By on December 3, 2013

DSC_4453A recent conversation with a blubber-lined autojourno archetype:

He: “What’re you driving this week?”

Me: “2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited”

He: “I hate crossovers. People should just buy wagons. In Europe…blahblahblah…diesel…estate….shooting brake…nomnomnom…where’s the bar?”

Koo-Koo-Ka-Choo, my friend The Walrus doesn’t get it.

DSC_4455
I avoided conflict by changing the subject, but I should have told him this: “The 2014 Santa Fe Limited is not for you. Neither is that brown E-Class wagon you will never afford. If you like the European way of life so much, move there. They have funny underwear, so enjoy your man-panties. Over here, the crossover is sticking around for a while.”

The math is simple. People want crossovers. Car companies make money by building what people want. That means lots of crossover choices. The end.

Besides, if wagons all of a sudden became the next big thing, people would hate them. That’s how it used to be. If you hate crossovers or offer the “if you want a truck, get a truck, if you want a wagon, get a wagon” argument, they’re not for you. Crossovers like the 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe are for THEM.

THEY are the folks with kids and dogs and fully-scheduled weekends. Rising stars who not only need to spend money, but have money to spend. Of course the Santa Fe isn’t likely at the top of any driving enthusiast’s list, but it ticks all the boxes for the Alternadult.

That word mashup is Hyundai’s own creation to describe the Persona used during the development of the Santa Fe. If that’s led you to ask “what’s a Persona?”, here we go.
DSC_4461
Personas are a way to humanize your target audience, and they’re widely used by makers of consumer goods. For example, Ford created 28 year old Antonella, a Roman club rat to help focus development of the Verve, a concept car that previewed the current generation Fiesta. That’s probably why it’s got neat little cubbies for your stash of Molly.

From toothpaste and orange juice (reverse that order for less gag reflex) to tablets and even tableware, bringing the demographic information to life gives everyone a bag of bones to develop products for and determine how to get them to buy. Personas are why bloviating car reviewers are peeing into the wind when it comes to crossovers. Hyundai did its homework, and it appears to be working. Just count the Santa Fes the next time you’re at the grocery store on a weekend.

Hyundai wants to boost its sales by 10 percent for 2014, and the Santa Fe is key to that. I’m noticing more of these because they’re selling well. Santa Fe sales are up significantly; 36 percent in October 2013, and nearly 20,000 more Santa Fes have found buyers this year.

So who is this Alternadult and why develop a vehicle for them? After all, the selfish-ass Baby Boomers are still exerting big influence over the car business. Here’s what Hyundai has to say about it:

Hyundai has historically done well with younger singles and older families, but an opportunity existed to create a vehicle that would capture younger, higher income families. We knew that Santa Fe could be that relevant and modern product for this emerging persona.

Translation: There was a lucrative hole in the Hyundai customer demographic. Poor youngsters and value-minded older families are steady, even loyal business, but that vast, meaty middle is where the money is drifted deep enough to shovel. These people have needs and the means to address them in a way that tickles their wants at the same time.

Hyundai continued:

The target for Santa Fe was someone we ultimately referred to as the “Alternadult.” They are Gen Xers who were “latch key kids” and gained independence early. That spirit of independence has brought them success in life; they are doing well for themselves but also have a strong family focus. For them, a successful life is measured by more than just money, it is also about being there for their kids to pass along their values and their passions. Exploring and learning together with their kids is key. It’s also important that their kids ultimately be “street smart” as well as “book smart.”

This persona needed a product that could deliver on all fronts and enable their active, family-centric lifestyle: distinctive styling, technology, quality, craftsmanship, a sense of premium-ness without stuffiness, spaciousness, and safety. That is what inspired Hyundai to set out to create a product that would deliver an uncompromised combination of class-leading design and technology, quality, durability, and functionality. It challenges what a CUV can and should be, uniting functional utility and style and sophistication – both interior and exterior.

So, the Alternadults are occupying the space in the marketplace Boomers did 30 years ago. Remember the early 1980s? Minivans. Crossovers are the minivan of the post-Baby-Boom middle-ager. For a family buyer who needs to take three different sub-ten-year-olds to two different schools for 9 months of the year and then traipse to soccer, gymnastics, and dance all back-to-back on the weekend, the Hyundai Santa Fe Limited delivers.

Don’t start with how your beloved Panther-platform Fords and fundamentally-horrible W-body Impalas with bench seats would work a treat for that. Because no. Families want more than just enough seats. They want space for the stuff of everyday life, plus maybe a dog with extra-humid breath, too. You know, features that make it easy to go over hill and dale, and wrap it in some style, too, please.

Part of the draw of the Santa Fe is the way it’s drawn. The crisp lines look expensive, and because it looks great in a vaguely-European luxury kind of way, and it’s outfitted well, it’s easier to have higher regard for the Santa Fe Limited. It’s a get up that’s equally stylish tailgating, or in the parking garage at Nordstrom, or with “SENIORS 2013 YEAAAAHAHHHH” written all over the windows. That’s good design. It looks like a million bucks but it sure doesn’t cost it.
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That doesn’t mean the Santa Fe Limited is exactly inexpensive. Mention that you’re driving a $41,000 Hyundai and people will roll their terrible eyes and gnash their terrible teeth. Of course, any Hyundai costing that much is loaded. The Santa Fe Limited starts at $35,540 with all-wheel drive. The same basic vehicle with fewer standard features and front-wheel drive is the $29,800 Santa Fe GLS. Regardless of trim, a 290 hp 3.3 liter V6 is your prime mover, the only transmission is a six-speed automatic, and all-wheel drive is a $1750 upgrade over front-wheel drive.

The Hyundai thing has long been the automotive version of a Golden Corral gut-busting dinner. Instead of steak, lobster, orca and mollusk for $9.95, the Santa Fe Limited I drove was a three-row crossover that will play nice and can stand up to the corrosive effects of children for $41,155. With features by the pound, the Santa Fe is very good at fending off competitors.

The Limited trim level’s standard features outfit you like a $40,000 vehicle for about $35,000. The Santa Fe Limited I drove also carried the Technology package, a $4,850 hunk of HIDs, LEDs, touchscreen navigation, ventilated seats, Infinity audio, panoramic roof, 115-volt outlet and parking assist that slides the price across the $40,000 threshold.

This used to be where the Hyundai story ended, “you get a lot of stuff for less money in a vehicle that’s also generally less good.” That is no longer the case. The Santa Fe is a strong competitor on price, and the technology and features you get are mature and well-developed. The touchscreen navigation is easy to use and the audio and climate systems have a mild learning curve compared to systems like MyFordTouch. The touchscreen doesn’t dim quite enough to satisfy me for night driving, but you can easily shut the display off to reduce cabin light pollution. The mind does wander to consider how long the leather-wrapped steering wheel is going to feel nice in your grip and just when the seats are going to start getting scruffy or the trim marred up, but the Santa Fe packs one of the nicer interiors in the class.

The 3.3 liter V6 has spirited enthusiasm, especially when you let it rev, and the six-speed auto is generally unobtrusive, The transmission thinks too much in situations you’d expect it to just bang through the gears, like merging onto a highway. There seemed to be some extra dithering going on with power delivery. THEY are probably not going to notice that, but I did, and I’m one of THEM. The Santa Fe isn’t going to win you any pinks, and it may feel winded if you drive the larger-engined competition back-to-back, but on its own, it’s at least solidly adequate if you don’t mind waiting.
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Another historical Hyundai shortcoming has been chassis tuning. The Santa Fe does not feel like the ‘92 Buick LeSabre was the benchmark, nor does it crash over bumps like previous attempts at chassis discipline. The structure feels more solid than ever before and the ride and handling balance is good. There’s the occasional jarring impact, stuff that doesn’t happen in the crushingly-heavy GM Lambdas, Camry-based Toyota Highlander or Ford Explorer. The Santa Fe is lighter on its feet and more economical than the GM three-rows, miles ahead of the departing 2013 Highlander in terms of cabin materials and fit and finish, and more space-efficient than the Volvo XC90-based Explorer and its blatant built-to-a-cost first impression.

The closest competitor for the Santa Fe is probably the Nissan Pathfinder. Both have grown to fit the same niche of easy-living three-row. The Pathfinder returns better fuel economy thanks in part to a more hateful CVT centric driving experience. The Santa Fe is a winner in most other measures, from styling to price/features to driving dynamics. There’s something more like steering feel in the Santa Fe, partially due to the FlexSteer selectable assist, and it feels less like a relaxed-fit metal box than the Pathfinder.

You can love wagons all you want, you can hate crossovers even more, but in terms of being in the right place at the right time with the right product, Hyundai has a solid entry with the Santa Fe. In Limited trim, feature-conscious buyers have a place to go that’s not fraught with penalties for seeking value. It’s feature-packed in an environment where it’s hip to get more for your dollar. The Santa Fe even gets high marks for resale value. It’s nothing that’s going to send you over the moon when you drive it, but I didn’t hate life behind its wheel. It’s certaily set up as an ideal life-support vehicle for its Alternadult target, and at least now I have a markety-speak thing to call myself.

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96 Comments on “Review: Hyundai Santa Fe Limited...”


  • avatar
    Zackman

    Nice vehicle. My first impression was this was a refreshed Buick Enclave!

    A friend actually has a Borrego(!), and it’s nice, but not for me. He has experienced lots of electrical glitches with dealer-installed stuff.

    I wonder where the Korean cars fit among the OEMs. Between Japanese and U.S. quality-wise?

    Perhaps it’s me, but I cannot just yet wrap my arms around either Hyundai or Kia, although they build nice-looking vehicles, and apparently their durability is right up there.

    Maybe some point in the future I may warm up to them, but not yet.

    Another good TTAC review, though.

    • 0 avatar
      morbo

      Co-Worker of mine was a D3 supplier in the 2000’s. She says the real difference is that the Japanese generally ‘design-in’ quality. The process is more complicated/expensive/time consuming, but guarantees a higher quality level of the finished product the first time through production.

      The Koreans believed in ‘inspect-in’ quality. Design a cheaper manufacturing process that has a higher numbers of defects, but pay out the wazoo for inspection before shipping to the consumer. Fix what is fixable at the factory and scrap the rest. Depending on the target customer, either approach can work. Unfortunately when the suits at corporate start looking for things to cut, test and evaluation 9along with R&D) usually fall first, as the negative effects aren’t felt immediately. that’s the greatest weakness of inspect-in quality; it’s at the mercy of the bean counters to keep paying for it.

      Granted this may have changed in the 10 years since she worked in the industry.

      • 0 avatar
        Jan Bayus

        There is no such thing as “Inspect in Quality” in an industry such as this. All of the component manufacturers have very intense and documented quality assurance programs that are process driven not inspection driven. Every manufacturer has procedures in place to audit suppliers and to make sure the items they are making fall into a very small tolerance variation. Of course there is inspection, but not like you describe.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    You guys have become what you bemoaned about the late DED. Irony and snark have replaced auto criticism. You’re so cool.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    On average, people are, well, average. What the folks envisioned in this cute little posting NEED is a minivan. But minivans are uncool, so they buy these crossover things. Which have less space, drive no better, are even less efficient, and are just plain silly to any rational human being. They ape the styling of an SUV, with virtually none of the capability but nearly all of the downsides. Luckily the masses are not rational, so automakers sell a pile of these things at massive profits, since they retail like SUVs but cost like sedans to build.

    Station wagons will never be the “family trucksters” of bygone days, what they are now is a more practical alternative to a sedan. If you need to carry 1/2 the soccer team around, you need a minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      So buy a minivan (or station wagon) and enjoy it. Leave the rest of us alone.

      Lots of people hate minivans just because of the way they look. If practicality was the only thing that mattered we would be restricted to buying stripper Dodge Caravans or Nissan Cubes. Fortunately we have choices that allow us to combine looks that we like AND practicality.

      I like the look of the new Santa Fe; it may push me away from a Grand Cherokee I had my eye on.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        So its really about style over substance to you. Got it.

        For the many others, its the opposite. It’s about how much family can I fit in this with dog and cargo and still get gas mileage that doesn’t make me cringe everytime the empty fuel light goes on AND doesn’t cost me over 41 large for the priviledge of snobbish ownership. A Mazda5 works nicely for wife and three grrrls, 90lb dog, cargo (admittedly with Thule carrier on top), gas mileage (27mpgs, nice), lower maintenance costs, AND cost me 23 smalls for the priviledge. For that matter, there ain’t much my ’08 Astra XR five-door can’t handle and carry.

        It’s all about what works for you. For me, I don’t need the posturing when I drive to the Quik-E-Mart. I need what fits my life.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The Mazda5 is certainly an excellent value and very capable vehicle. It is a marvel in packaging. That said, its not for me. I was hopeful Ford was going to come out with the Grand C-Max, and give me MFT/Nav, a better interior, a turbocharged gas or diesel engine, and not-Mazda exterior styling.

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          7 trips out of 10 I drive my wife’s Nissan Cube. If that makes me guilty of style over substance in your eyes you have a weird sense of style.

          For what it’s worth I can afford a MUCH nicer vehicle than the Cube but I really don’t care what other people think as I run my errands. Of course, tinted window make that a little easier :)

          But I do like some sense of style; otherwise I’d wear a Mao jacket and a bowl haircut. I just don’t condescend to people who make choices different than mine.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Your Astra probably stands out a little bit, so that’s something. I rarely see those.

    • 0 avatar

      krhodes1, exactly. But who cares? Like the article says, these things sell so give them to the people. That doesn’t exclude the possibility that we can all snicker a little. Specially at this thing. The Kia at least looks nice, this is so, but so meh it amazes me it sells so well. I fit were that kind of middle of the road car, not the best or worst in most categories, but the Santa Fé is so close to the bottom in the categories that matter to me…

      BTW, minivans are cool. It’s getting close to the turning point. Proof? The ubiquitousity of this and others of its ilk.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I don’t care all that much, but I call them like I see them. What does irk me is that in this country, there are very good business reasons for companies to only offer what will sell the most (while gaming CAFE to the greatest extent possible), while ignoring niches that appeal to me.

        I had one of these as a rental in AL recently – you summed it up perfectly – so meh. And a lot of money for meh, too. The tested one is nearly the same price as my BMW wagon at MSRP, and a couple grand more than I actually paid for it. Of course the discount will probably be bigger at the Hyundai store, I doubt anyone has ever paid list for one of these.

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          Last time I tried to shop Hyundai they were not discounting.

        • 0 avatar
          Jan Bayus

          Your BMW is a fine machine, but will cost you, and has probably already cost you, twice as much to maintain for the “fineness” you paid for initially. The good news is in this market, you can buy anything you want. In my part of the country I don’t need 4WD or AWD except for two or three months of the year when it is NICE to have, but I have seen many BMWs, and Mercs (along with GTIs) in the median or in the ditches with a light coating of snow.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Tell me more about its ability to store my Molly…

    Hatchet. CD collection.

    I like where they’re going, but they seem to be trying to leapfrog themselves in a world where incremental improvement usually works better. Sure, Hyundai has Genesis and Equus and a constantly-improving Sonata, but the “Santa Fe” moniker only evokes two things: Wealth 60-something Californian retirees waking up to colonic irrigations and meditation on their terrace overlooking the Sangre de Cristo mountains…or a cheap, blobby, nondescript SUV thing from one of those Asian companies starting with “H”

    Great car, but I still feel like this should be the NEXT version, not the current one. Pricing seems steep to me — not for what you get, but for where Hyundai is still positioned in the market.

    I’m in the target demographic, but our next car purchase is totally minivan. Because we Gen-Xers are utilitarian and self-deprecating, not typically image-driven, and we grew up in minivans. I wish Hyundai were putting more effort into bringing back a better Entourage. Or, speaking of the Santa Fe crowd, a new Sedona — complete with third-row colonic irrigation and some vortex crystals.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Looks very Ford Explorer to me.

  • avatar
    mic

    I agree krhodes1! People are being sold a bill of goods by the car companies. I look at the space in this thing and think if I just had to move 6 people I would do it in a Mazda 5 and save money in more than one way. The only reason to get this thing would be a tow rating which wasn’t even mentioned. Crossovers are targeted properly. “Its got some room and I can hook up my iPod. How much?”

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Not that I’d buy one, but when I test drove while shopping for my new car the Santa Fe was much more comfortable to drive for me than the Mazda5. Roomier too but I would expect that for the #lb difference between them.

      At 6’3″, the Mazda5 fit me but I felt crowded.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    I was in one of these. They still use the plastic that scuffs so easily in my wife’s 2010 Tucson. Rake an action figure across it, and the resulting white scar will last the life of the vehicle.

    Kids will take a toll on any vehicle, but I think Hyundai’s still learning.

    • 0 avatar
      Brawndo

      Same. I test drove the Santa Fe sport a few months ago (same car, less *ss) and noticed those white scratches over all the plastic in the cargo area.

      There were a lot of things to like versus the competition–the giant sunroof, tastefully embossed leather seats, rear vents and functional navigation system, but some ugly-cheap stuff, like those secondary plastics and the mushiest, most plasticy turn signal stalk I’ve ever used.

      The folks at Edmunds long term testing have been complaining that the suspension bottoms out with far less than a full load.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave in Toronto

        Contrast to my ’06 Scion xB:

        Two dogs.

        Standing on the top of the door panels.

        NOTHING. Not a mark.

        That stippled plastic although hard to the look never mind touch is indestructible.

        So it can be done.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      It’s always the rear passenger space where Korean cars fail at their argument. They build their cars for the driver/buyer who never enters the back.

      Another point – look at the cheapness of the rear vent control. From the setup there, you’d think those control buttons adjust only the ONE vent which is packaged with the panel. That’s a bad design.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        That’s the 3rd row seat controls. Where do you suggest they put them? There’s only so much space in the headliner. So contrary to your statement they’re thinking of the rear seat passengers as even the ones in the far back can still adjust their own temperature.

  • avatar
    wmba

    I don’t find this much of a review. If these had words spoken to me out loud, my reaction would have been, “What?” Don’t grasp the need for the diatribe there, guy.

    I have been in one of these briefly, and the words that came to me were those of C/D: there are many CUVs on the market. This is one of them.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    agreed with those voting minivan. A town & country will do everything this would do and then some. A Grand Caravan would do it for less. unfortunately, both come with the minivan image baggage, a phenomenon that is unfortunately quite real. This is for those too insecure to drive the van.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      This summer/fall on back to back road trips we rented a Pathfinder (bump up from an Edge) and then a Caravan. There is no comparison. Interior and storage room on the Pathfinder is frankly dwarfed by the Caravan. Mileage was about the same, and the Pathfinder might have been a touch quicker but not enough to matter since we didn’t have private access to Summit Point. The only thing I didn’t like about the Caravan was the seats. The position was very good but they still hurt my back.

    • 0 avatar
      FractureCritical

      take a brief respite from my Jihad against VW, I’d say that they’re missing out bigtime in this segment. A minivan in the mold of the original minivan (microbus) would sell bazillions to all the hipsters out there who are just starting to squirt kids out from between their tatooed knees. These people don’t want Minivans OR CUVs.

      They want old 1970’s MB diesel wagons, but since they were raised as precious little turds by doting parents, they will want every airbag and safety feature in existence around their future poet / leech on society, but can’t afford a new E Classe wagon or justify its presence in Williamsburg.

      ok, so I have a bit of Jihad against hipsters, too.
      I have a lot of Jihads.;)

  • avatar
    AKM

    Uh, for information, boxer briefs rule. Boxers, really? Nothing more uncomfortable than that, although I’ll give you that manpanties come close.
    As usual, the best of both worlds is a good compromise. There’s wisdom to be found in underwear

  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    I was with you until you got to $41,000.
    People buy the brand as much as they buy the car.
    maybe one could argue that a Hyundai vs. a Ford is a reasonable savings of money vs. brand value, but I don’t think you could argue Hyundai against German metal, and $41k gets you damn close to German metal, if not in it already. Mom A might park her Santa Fe next to Mom B in her Q5/GLK/X3 at soccer practice, but she’s probably not happy about it.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      $41,000 isn’t getting you anywhere remotely close to anything German *with three rows*. People aren’t buying in this class unless they need three rows. Someone who needs two rows could get a loaded Santa Fe Sport for under $35,000.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        The Durango makes this thing an absolute rip-off at anywhere near MSRP.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Yes it does. The Durango R/T, Explorer Sport, Flex Limited, and GMC Acadia can all be had for that price.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Not comparably equipped (aside from maybe the Durango).

            Anyhow, even the Euros are abandoning estates and hatches for CUVs (tho on the smaller side) – so the friend is behind the times (shouldn’t an auto journalist know this?).

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Equipped the same, the Explorer Sport will be $2K more. However, even discounting the fact that I think the interior and exterior are better in the top level Explorer, you get the 3.5L Ecoboost V6 in the Explorer.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I don’t buy the author’s argument about parking it at Nordstrom’s, by the way. The old lady in her E-Class and the other old lady in her old RR Corniche won’t think much of you.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      @FractureCritical: If you want to make it about branding and social status, then I’ll take the Hyundai over “German engineering” every time.

      I’m not interested in telling my friends again why my overpriced German car is in the shop today. I’m tired of the German brands telling us how great they are.

  • avatar

    My mother recently purchased a 2014 Subaru Forester after upgrading from her well-worn Santa Fe. While she likes the Forester overall, she’s very disappointed that it lacks a lot of the little, ergo things that the Hyndai had. Like a light on the ceiling over the rear cargo area. An opening rear-window on the hatch. Glowing labels/lights on the interior door handles. The plethora of cargo spaces that the Hyundai had over the Forester. And some other smaller issues.

    But the light in the cargo area got me. Subaru thought it was better to put it on the side of the cargo area near the floor. Placing anything in the trunk renders that light useless.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      This reminds me of my friends who traded there 190K mile 2005 Montana SV6 for a 2009 Odyssey with 39K. The Honda lacks a lot of little things that the Pontiac had such as illuminated controls on the wheel, factory remote start, fog lamps, automatic headlamps, trip computer, full overhead storage and entertainment, 110 volt outlet, power sliding doors, interior lights that slowly dim and DRL’s and a fold flat third seat compared to the Honda’s that needs to be removed and a Telematics system to name some. Most of these items were std on even the base GM vans but you have to go to a much higher price level Honda and even then some these items didn’t exist.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I’m more or less with you on the thesis of this review.

    But I just don’t understand how you can compliment the styling. It looks like a heavily used bar of soap. It looks like a gelcap on wheels. It’s bloated, soft, totally anonymous, and uninteresting. Must of the current large crossovers (the Flex being the notable exception) share this problem, but the Santa Fe is the worst of the lot.

    I’d buy a Flex if I needed three rows. If my wife vetoed it (which is rather likely) I’d reluctantly go for an Acadia as an alternative. To me the Santa Fe’s styling screams “mommy” much louder than a minivan.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    MotorWeek wasn’t hot for the Santa Fe, calling it “not really a standout” and “a step-down in image from the Veracruz.” Ouch!

    The video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JPHk16xG0s

  • avatar
    abhi

    41k?!? That’s MDX territory.. I don’t see this selling well against that (looks be damned). Maybe I’m not comparing apples to apples? Do these often come with cash on the hood?

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      A base FWD MDX is $42.3k and comes without most of the features of the $41k Hyundai. A comparably equipped AWD MDX is $51k (Technology and Entertainment).

      • 0 avatar
        abhi

        Maybe but most of the mdx’s in recent years sold for much less than msrp. I know right now the new one’s are probably selling for close to sticker but give it a bit of time and then it’ll come down quite a bit.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    Finally! An automotive reviewer that doesn’t disparage people for wanting a competent CUV. Nicely done. Winston.

    • 0 avatar

      I see a lot of comments telling people to buy a minivan or a wagon and I think of my folks, who have adult children and don’t need a minivan, but like a higher ride height. Something this size is perfect for them. A Durango/Explorer/Flex is overkill at this point in their lives. They were quite happy with their ’07 Santa Fe.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        The new Santa Fe comes in two body styles now. The ’07 would compete with the 5-passenger CUVs. This is the 7-passenger version that is only 4-5 inches shorter than the Explorer.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          It’s funny, this thing is large looking even for it’s size. If you asked me the length, I would have put it at exactly the same as the Explorer. I think it’s so blobby it just appears larger than it is. Sort of like the Enclave triplets.

      • 0 avatar
        Brawndo

        Also, while not as space-efficient as today’s “mini”vans, SUVs give you a lot of space inside, but take up less space outside. This enormous SantaFe is still nearly ten inches shorter than a Honda Odyssey (193.1″ v. 202.9″). That ten inches is useful to have in an urban environment or in poorly designed parking lots (you know the ones I’m talking about, the space isn’t big enough for a parking lot, but they call it one anyways–narrow spots and less than a car-length from walls or the next row of cars).

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        They sound like better candidates for a Santa Fe Sport than a full-bore Santa Fe, which is just as big as the vehicles you mentioned.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    The only thing I hate about crossovers is the name and how they market it. I also hated cross trainers.

    Okay, that’s not the only thing. I suffer from the nasty and rude thing where I fear that getting an SUV with a frame is going to be impossible, or at least more difficult, because every maker wants his car to be a crossover. After all, crossover is cool, like motocross and rally cross and cross stitch. And, if we didn’t have crossovers, surely I could have a much nicer selection of wagons as well.

    So, I want to be snotty about crossovers and tell everyone they aren’t cool because I don’t want car makers wasting time making them when they could be developing proper SUVs and Wagons that are good at something rather than mediocre at everything.

    So there it is. I don’t want to buy a crossover so they are driven by boring, stupid, unsuccessful people. Everyone knows it, don’t be seen in one if you ever want sex again.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Having more crossovers than BOF SUVs on the market is appropriate. The crossover advantages of better fuel economy, better ride/handling, and much better interior packaging matter to many more people than the BOF advantages of towing and easy modification.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        @dal20402 – by your reasoning, we should have more wagons and minivans on the market than crossovers, since they offering better fuel economy, better ride/handling, and better interior packaging than the crossovers, while crossovers offer no substantive (I wouldn’t call “image” substantive) advantages other than possibly the why-its-so-popular-I-cant-explain high driving position. I’m not arguing with automakers offering the vehicles, nor am I disputing the the fact that they sell. Clearly the market loves them and a carmaker can print $ by offering a vehicle like this in the market. Doesn’t change the fact that they are the worst of both worlds – offering neither the dynamic benefits and packaging efficiency of a wagon/van, nor the capabilities and durability of a proper BOF SUV/truck.

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          By the same rationale Crossovers are the best of all worlds; most of the benefits of a car, minivan, and SUV without a lot of the downsides.

          Plus, you can still just buy a car, minivan, or truck/SUV. Nobody is putting a gun to your head and ordering you to buy a Rav4.

          Why the hate on other people having the opportunity to make different choices? I think buying a Porsche is moronic but I don’t complain when other people tool around in a 911.

          • 0 avatar
            tjh8402

            @Toad – except they don’t have most of the benefits. you sacrifice the benefits of each and are left with the worst features, and the result is a compromised vehicle that is inferior in all regards. It’s not hating on the people who purchase a crossover to describe these vehicles as a fundamentally flawed and compromised design that serves no legitimate purpose to a consumer (they obviously have a legitimate purpose for their manufacturers).

            I’ll add that I would similarly criticize the decision to buy a BOF SUV and not use it’s capability. If you’re not going to tow, haul, or go offroad, there’s no compelling reason to be in a BOF SUV. A BOF SUV running around the urban/suburban jungle is also a pointless vehicle. Even WRT to towing, my parents tow a 3000 lb boat just fine with my Mom’s Lincoln Town Car (rated for 5000 lb). They were going to buy a pickup or BOF SUV till I pointed out the TC could do the job and they bought that instead.

          • 0 avatar
            Toad

            CUV’s have lots of benefits:

            -A minivans higher seating position and larger than average cabin, ease of using kids car seat, rear hatchback and storage WITHOUT the bloated size.
            -A station wagon’s car like handling and drivetrain, fuel economy that closer to a wagon than a minvan or SUV, with more space and better visibility than a car/wagon.
            -Similar body size and style to a body on frame SUV, ability to do light towing and hauling (that few owners use), WITHOUT the weight, bulk, bad fuel economy, or packaging inefficiency that comes with a BoF SUV.

            CUV’s are not for everybody but if you cannot acknowledge the valid reasons for their popularity you are very stubborn and/or a Luddite.

          • 0 avatar
            Maymar

            Except the number of wagons, minivans, and BOF SUVs on the market is heavily dwindling because people are, for lack of a better word, shallow. It’s one thing to complain about other people making bad choices, it’s another to complain about too many people making too many bad choices, forcing the free market to cater to their bad choices, restricting the number of good choices for a sadly small minority. I’m with Landcrusher, I will do everything I can with what little influence I have to stigmatize crossovers as uncool. If they’re a genuinely better solution, they’ll survive that image, and if not, well, I hope whatever the masses move onto is better.

            If nothing else, it’s hardly fair to throw out the size of minivans as their disadvantage. The Mazda5 is by all accounts a minivan, and it’s considerably smaller than something like a Grand Caravan. Any fuel economy disadvantage it might have is because of being a pre-Skyactiv Mazda product (compare it to the Tribute for something fair).

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            Maynar,
            I am not really doing any of the uncool propaganda thing. That was sarcasm. I think it’s silly, unproductive, and rude actually.

            Besides, I am fairly geeky and in no way influential on what’s cool. Likely backfire if I tried it!

            My only hope is someone wanting to make a lot of money hearing my idea and making it happen.

          • 0 avatar
            Maymar

            Landcrusher, I suppose that’s fair. Couldn’t hurt to keep referring to crossovers as minivans and mommy-mobiles though. Way too many of the people who want them seem to have an aversion to being seen as parents.

        • 0 avatar
          smartascii

          2011 Tahoe Fuelly average: 16.6MPG
          2011 Traverse Fuelly Average: 17.4MPG

          Yeah, they’re really not all that much better

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            That difference is bigger than it looks; more Traverse owners live in the city and more Tahoe owners live out in the sticks.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Compared with BOF vehicles, crossovers are much better dynamically. These days they are 80% of the way to being cars, with only the higher COG and big heavy wheels holding them back. And they have the high seating position which all old people and most women love.

          Similarly, they aren’t quite as well packaged as a good car, but they are a huge gigantic improvement over a BOF SUV that has a ladder frame taking up the space where feet ought to live.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            Ah yes, but you better enjoy that space while it lasts because it won’t last as long.

            Really, I am a free market guy who acknowledges that everyone should build and buy as they think best. I also admit the downside though, which is that niches are often badly treated in markets dominated by mega corps which foolishly chase trends too aggressively. Crossovers are being produced in too many flavors right now and it’s hurting minivans, wagons, and real SUVs.

            Still waiting for a real crossover killer car. It will be a modern BoF fleet vehicle aimed at taxi and police and other non hauling fleet users. It will be like a smaller, taller panther wagon. It will have a really efficient, barely enough power choice and an interceptor choice. Being BoF, it will be easily modified for various uses. 250k will be expected, and 500k easily achieved with a maintenance program. Fleet buyers will quickly realize you won’t get fired for buying it, and choosing anything else will be a career gamble. Monkeys will be capable of changing parts on it. Most parts will be rebuilt and resold.

            No woman will ever want to buy or drive one, EVER.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The vehicles you are describing are already around in large numbers in Europe and they are increasingly coming to the US. They are rugged, simple, and last forever. But they aren’t BOF — they’re unibody. These days, BOF is only an advantage for towing and extremely heavy payloads which most light-duty vehicles don’t require. Unibody structures are far more durable than they used to be.

            The Nissan “taxi of tomorrow” is a good example.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            First, while I am sure the manufacturers are happy to have you think that, dal, it ain’t so. No amount of tech will likely ever make unibody as repairable and durable as a frame. Not at the same price point. Maybe some future composite will be cheap enough.

            Second, no European manufacturer makes a simple to repair vehicle. They don’t need frames because their cars are mostly economically useless before the unibody is weakening. They have the advantage of nicer roads as well.

            I just ran an errand and followed an old truck that had clearly been bent. If it were unibody, it likely would have been a loss. Fleet buyers don’t like replacing vehicles for many reasons including uniformity. Think about Southwest Airlines.

          • 0 avatar
            Toad

            Landcrusher, just buy an old Buick Roadmaster station wagon and call it a victory. They meet all of your criteria and are cheap to buy because virtually nobody else wants one. It is an ugly, bloated POS but according to TTAC poster criteria that is a superficial judgement reflecting my shallow vanity.

            Park it in your driveway and practice telling the local kids to get off your lawn.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            Toad,
            Roadmasters though good for their day, were not reliable by modern standards. Amazingly, it would outperform many modern cars though.

            At any rate, the local kids already know not to disturb my lawn. The key is a proper grumpy old man look. If you have to tell the kids to get off your lawn, you have already lost the battle.

  • avatar
    cheeky.monkey

    That was a very thoughtful and non-condescending review — good read.

  • avatar
    smartascii

    Okay, maybe people want pseudo-SUV’s, but all they’re doing is increasing the price of my gas. You NEED a minivan or wagon. Despite the fact that you have 3 kids, however, you still believe that random strangers will find you sexier if you drive an SUV, so off we go to crossoverland. But when you do that, you use more gas. And we all know what demand does to supply and, by extension, price.

    Now, I’m all for you having the freedom to buy whatever you want, and to fill it with all the gas your wallet will handle. It’s one of our remaining freedoms, and I don’t want anyone to stop you. But you’re still a wasteful a$$hole.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Current large crossovers have pretty much identical fuel economy to current minivans, because they have near-identical weights (4500+ lb) and powertrains (large V6, 6- or 8-speed auto).

    • 0 avatar
      webleyx

      When we start allowing others to decide what “you” NEED you may find yourself riding the bus there chief.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      Well, our neighbors raised three fine people with a sub compact sedan as the family car (back when they were really small). All over the world, people live without any car at all. I am sure many of them think the same about Smartascii as he feels about people buying SUVs.

      Actually, most of them think you should be disallowed to have more than they. They also don’t realize that the price of fuel is less altered by demand than by government interference of all sorts. All sorts of ignorance and stupidity and foolishness occurs, and if it stopped, we could all be riding in whatever we wanted by now.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I don’t know why any large CUV shopper buys something that isn’t the Flex or the Durango.

    • 0 avatar
      Mandalorian

      The Flex’s styling is solidly “Love it or Hate it”, so it turns off about 50% of the market. Also, it does not look “rugged” and lacks ground clearance. While yes, admittedly most crossover owners don’t take their cars offroad, a fair chunk of them probably do go on ski trips and things like that, where extra ground clearance and capability are helpful.

      The Durango doesn’t exactly have the best reputation. A lot of people equate Dodge/Chrysler with making cheap, shoddy, rough, unreliable vehicles. Previous Durangos were powerful but had cheap interiors and questionable reliability. While the current Durango is perfectly fine, most target crossover customers don’t really follow the auto market and don’t know.

  • avatar
    JD321

    What was the point of this? To get the Bums & Brats to attack each other?
    “Alternadult” – Aren’t you embarrassed to even write that MBA-Twit word?

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Don’t like the vehicle, but I do love the write up. William Gibson meets P.J. O’Rourke. I had no idea I was an Alternadult until I ran down the checklist. Humph, still like wagons. With power.

  • avatar
    EX35

    It could just be me, but every Korean car I’ve driven always feels underengineered. It’s almost as if the bean counters/executives ask the engineers for the lowest/cheapest specs a part can realistically be and then ask for one rung below that. This seems to be most apparent in areas that the customer doesn’t see/feel like suspension, steering components, parts of the trim not visible.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I was shocked to see the line is actually..

    goo goo g’joob

    I have to wonder what amazing stuff they must have been on when they wrote it…

    The whole thing, except for the crazy stuff as it fades out:

    Songwriters: LENNON, JOHN WINSTON / MCCARTNEY, PAUL JAMES
    I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
    See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly.
    I’m crying.

    Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come.
    Corporation tee-shirt, stupid bloody tuesday.
    Man, you been a naughty boy, you let your face grow long.
    I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
    I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob.

    Mister city policeman sitting
    Pretty little policemen in a row.
    See how they fly like Lucy in the Sky, see how they run.
    I’m crying, I’m crying.
    I’m crying, I’m crying.

    Yellow mother custard, dripping from a dead dog’s eye.
    Crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess,
    Boy, you been a naughty girl you let your knickers down.
    I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
    I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob.

    Sitting in an english garden waiting for the sun.
    If the sun don’t come, you get a tan
    From standing in the english rain.
    I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
    I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob goo goo g’joob.

    Expert textpert choking smokers,
    Don’t you think the joker laughs at you?
    See how they smile like pigs in a sty,
    See how they snied.
    I’m crying.

    Semolina pilchard, climbing up the eiffel tower.
    Elementary penguin singing Hari Krishna.
    Man, you should have seen them kicking edgar allan poe.
    I am the eggman, They are the eggmen.
    I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob goo goo g’joob goo goo g’joob.
    Goo goo g’joob goo

  • avatar
    CAMeyer

    I’m probably not the first person to notice this, but this car, an presumably others in its segment, have exterior dimensions quite similar to tri-five Chevys, with several inches more height. So this sort of represents a return to mid-1950s preferences in terms of size and ride height. In a way, this car is 2014 version of the Chevy Townsman.

    That is, except for the price, which creeps into Volvo territory. Then there’s the Hyundai styling. I don’t dislike it, but it won’t exactly stand the test of time, will it?

  • avatar
    slance66

    Way late on this, but the “these people need a minivan” crowd needs to shut up. Minivans are bigger than these things, harder to park, drive less like cars than CUVs and guzzle gas. There is nothing mini about them. A minivan from 15 years ago was an alternative to a Suburban perhaps, but CUVs are smaller, lighter, faster, thriftier and more comfortable than minivans. They have improved upon the minivan, and it is the CUV. Those complaining haven’t driven them.

  • avatar
    setnbe

    Context: I’m not really a car guy (I haven’t bought or researched one in 8 years; and I couldn’t figure out some of the acronyms used here), nor am I one to register with a site just to leave a comment. But…

    I was enamored with the marketing language of Hyundai, and the term ‘Alternadult’. And what a nice bit of writing, Winston. I was also amazed with the different opinions of this car in the comment section. (Calling it a car I’m sure tips my bias somehow.) All of this drove me to register and leave my own opinion.

    We own this car (2014) and I guess we mostly fit into the demographic. After 10 years with a Town and Country, my wife wanted a car. She wanted what she wanted – a CUV that was more C and seated 7. And the totally tricked-out Santa Fe was what she wanted. We drove a new Durango for a week and the Mazda CX9, rode in a neighbor’s Enclave, and researched a dozen more in the same class. But this was it. On the post buying side she looks even more like the demographic.

    But man, what a car. And what a great set of creature comforts. We didn’t find a car with the same options for the money (again, back to technology). The CX9 was the closest, but in her vernacular it wasn’t quite a ‘car’.

    My $0.02 says the Santa Fe is doing what it is supposed to do. Decent car, great technology, great warranty, and a fair price. I’m glad I didn’t see this prior to buying the car, no telling how my feeble mind would have responded to seeing the marketing behind the curtain.

  • avatar
    markdr

    Somehow stumbled across this and was entertained by the back and forth in the comments. It all boils down to personal opinions of what you do and dont like.
    I had an 06 Mercedes with 4matic. Nice car, ok in bad weather but not great. I needed more room and looked around. I traded my Mercedes in for the Santa Fe Limited. Not sure where the pricing in this article is from, I paid far less then the 41k mentioned here for an AWD Limited without the technology package. Im exceptionally happy.
    Looked at BMW, Ford, Toyota, and a few others, and none came too close (with Toyota being the closest) to what this vehicle has, and it beats ALL of them in the price range in power. Towing capacity for this vehicle is 5000lbs, which is something I was interested in for various reasons.
    Also, lets not forget the 6/7 passenger configuration which others in this price range fail to meet. Cargo space is great on it too. I put a 14cu refrigerator in this thing with no problem.
    At about 300hp, the Santa Fe can certainly get up on the highway with no issues with the on ramp. It has a pretty nice “growl” to the exhaust too, when punched.
    The list of amenities it has for under 35k (after negotiations) isnt going to be matched (electric tailgate, 115v power adapter built in, heated seats both front and rear, rear controls for heating / ac for 3rd row, split climate regions, full power seats including great lumbar, choice of 3 steering “feels”, bluelink with navigation that works great, remote start, and trust me the list continues).
    I do have one complaint about it, but its not all the cars fault. The gas mileage on it is definitely not at the top of the savings chart. At about 18 city (even less for my 12 mile stop and go commute which is my complaint) could be better, but I have hit 26mpg on longer highway drives out of town.
    I feel very safe and confident with its abilities in inclement weather, and feel confident my 2.5 year old daughter is safe in her car seat behind me.
    The reason I opted for the non technology package is because having done my research on this subject I found a 3rd party made an exact fit unit for this car which increases the entertainment abilities drastically from even the top of the line navigation system that you can get from Hyundai. This is not a cheap Chinese made system, so if you have this car and are interested, just reply and Ill get notified and shoot you some info on the unit.
    All in all, bang for the buck cant be beat with a 10 year 100k warranty to boot.
    As far as appearances, I dont know. Some people say it just looks average. I love the way mine looks, I have received a few compliments on its style and rims especially (factory 19″rims for the limited), but I would have liked to see a bit more LED on it instead of just the rear and front accents. I added the roof cross bars (functional to 150 pounds) and while I wont say the car stands out from the crowd since they all look a little bit like each other, but its really not a bad looking vehicle at all. Interior to me looks awesome, and the quality ir very good, nothing on it rattles or shakes even a little bit. Oh, rear storage with the 3rd row of seats in use is very limited. I can put a folding stroller or 2 back there and a single row of groceries but not much more. There however is ample storage UNDER the floor behind the 3rd row where I keep everything from the tire changing tools to spare coats and clothes etc.


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