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2018 Hyundai Santa Fe: New Car Review

The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe is a 3-row crossover SUV loaded with features and backed by Hyundai’s exemplary 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty. Although an all-new Santa Fe is due in 2019, the 2018 model still holds up well when placed against the many new and existing 7-passenger SUV options. For example, while the Mazda CX-9 offers sleeker styling and a more upscale interior, its turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is no match for the torque-happy 3.3-liter V6 in the Santa Fe, which can tow up to 5,000 pounds vs. the Mazda’s 3,500-pound tow rating.

The Santa Fe isn’t as roomy as the Honda Pilot or Chevrolet Traverse, but its base model offers more standard equipment and a longer standard warranty. And while the Santa Fe doesn’t post the best fuel economy figures in the class, it remains competitive. Overall, the Santa Fe is a nicely equipped 3-row crossover with distinctive looks that should enhance its appeal for many shoppers.

What’s New for 2018?

For 2018, the Santa Fe drops the Limited model and reshuffles some features and option packages to be more price competitive. See the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe models for sale near you

What We Like

Striking styling inside and out; excellent warranty; roomy second-row seating; strong V6 power; excellent crash-test scores

What We Don’t

Occasionally rough riding; modest cargo capacity for a 3-row crossover; Limited Ultimate only seats six; average fuel economy

How Much?


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 three trim levels: SE, SE Ultimate and Limited Ultimate.

The SE ($31,830, FWD; $33,580, AWD) starts with 7-passenger seating (including a sliding-and-reclining 40/20/40 second-row bench seat), 18-inch alloy wheels, Drive Mode Select, heated power side mirrors, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8-way power driver’s seat with 4-way power lumbar support, YES Essentials stain-resistant cloth seats, heated front seats, a rearview camera, Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics and a 6-speaker audio system with a 7-in touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay plus USB/Bluetooth connectivity. Hyundai also include three years of complimentary service for its Blue Link Connected Care and Remote packages.

The SE Ultimate ($39,830, FWD; $41,580, AWD) adds 19-in alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, LED fog lights, rear parking sensors, a hands-free power lift gate, proximity key entry with push-button start, a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert with lane-change assist, 8-in touchscreen navigation, Infinity premium audio, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, heated and ventilated front seats, leather seating surfaces, a power passenger seat, a third-row USB outlet and manual sliding rear side-window sunshades.

The Limited Ultimate ($40,530, FWD; $42,280, AWD) adds to the SE Ultimate’s features a multiview camera, a 115-volt outlet and unique lower-door trim.

The SE Premium Package adds blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change assist, a hands-free power lift gate, proximity key with push-button start, leather seating, heated front seats, a power passenger seat, an electroluminescent gauge cluster with an LCD monitor, LED fog lights, a third-row USB port, manual sliding rear side-window sunshades and premium door-sill plates.

The Ultimate Tech Package adds adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, adaptive HID headlights and automatic high beams. The same features are found the Tech Package for the Limited Ultimate.

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.


The 2018 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 monitoring system is standard on the Limited and optional on the SE. Ultimate trims can be equipped with autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning and adaptive cruise control.

The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Santa Fe its top rating of Good in all crash-test categories and Superior in the crash avoidance and mitigation test. The model also earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating.

In the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, the Santa Fe earned a five star overall rating, with four stars in the front crash test and five stars in the side impact and rollover tests.

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 7-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 Ultimate’s second-row captain’s chairs lend an upscale feel to the rear compartment, those who need 7-passenger seating should opt for the SE Ultimate, which can also be equipped with the optional autonomous emergency braking system.

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 also a plus. 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

2018 Mazda CX-9 — The CX-9 is a sleek new SUV with impressive features, a stylish interior design and great driving characteristics. But the CX-9 has a rather small third-row seat and can’t tow as much as the Santa Fe.

2018 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.

2018 Toyota Highlander — The Toyota Highlander offers a vastly improved interior and proven V6 power, as well as an intriguing Hybrid option. Collision-avoidance braking, auto high beams and adaptive cruise control come standard on every model.

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 Ultimate model is a compelling mix of luxury and value. But if you think you’ll sometimes need a seventh seat, a well-optioned SE Ultimate makes for a fine substitute.

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