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2016 Honda Pilot vs. 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe: Which Is Better?

Editor’s note: You may want to read more of Autotrader’s model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2016 Honda Pilot used car review, the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe review and Buying a Used Honda Pilot: Everything You Need to Know

 

If you’re interested in a new midsize SUV, you’re probably considering the usual suspects, including the 2016 Honda Pilot and the newly updated 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe, which is just arriving in dealerships nationwide. Given how competitive the midsize-SUV segment is, you’re probably wondering which one is better and which one you should get. As a result, we’ve created a close comparison between the latest Pilot and the latest Santa Fe that should help answer your questions, but first let’s see what’s new with both SUVs for the latest model year.

2016 Honda Pilot

2016 Honda Pilot

The Pilot is fully redesigned for the 2016 model year with new exterior styling, a new interior, new features and an updated powertrain. See all 2016 Honda Pilot models available near you

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

The Santa Fe is face-lifted for 2017 with a new front end that includes a new bumper, a new grille and new headlights. It also offers revised taillights. More importantly, it touts a few new features, including adaptive cruise control, LED running lights, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams and automatic forward-collision braking. See all 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe models available near you

2016 Honda Pilot   2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

Reliability

Because the Pilot is so new, experts at J.D. Power have not yet rated the SUV for reliability. Outgoing models earned only average scores, however. It’s the same story with the face-lifted Santa Fe, which only recently went on sale and also earned average scores in its previous form.

As for warranty coverage, however, the Hyundai has a huge advantage over the Pilot. It touts 5 years or 60,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper protection (versus 3 years or 36,000 miles for the Pilot), along with 10 years or 100,000 miles of powertrain coverage (versus 5 years or 60,000 miles for the Pilot). In our book, this alone gives the Santa Fe a slight leg up over the Pilot when it comes to reliability.

2016 Honda Pilot   2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

Fuel Economy

Both the Pilot and the Santa Fe only offer one engine. In the Pilot, it’s a 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 that boasts up to 19 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway with the standard 6-speed automatic or 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy if you go with an upper-level model fitted with the 9-speed automatic.

The Santa Fe, meanwhile, comes standard with a 290-hp 3.3-liter V6 that’s mated to a standard 6-speed automatic. It reaches as high as 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy. As a result, the Pilot is the fuel economy winner here.

2016 Honda Pilot   2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

Safety

In crash-test ratings carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Pilot earned a perfect 5-star overall score. The Santa Fe is not yet rated, though the slightly smaller Santa Fe Sport also earned a 5-star overall score. In crash-test ratings carried out by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2016 Santa Fe fell short of the firm’s Top Safety Pick rating after a troubling marginal score in the front small-overlap test — something that may improve with updates to the 2017 model. The Pilot, however, earned the firm’s highest-possible Top Safety Pick+ score.

As for safety equipment, both the Pilot and the Santa Fe offer virtually everything, especially after updates to the 2017 Santa Fe added more features. Indeed, both SUVs tout basically all of today’s latest gadgets, including automatic high beams, lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert and a blind spot monitoring system. The Pilot’s sole advantage comes from its excellent LaneWatch blind spot camera, which you can’t get in the Santa Fe.

Between the Pilot’s slightly stronger IIHS crash-test ratings and its excellent LaneWatch camera, we’re giving the safety category to the Honda — but only by a hair. Should this year’s updates to the Hyundai produce an improved IIHS crash-test score, this category would essentially be a toss-up.

2016 Honda Pilot interior   2017 Hyundai Santa Fe interior

Technology

Because technology is an increasingly important component of today’s midsize-SUV segment, both the 2016 Honda Pilot and the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe are loaded up with virtually all of today’s latest gadgets and features.

We’ve already covered a few items in the safety section above, but it doesn’t end there. The Santa Fe and Pilot also tout a long list of comfort and convenience items, such as ventilated front seats, multispeaker premium sound systems, heated steering wheels, advanced infotainment systems with excellent smartphone integration, rear-seat DVD entertainment systems and more. While you may find a few technology differences between the Pilot and the Santa Fe, we suspect that even die-hard technophiles will find these two SUVs to be largely satisfactory.

2016 Honda Pilot   2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

Value

When it comes to pricing, the Santa Fe and Pilot are close. The Santa Fe starts at $31,700 with shipping, while the Pilot is $31,100. Still, that $600 difference is noticeable, and the Hyundai’s value is hurt by a lack of trim levels, forcing you to choose between the $31,700 base model or the $35,800 Limited trim — or else look for option packages that suit your priorities. The Pilot, meanwhile, offers a happy middle ground — the EX for $33,500 — which strikes us as an especially intriguing proposition.

Our take: The Hyundai is a little more expensive than the Pilot without offering much more to show for it. And we wish the Hyundai had more trim levels rather than costly option packages. As a result, the Pilot is our winner when it comes to overall value.

Autotrader’s Advice

The 2016 Honda Pilot and the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe are both excellent midsize crossovers with reasonable pricing, a lot of equipment and room for the whole family. But our choice is clear: The Honda Pilot is the better vehicle here. It offers lower pricing, better fuel economy, a newer design and the excellent LaneWatch blind spot camera, which you can’t get anywhere else. With that said, we’d hardly be disappointed to end up with the 2017 Santa Fe, as it remains one of the top models in this segment, and we’d probably pick it over the Pilot if we negotiated a good enough deal.

Find a Used Honda Pilot for sale

Find a Used Hyundai Santa Fe for sale

 
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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5 COMMENTS

  1. The 2017 Santa Fe Limited Ultimate was $7k less expensive in my area than the Pilot Elite was four months ago, when we were purchasing. We liked both vehicles but the styling, feature set and warranty of the Santa Fe were better and for less money! Easy decision. We’ve been extremely pleased with our vehicle so far.  

  2. I have a 2017 Santa Fe limited ultimate and love it! Cost is higher with Honda if you look at inventory. Love the heated and ventilated seats and panoramic sun roof! Hyundai looks so much better as well. My only complaint is that it doesn’t come in pearl white. 

  3. on the other hand, autotrader lacked the captain chairs deal between Honda Pilot and Hyundai Santa Fe. You can’t get captain chaired Pilot out the door below $53k after tax, but you can get Santa Fe captain chaired below $40k, and currently Santa Fe is on sale, you can probably get the highest grade 2017 out the door below $40k, but for Pilot, you gotta spend $13k more. The reason I wish to have captain chair because all seats will be occupied, and if you tried to sit in 3rd row, you will understand seeing a road to get out from where you sit, you will feel more secured than only seeing a seat in front of you. Buick Enclave did that well, but just can’t stand with the reliability of typical American cars. 

  4. As far as trim packages for the Santa Fe LWB are concerned, there are middle-ground packaging that you can equip. It isn’t between the SE and Limited. AutoTrader needs to cut the bias up on that respect because it is misleading.

    Also worth noting, there is quite a few awesome things packaged that come Standard in the Limited that appear as optional for the SE.

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