment on the Santa Fe.

Performance (8/10)
The 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe comes with a 3.3-liter V6 engine that outputs 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. A six-speed automatic transmission is also standard. When equipped, the Santa Fe can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

On the road, the 2015 Santa Fe is a very good drive, especially in all-wheel drive. It accelerates very well, despite the engine being quiet and unobtrusive for the cabin's occupants. Wind noise and road noise are minimal as well. The Santa Fe's excellent steering dynamics and low amount of body roll make for better than average driving on highways and byways when compared to many rivals in this segment.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe - wheel 1 - AOA1200pxAround town, the Santa Fe is nimble in the parking lot and easier to maneuver than most of its competition. Visibility is good, though the high belt line towards the rear does impinge when backing up.

The smaller five-seat Santa Fe Sport also offers a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine at its base point, with an output of 190 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. A 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is also offered in this model, producing 264 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. The V6 is not available in the Sport model.

All in all, the 2015 Santa Fe is more fun to drive than most of its rivals without becoming so sporty that it loses its comfort and family appeal.

Pricing and Value (8/10)
For 2015, the Santa Fe is offered in several packages and trim levels with both the standard and Sport models to choose from. The base level 2015 Santa Fe Sport begins at just under $25,000 and is well-equipped for the segment. The full-sized Santa Fe starts at about $30,000 with a goodly amount of equipment and rises to over $41,000 when near-loaded in its Limited trim. At all points, the Santa Fe has a good amount of value in its pricing level, though some others in the segment may have a more value-oriented competitor to show. Few will match the level of sophistication and interior comfort for the price.

Total Score and Competitive Comparison (65/80, 81%)
Possibly the only competitor on all fronts with the 2015 Santa Fe is the Kia Sorento, which offers similar value, a matching warranty, and as much spaciousness as the Hyundai. Another strong contender is the Dodge Durango, which likely has the best interior in the segment. The comfort and high efficiency of the Nissan Rogue cannot be discounted either. For overall package, though, only the Kia can really rival the 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe. Choice between the two will likely boil down to styling choices and we prefer the more modern look of the Santa Fe.

The total offering from Hyundai in the new Santa Fe is compelling and excellent. Others in the Hyundai Line, such as the new 2016 Tucson, are showing that the Korean automaker is bringing a new level of expectation to the segments they compete within. The 2015 Santa Fe is a great choice in the small-midsize segments and rings in as one of our favorites.

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
SUV - AWD
GLS AWD 4dr GLS V6 AWD 31900
Limited AWD 4dr Limited V6 AWD 36000
Limited AWD 4dr Limited w/Saddle Int V6 AWD 36000
SUV - FWD
GLS FWD 4dr GLS V6 FWD 30150
Limited FWD 4dr Limited V6 FWD 34250
Limited FWD 4dr Limited w/Saddle Int V6 FWD 34250

Car Rankings

Interested to see how the 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe ranks against similar cars in terms of key attributes? Here are the 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe rankings for MPG, horsepower, torque, leg room, head room, shoulder room, hip room and so forth.

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