Whether you want a compact SUV or a family sized vehicle with room for 7, the Hyundai Santa Fe fits the bill.
The model with a third row is great for bringing along extra kids (or your own sprawling brood) but with just one child left in the nest, the Santa Fe Sport was perfect for a week of tooling around the city, heading upstate, and visiting another child at college. And its intuitive technology and luxury touches afforded lots of value.
Intuitive technology that is easy to use and gets you where you need to go
The SUV I test drove included an optional navigation package, with an eight inch touchscreen, (instead of the standard 4.3 inches) and Hyundai’s Blue Link system. The navigation system is one of the best around, with a comforting ‘ding’ to guide you on turns and an animated map that is easy to read. No wondering – is the turn here? Or there? It’s completely clear.
It was also incredibly easy to set the voice guidance volume. I’ve been in cars where the factory setting is at an ear-splitting volume, or too low to hear – and we are flummoxed by the instructions on how to change it.
One curiosity is that the directions read bottom to top, so if you use the touchscreen to follow along, or you are a helpful front seat passenger, you can get confused; usually on screens, the directions read from top to button.
But once you get used to that quirk, you can find other little touches to love; the speed limit display on the map, so you can stay within the speed limit, and a reminder at forks in the road to stay on the current road. The nav system literally takes all the worry and second guessing out of driving.
Peace of mind in BlueLink connected car technology
The Blue Link connected car, free for a year, automatically calls for help if you have an accident. But the safety features render that possibility remote. There is a rearview camera and blind spot detection to help keep you and your passengers – and people walking behind the car – safe.
And the Blue Link system, which you have to sign up for before you start driving, alerts you to maintenance schedules, sends a monthly vehicle diagnostic, and event alerts you if the car is subject to a recall.
More technology bonuses, all easy to use and to see
The touchscreen buttons are easy to use. And not only is the map large and clear, but when you list to music, the station is listed on the map; you don’t have to toggle back and forth.
The leather wrapped steering wheel includes audio and phone controls, and linking a phone to the car’s Bluetooth is simple. There are USB and auxiliary ports in the center console .
The Santa Fe Sport has standard leather seats, with heated front seats and dual climate control. The driver’s seat offers lumbar support, handy for long drives, or short drives that seem long in lots of traffic.
Remote key and push button start mean no digging around in your purse or pocket for the key. The leather wrapped shift knob is comfortable to grasp.
And, there are heated side mirrors; you won’t get wet gloves from scraping ice off the mirrors.
The Sport’s specs
The four-cylinder engine gets decent fuel economy – about 22 miles per gallon on a combo on highway and city driving. The turbocharged engine quickly got us up to highway speed.
Real world testing
Plenty of vehicles claim to seat five passengers, but those in the back seat feel cramped. We drove the car to the beach on a glorious day (not technically Indian summer, since we hadn’t had a frost). Five adults and two dogs were comfortable and the car is quiet enough that we could play music, (12 speaker Infinity Logic Surround Sound) talk, and hear each other.
We piled up beach chairs, two coolers, an umbrella, blankets, toys (for the dogs) and books and still had plenty of cargo room. The rear seat also has a 40/20/40 split folding seat; you can fit something oversized in the car and still seat four comfortably.
WHAT I LOVED
• Fuel economy is 19 mpg in the city, 27 on the highway; 22 combined
•Uses regular gas
• Technology is intuitive and easy to use
• Comfortable front and back seats
•Turbo charged engine for plenty of vrooooom
•Easy to use, intuitive technology and navigation
•BlueLink connected car system
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
•Seven standard airbags, including drivers’ knee airbag
•5 year/60,000 mile warranty
•10 year/100,000 powertrain warranty
7 year anti-perforation warranty
•5 year roadside assistance plan
•Base price is $30,650; price for the model I drove, with navigation package, 19 inch wheels and surround sound audio, $33,385.
Disclosure: Hyundai provided the Santa Fe for this review; the opinions expressed are all my own.