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2016 Hyundai Santa Fe: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2016

The 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe is Hyundai's large 3-row family crossover. Its predecessor, the long-lived Veracruz, 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 Hyundai models, it's value-packed for the price. Plus, its 3.3-liter V6 offers a solid mix of performance and fuel economy.

Notably, while the 2016 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 part away and you have the 3-row Santa Fe, which is also distinguished by that standard V6 (the Sport only comes with 4-cylinder engines).

Underneath, however, the Santa Fe siblings are closely related, so it comes down to whether you want a third-row seat and the extra room that comes with it. Overall, the 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 2016?

The Santa Fe is unchanged for 2016, save for the fact that the base-level GLS trim level is now named SE.

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

How Much?

$31,300-$35,500

Fuel Economy

All Santa Fe models come with a 6-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. The sole 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 in the city and 25 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive, or 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive.

Standard Features & Options

The 3-row Santa Fe is offered in two trim levels: SE (formerly GLS) and Limited.

The SE ($31,300) 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 ($35,500) features 6-passenger seating (with second-row captain's chairs), keyless entry/start, a hands-free power liftgate, 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 is an Infinity surround-sound audio system with 12 speakers and 550 watts of output, while the base SE can be outfitted with a 10-speaker Dimension audio system. Also, the SE 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 13.5 cu ft. behind the third row, expanding to 40.9 cu ft. with the third row folded and 80 cu ft. with both rear rows folded. As for towing, the Santa Fe can pull a healthy 5,000-lb load if you're so inclined.

Safety

The 2016 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 the Limited and optional on the SE.

The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Santa Fe its top rating of Good in all crash-test categories. While the Santa Fe has not yet been rated by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the smaller Santa Fe Sport earned a perfect 5-star overall score.

Behind the Wheel

The Santa Fe's front seats are nice and high, giving you a commanding view of the road. The quality of its materials is impressive, 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 were 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 revolutions per minute 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, but overall, it's a confident, composed cruiser.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Ford Explorer -- The family-friendly Ford Explorer was recently updated with more equipment and a revised powertrain lineup. It's a handsome car with a lot of equipment, and it's certainly worth a look.

2016 Honda Pilot -- The Honda Pilot is an excellent midsize crossover that offers good performance, lots of features, reasonable pricing and Honda's excellent reputation for reliability.

2016 Toyota Highlander -- The recently redesigned Highlander offers a vastly improved interior and proven V6 power, as well as an intriguing Hybrid option.

Used Audi Q7 -- The 3-row Q7 is a definite step up in terms of luxury and performance, and you can find a gently used model in the Santa Fe's price range.

Autotrader's Advice

The top-shelf, 6-passenger Limited model is a compelling mix of luxury and value. But if you think you'll need a seventh seat sometimes, a well-optioned SE makes for a fine substitute.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Hyundai Santa Fe: New Car Review - Autotrader