The 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe marks the second year of production for Hyundai's new 3-row family crossover. Last year, the Santa Fe debuted as the replacement for the long-lived Veracruz, which was a nice enough rig but lacked Hyundai's defining "fluidic sculpture" design language. The Santa Fe solves that problem with its thoroughly modern styling, and like most Hyundais, it's value-packed for the price. Plus, its smaller 3.3-liter V6 brings better power and fuel economy than the big 3.8-liter V6 in the Veracruz.
Notably, while the 2014 Santa Fe's name evokes 2-row Santa Fe models from the past, Hyundai has changed things for its current-generation crossovers. The 2-row Santa Fe is now known as the Santa Fe Sport, which is reviewed separately. Take the "Sport" away and you have the 3-row Santa Fe, which is also distinguished by that standard V6 -- the Sport is 4-cylinder-only. Underneath, however, the Santa Fe siblings are closely related, so it really comes down to whether you want a third-row seat and the extra room that comes with it.
Overall, the 2014 Santa Fe is a fully competitive 3-row crossover, and those distinctive looks should enhance its appeal for many shoppers. It's a must-drive in this segment.
What's New for 2014?
All 2014 Santa Fe models can be equipped with a blind spot warning system, and the Technology package gets a few new features, including ventilated front memory seats, rear parking sensors and -- for the Limited only -- xenon headlights and LED taillights.
What We Like
Striking styling inside and out; capacious interior; excellent value; strong V6 power
What We Don't
Occasionally rough ride; modest cargo capacity for a 3-row crossover; Limited only seats six
All Santa Fe models come with a 6-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. The engine is a 3.3-liter V6 rated at 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque.
Fuel economy, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, is 18 miles per gallon city/25 mpg hwy with front-wheel drive and 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive.
Standard Features & Options
The 3-row Santa Fe is offered in two trim levels: GLS or Limited.
The GLS ($30,675) starts with 7-passenger seating (including a sliding and reclining second-row bench seat), 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a leather-wrapped tilt-telescopic steering wheel, a 12-way power driver seat, heated front seats, a rearview camera, Hyundai's Blue Link telematics and a 6-speaker audio system with a 4.3-in touchscreen and USB/Bluetooth connectivity.
The Limited ($34,575) features 6-passenger seating (including second-row captain's chairs), keyless entry with push-button ignition, a power lift gate, a blind spot warning system, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 4-way power passenger seat, leather upholstery, rear window sunshades and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink.
Exclusively available on the Limited are an Infinity surround-sound audio system with 12 speakers and 550 watts of output, while the base GLS can be outfitted with a 10-speaker Dimension audio system. Also, the GLS can optionally be equipped with many of the Limited's standard features. Other notable options, depending on trim and grouped into packages, include xenon headlights, LED taillights, a panoramic sunroof, a navigation system with an 8-in touchscreen, ventilated front seats and heated second-row seats.
In terms of cargo space, the 3-row Santa Fe provides a minimal 13.4 cu ft behind the third row, expanding to 41 cu ft with the third row folded and 80 cu ft with both rear rows folded. That's a handy amount, to be sure, but some rivals (the Mazda CX-9, for example) offer much more.
A properly equipped Santa Fe can tow a healthy 5,000 pounds.
The 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and seven airbags (front, front side, driver knee, and full-length side curtain). A blind spot warning system is standard on Limited and optional on the GLS.
The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Santa Fe its top rating of Good in all crash-test categories.
Behind the Wheel
The Santa Fe's front seats are nice and high, just like the ones in the old Veracruz, giving you a commanding view of the road. Materials quality has improved (although the Veracruz was no slouch), with soft-touch materials applied generously across the dashboard and door panels. The standard 4.3-in touchscreen is a welcome high-tech touch, but the optional navigation system's 8-in touchscreen is superior in both functionality and style.
The standard second-row bench seat in the Santa Fe offers good legroom, and we like how it slides and reclines to enhance both second- and third-row comfort. Speaking of the third row, it's not the most spacious you'll find, but it's big enough to be useful, especially for kids. Although the Limited's second-row captain's chairs lend an upscale feel to the rear compartment, we wish the bench seat was optional here, as some buyers may want a top-of-the-line Santa Fe with full 7-passenger capacity.
Under the hood, the 3.3-liter V6 is always at the ready with smooth, muscular acceleration. This engine punches well above its relatively modest displacement, and its refinement at higher rpm is a plus, as well. The transmission is similarly capable, delivering the seamless upshifts and prompt downshifts that buyers at this price should expect.
On the road, the Santa Fe is mostly a pleasant partner. Road and wind noise are muted, and the steering is more responsive than what you'll find in some competing crossovers. The 3-row Santa Fe rides firmly and can get a bit harsh on rough roads, particularly in the rear suspension. Hyundai could do a better tuning job in this regard. Overall, though, the Santa Fe is a confident, composed cruiser that compares well in this segment.
Other Cars to Consider
Dodge Durango -- One of our favorite all-around SUVs, the Durango boasts a top-notch interior, an adult-friendly third row, available V8 power and muscular styling to boot.
Ford Flex -- An oldie-but-goodie, the versatile Flex has stayed fresh with consistent updates, and it has a funky style all its own.
Toyota Highlander -- Completely redesigned for 2014, the Highlander offers a vastly improved interior and proven V6 power, as well as an intriguing Hybrid option.
The top-shelf, 6-passenger Limited model is a compelling mix of luxury and value. But if you think you need a seventh seat sometimes, a well-optioned GLS makes for a fine substitute.