The continuing trend of auto makers adding third row seats to their crossover and sport utility vehicles brings about a bit of confusion for some buyers. The assertion that three rows of seats expand the capabilities of the vehicle to eight adults is the norm. Most of these vehicles however would be hard pressed to carry six full sized passengers. Few manufacturers allude to this fact and even fewer admit that the seating in the third row should be reserved for children, at best. Not only is the hip point low making an average sized adult feel as though their knees are in their chins but an act of contortion is needed to get past the second row seat to access the third row.
Hyundai took all of those issues into account when setting out to design the newest Santa Fe. Second row is available in either three across bench or captain chairs for two with a pass through between. The second row slides forward and aft for added comfort and even allows additional leg room for the third row.
The third row is easily accessible with the movement of the second row and its captain chairs configuration allows the rear-most passengers the ability to at least stretch one leg straight After a short time occupying the third row myself, I have determined it is still best to be kept for limber young people or at least used for short trips.
The business end of the Santa Fe passenger compartment is accommodating and comfortable. Available 8-way power driver’s seat makes finding just the right position easy and smooth. The GLS model I was driving added the two tone interior with leather seats that surprised me of the high quality and the supple feel of this leather.
While I am not always taken by multi-tone interiors, some just are over done, the Santa Fe dual-colors with wood tone trim gives a rich look to a well designed layout. A large 8-inch display screen dominates the center dash and offers up a slew of infotainment features that are equal to the most sophisticated automobile. The steering wheel, one of the most important factors in an owner’s enjoyment of their Santa Fe, is beefy and feels good in the hands. Steering wheel mounted switches offer a bevy of controls so the driver really need not remove eyes from the road ahead.
I must give kudos to the Hyundai designers for their execution of the lower center stack design. Not only are there dual 12-volt power outlets but an opening on both sides of the console to access these outlets with ease. For those of us who carry numerous portable electronic devices, I say thank you.
The exterior design given the Santa Fe is strong with the large Hyundai grille with horizontal bars anchored by lighting pods and lower driving lights. Below the grille Hyundai designers added a two component panel of contrasting colors giving the front end a muscular off-roader look. This dual component scheme is carried on at the rear of the Santa Fe giving the vehicle a look of having a higher ground clearance than it actually has. Though the Santa Fe isn’t actually designed for heavy off road adventurer, it will certainly handle all the rigors of the mean streets of suburbia might dish out.
Wide door openings offer up easy egress and exit to the passenger compartment and though the A. B and C pillars are substantial, visibility from all points occupied by passengers is excellent. The only time I had anything deemed to be lacking visibility to the outside world was when I had a vehicle full of oversized passengers with excitingly large heads (grownups).
Power comes from an extremely smooth operating 3.3-liter V6 gasoline engine that offers performance from 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft. of torque. This powerful engine is made more fuel efficient while keeping excellent performance with the help of Hyundai’s Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) system. As demands continue to rise for manufacturers to get better fuel economy while increasing performance, auto engineers are finding new and innovative ways to achieve these goals. Hyundai has seemed to have done this with their GDI system.
I have, for many years been a big fan of Hyundai’s level of accepting the need for automatic transmissions to continue to be performance based. The 6-speed automatic transmission coupled to this V6 is no exception. In automatic mode the system picks the correct gear needed for normal use and includes an Active Eco mode that calibrates shifting for maximum fuel economy. Hyundai’s automatic with Shiftronic manual mode allows the driver to select gear changes and does not interfere with sporty driving.
The Santa Fe adds even more driver comfort features such as Hillstart Assist and Downhill Assist Control, both of which aid in easy driving in hilly terrain in the city or the country. Maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds can be achieved with a properly equipped vehicle.
If all-wheel drive is a factor for you the optional Active Corning Control system offered for Santa Fe monitors driving conditions and maximizes traction employing torque vectoring to reduce oversteer and understeer which assists in improved stability and handling.
The Santa Fe has matured over the years becoming more attractive with a more sophisticated interior and an attractive, muscular exterior. This Hyundai continues to offer more of the features buyers are asking for while adding intriguing equipment that makes motoring more enjoyable for both driver and passenger. Let it be said, it may not be a sports car, the Santa Fe can be a kick to drive, particularly for a vehicle in this category.