I was testing the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD in early April when I had to pick up and deliver a couple of recliners for my parents. The store employees were impressed with how much cargo space it had. With the second and third row of seats folded down, both chairs easily slid in. There was even enough room for a third.
Once upon a time, if you wanted that much cargo space in an Sport Utility Vehicle, you pretty much had to buy a full-size truck-based one from Ford or General Motors. But several manufacturers offer Crossover Utility Vehicles today that are designed more like cars and are nearly as roomy. Commonly called crossovers, they also have smoother rides and come with V6 or even hybrid engines that get superior mileage. But, like traditional SUVs, they can also be ordered with all-wheel-drive.
Although the Santa Fe is Hyundai's largest vehicle, it is far from a traditional boxy SUV. The exterior is sleekly styled, especially compared to the utilitarian looks of its predecessors. The interior styling is also more like a large car than a big truck, with easy to understand controls and high quality materials, including available wood trim. But with the rear seats folded down, the Santa Fe offers a very practical 80 cubic feet of cargo space, more than most competitors.
On the road, the Santa Fe feels solid and composed. Although it only offers one engine, the 3.3-liter Gasoline Direct Injection V6 has enough power to make it feel strong off the line. The suspension hits the sweet spot between too soft and too hard, absorbing even the record number of potholes created by the winter storms. The ride is also very quiet, something that used to only characterize genuine luxury vehicles. But properly equipped, it can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
Our test Santa Fe was a fully loaded Limited Ultimate model with the optional Ultimate Tech Package. It included every conceivable comfort, convenience, infotainment and safety system, including adaptive cruise control with automatic emergency braking that proved its worth when freeway traffic suddenly slowed down. It also had Captains Chairs for the second row of seats, although a traditional bench is available for those who want to be able to carry seven passengers.
Despite that, the total price was a reasonable $44,295. And even entry level models, which start at just 30,800, are surprisingly well equipped.
In a sign of just how practical the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe is, the Texas Auto Writers Association has voted it the "Full-Size CUV of Texas." High praise, indeed.
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe AWD
Base price: $30,800
Price as tested: $44,295
Type: Fullsize crossover SUV
Engine: 3.3-liter V6 (290 hp, 252 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 18/24 (AWD);18/25 (FWD)
Overall length: 193.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,997 to 4,198 pounds
Final assembly: Ulsan Korea