By on April 28, 2015

2015 hyundai santa fe xl

Americans have spoken with their wallets and we can, for the most part, forget minivans. Consumers accept the loss of much of a minivan’s practicality and flexibility so long as their new vehicle still provides three rows of seats and gains a measure of all-weather usefulness.


• U.S. Market Price As Tested: $41,545

• Horsepower: 290 @ 6400 rpm

• Torque: 252 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 18.8 mpg


Exhibit A: the Hyundai Santa Fe, which is ostensibly a second-generation Hyundai Veracruz, a vehicle which joined many a three-row crossover in killing off vans like Hyundai’s own poorly named Entourage, which didn’t actually have an entourage of any kind. No following to speak of whatsoever.

Oh, there are still minivans. In 2015, Toyota will likely sell more than 150,000 Siennas in America for the first time since 2006. But total minivan volume is down 12% through the first-quarter of 2015 and minivans only accounted for 3.4% of all U.S. new vehicle sales in calendar year 2014, down from 6.5% a decade ago. 

Perhaps you’ve decided that a minivan isn’t necessary, yet you’re not yet ready to lose all the practicality. You’re asking yourself, “How much seating flexibility do I need?” For those who answer, “Not all that much, actually,” Hyundai has a solution. Take the bigger seven-seat Santa Fe, not the Santa Fe Sport, and allow passengers to luxuriate in the space created by the removal of one middle-row seat.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe XL rear

Inside the Santa Fe, we’re now distancing ourselves rather far from eight-seat minivans and their near-40 cubic feet of space behind the third row – the Santa Fe has but 13.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the third row – but we’re also dealing with a much smaller vehicle overall. The Santa Fe is seven inches shorter, bumper to bumper, than a 2015 Toyota Sienna, four inches narrower, and two inches shorter at the roof. Compared with a top-trim AWD Sienna, the Santa Fe is 650 pounds lighter, as well.

As a result, we’ve also distanced ourselves from the era where enthusiasts decried the ess-you-vee because, in part, “Minivans are so much more carlike.” True, the Santa Fe is a big crossover with a comfort-minded suspension setup, but it’s no bus. Even compared with the much improved 2015 Sienna, America’s best-selling minivan so far this year, the Santa Fe’s on-road behaviour is markedly superior. You don’t buy either vehicle to film an audition for Furious 8, but if you’re in sudden need of a rural road hustle, this prototypical successor to the SUV of yore is undeniably the one I’d take.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe interior dark

And not only because the Santa Fe simply doesn’t handle poorly. Frankly, the 3.3L, 290-horsepower V6 feels genuinely mighty in the Santa Fe.

Throttle tip-in is measured, acceleration is brisk, torque is always at the ready, and the 6-speed automatic thankfully does its job as an automatic transmission ought to: by not drawing any attention to itself.

Observed fuel economy of 19 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving was on par with the official EPA combined figure but would have been better had I not sought satisfaction in the act of hurling the Santa Fe down highway on-ramps.

Not remotely unpleasant to drive then, but is time spent inside the Santa Fe enjoyable? Loaned to us for a week in April by Hyundai Canada, this is, in Canadian-speak, a $45K Santa Fe XL Limited, equivalent in the U.S. to a $41,545 Santa Fe Limited with the $4650 Ultimate package. (Santa Fes start at $31,045 in the U.S. All-wheel-drive adds $1,750.)

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe XL collage

Proximity access, panoramic sunroofs, heated steering wheels, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, two-position memory seats, and power liftgates tend to alter verdicts in the auto reviewer world. Indeed, the predictable Hyundai feature load doesn’t hurt. But I enjoyed the Santa Fe’s interior more because of the appropriate six-seat space utilization than the 19-inch alloys, leather seating, or hands-free tailgate (which never works for me anyway.) The third row is by no means voluminous, but there’s room for adult feet under the second row seats, there are separate climate controls, and access to the third row is more straightforward thanks to the gap in the middle row. Both second-row seats can be moved forward a couple of inches without sacrificing the ability to stretch out and get comfortable. For little people, the beltline will be too high for scenic enjoyment, but then again, if you’ve forked out enough coin, your children can scan the skies through the glass roof.

A minivan buyer who’s considering a Santa Fe, or vice versa, may not be so interested in the six-seat version of the Hyundai. But for consumers who don’t require seven-seat capacity, the removal of that seat makes a big difference in the way people live and move and stretch out aft of the parents.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe XL collage 2

Yet if the Santa Fe isn’t a minivan alternative, what about more direct rivals? I’d take the Toyota Highlander’s interior layout (and its useful shelf up front), the 2016 Honda Pilot’s space behind the third row, the Mazda CX-9 on a twisty road, the Nissan Pathfinder’s smooth second-row operation, and the exterior styling of the Dodge Durango or Ford Flex. In certain areas, there are three-row crossovers that outperform the Hyundai. But the 2015 Santa Fe is a difficult vehicle to fault, particularly because of its powerplant and the value we’ve come to expect from Hyundai, especially in lower trim levels.

Just don’t assume it’s quite as family-friendly as a minivan. None of those crossovers can pull off that trick.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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52 Comments on “2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Review – What, No Entourage?...”


  • avatar

    I’d take a Hyundai long before I’d take a Toyota or Honda.
    Like what they’ve made here.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Please, take it.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      We cross shopped all of them last year and ended up with the a Santa Fe Limited – we just had our first kid and my wife wanted something that we wouldn’t need to replace in a couple of years when we moved on to kids 2+.

      The big thing for me is that while it’s not a 10/10 in any particular category, it’s a solid 8 in all of them, and I feel like it had the fewest amount of compromises/best overall packaging. It handles almost as well as a CX-9, has a solid interior, can keep up with my S2000 to 60 from a dig, and is one of the only crossovers with a 5000lb tow rating. Plus it’s looks got the wife approval, which is more than I could say for the Flex, Pilot, or CX-9.

      Also, it had the most usable passenger leg-room in all 3 rows, and was one of the only vehicles where a dreadnought-class rear-facing child seat doesn’t impact front seat travel at all while still allowing adults to fit comfortably in the 3rd row for short trips.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I just ‘built’ one for $31k; I wouldn’t want AWD or the bling. Not a bad value, really, but the fuel economy is the same as a minivan – poor.

    Overall, though, I’d prefer the Kia Sorento, which has a more toned-down interior, and can be optioned more flexibly.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    This thing is screaming at peak HP, not exactly useful Torque RPM either. The gas mileage these get should tell everyone loud and clear the SUV to CUV switch was all about profits. Smaller vehicles, smaller engines, lower fixability, more expensive and similar fuel economy.

    My .02 anyhow.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      well, a good balanced normal ICE engine will have similar numbers for HP and TQ

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      First – the nature of peak HP is exactly that – it increases as RPM does, so I think you need a lesson in how engines work. Unless you’re craving the lazy 150hp 7.0Ls from the 1970s.

      We bought one of these for my wife last fall – you really overstate the negatives of the powerband here. Loaded up with 5 adults, and infant, and all the crap we could fit behind the seats last weekend, it was never at a loss for forward motivation, and the transmission was quick to drop a gear if I ever required it.

      With just my wife and son in the car, the thing flies when I get on it. Maybe if I was taking advantage of the 5k lb towing capacity I’d feel like it was struggling a bit, but with normal loads the power and delivery is more than adequate.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Ladies & Gentlemen, I am here to announce The Tim Cain Trim Level, a John Varvatos-like packaging option available not only o Hyundai vehicles, but any manufacturer that ships test vehicles to Tim Cain in Nova Scotia.

    These vehicles all exude opulence & demonstrate class, and the 39% premium in price paid over the same model vehicles’ ATPs is more than worth it once you see the gold plated “By Tim Cain” emblem on the front quarter panel & rear decklid.

    Next week, we will get to enjoy a review of the “Nissan Versa By Tim Cain,” which at $27,999.99 is quite the luxurious statement in compact sedans, signalling that “you’ve indeed arrived” to family, friends & co-workers.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      p.s. – Screw Hyundai, which is now the 5th manufacturer added to my official $hit list thus far in 2015.

      Screw them for charging as much or more than their Japanese competitors, while offering less reliable/durable vehicles (generally), styled by Future Automotive Designers in 2004, who were fond of creases, wedges, 90 degree interior angles & fugliness.

      I hope Hyundai loses even more sales momentum in the U.S. for daring to charge Honda PLUS money for even more boring, significantly less reliable, BHPH pressure tactic sold vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        “while offering less reliable/durable vehicles (generally)”

        “significantly less reliable”

        So we go from “generally” to “significantly” less reliable.

        How about some data to back up your claim?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’d like to see this list DW.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          I can give u a preview- by years end it will be all current manufacturers in business.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          1) Cadillac

          2) Acura

          3) Porsche

          4) BMW

          5) Jaguar

          6) Nissan

          7) Hyundai/Kia (I lump these together for the same reasons and b/c of Hyundai’s controlling shares of Kia)

          Sorry – there were 7 (I momentarily forgot about the historical footnote and now irrelevant entity that is Jaguar, in its current form, and the easily forgettable/lamentable Nissan disaster).

          Lincoln & Scion are all on WARN Notice that they could be added at any moment.

          VW, due in large part to the new, vastly improved Golf/GTI and improved trim lines of the Jetta, is off the list.

          If I could parcel out Fiat from FCA as a separate entity, they’d be on the list as of now.

          I guarantee I surprised some of my fans/critics with this list, as more than 1/2 of the companies are foreign (if only in name).

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “Lincoln & Scion are all on WARN Notice”

            Well I suppose that’s better than double secret probation.

            I also like how VAG now gets a pass, the only thing VW/Audi have going in the US is pleasing aesthetics IMO. I also notice none of the lesser GM brands and Ford on there, they all good to go?

            Brands that irritate me or insult my intelligence:

            1. H/K
            2. Cadillac
            3. Nissan
            4. VWoA
            5. Scion

            This isn’t to say a brand doesn’t have a real product in their somewhere to be proud of (Genesis, 370Z, Escalade etc).

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Chevy gets a pass b/c a new gen Impala is decent (and a 1/2 price Cadillac XTS) and for its full size pickup trucks with the 5.3 liter, as well as the Cruze (best/most solid compact vehicle, even if lack of 4 wheel disc brakes on low trim models is stupid and long-term durability of 1.4 liter turbo remains to be proven – Cadillac 2.0T motors in ATS and CTS have been throwing pistons left and right). Chevy also has the Tahoe, which is what most anyone with brains spending their own money would buy if they had to have an Escalade type vehicle, since the Tahoe costs 36% less than the essentially same, yet much more gaudy Escalade. – The Cruze is the compact car I’d buy if I was in that market, and I was able to bludgeon a dealer to about 16k on a 1LT and get an extended b2b warranty thrown in.

            Buick gets a pass b/c LaCrosse is decent for what it is (a better Avalon) and the Regal is, even if German essentially, a better new era Cadillac than anything Cadillac builds, especially at 9k off sticker. It rides like a proper Teutonic car should, fwd or not, and has a good interior and is comfortable and composed. – The Regal is the vehicle I’d buy if I were able to bludgeon a Buick dealer into 9k to 11k off sticker and have them throw in a b2b extended warranty, and I was buying a fwd midsizer (I’d get a Chrysler 300S if rwd or AWD in the midsizer to large sedan segment)>

            GMC at least has a lower priced Tahoe and the aforementioned full size pickup with the 5.3

            VW is on probation but the new Golf and GTI are actually very good value propositions relative to some much more expensive “sports” cars from Europe and Japan, even if long term reliability is guilty until proven innocent.

            Nissan makes NOTHING worth buying. Altima is a $hit box (I never understood how Altima makes popular vehicle list barring overwhelming sales to rental agencies), as is the Maxima, as is the Versa, Sentra and Rogue and Pathfinder.

            Kia was killed in action as soon as the prices of their vehicles came within 20% of Japanese competitors (let alone par pricing, which is a joke), and their adhesive-smelling interiors and FUBAR suspensions put them on the naughty list anyways.

            Hyundai’s one redeeming vehicle, on a value proposition basis, relative to its targeted competition, is the base Genesis, which they finally managed to imbue with a proper suspension that is halfway between the Chrysler 300’s plush yet more taut than than the discordant Avalon (and the Genesis is pretty much a better vehicle than anything Cadillac produces, from fit/finish, to reliability, to motor options in most cases, to reliability and gauges, etc.).

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            You keep wanting to violently bludgeon dealers, I like that.

      • 0 avatar
        RangerM

        You may not like Hyundai, but they make a decent product–on par with Toyota quality and without Honda’s boring design.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        I happily buy H/K products – great value, good-looking, and durable.

        They are the ‘Cadillac’ of Asian cars.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I hope they are better than that.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          You’ve got 3 good reasons then. As long as they aren’t on par price-wise with Toyota or Honda, I do think they hit a sweet spot on the market.

          HK’s only problem is when comparing a 5 year old Sonata or Santa Fe with the equivalent Honda or Toyota…the HK’s don’t age as well.

          That said they are durable little roaches, and this Santa Fe’s design is superior to the Pilot or Highlander…

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      “The Tim Cain Trim Level”

      So what? Most people option the hell out of new cars. Whether or not Tim has any say in what trim he tests, the results are still more reflective of reality than testing base or even mid-level trims.

      Turn you idée fixe hose on someone more deserving.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        Exactly.

        If DW wants to see a poverty spec level car then go out and test one. I’ve never seen press fleet cars that are spec’d to basic levels.

        Which BTW in this class I see more vehicles with a “Limited” and “Platinum” badge than anything.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        “Most people option the hell out of new cars”

        I dunno about that.

        Anecdote says e.g. Ford dealers have a lot more XLTs than Titaniums or equivalent.

        And I know what I was lookin’ at Audis and BMWs there were a lot more “Premium Plus” or mid-spec vehicles than “Prestige” or high-spec trims.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          Agreed. Surprisingly this last go round I bought a Limited (because of a specific option package only available at that level), otherwise the Premium would have been just fine.

          A friend’s mom asked me to help her buy a RAV4 AWD base. Took forever to find one. I did my best to convince her that at 75 she deserved a power, heated seat. She wanted nothing to do with that nonsense.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Without going into details… the guy is right. Hyundai = POS. Every time I research on it, each time it is POS.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      Now here’s a great idea for a blog entry and comment thread: “Brands I would NEVER buy, and why”.

      DW, you can give us your s***list of 5 and your reasons, and we can chime in with our own lists and personal anecdotes. It should be lively, and a good time will be had by all.

  • avatar
    probert

    “As a result, we’ve also distanced ourselves from the era where enthusiasts decried the ess-you-vee because, in part, “Minivans are so much more carlike.” ”

    By “carlike” it meant that minivans had to pass car safety standards whereas SUVs only had to pass truck standards. This was an obvious regulation loophole dodge that endangered those in the vehicle – as well as those around the vehicle.

    For example: All cars have standard bumper heights so that crush zones are effective in accidents, and one car doesn’t ride up – or under – another. SUVs rode higher and made these safety advances moot. They killed people. There was one exception: Mercedes took the time to make its bumpers coincide with crumple zones. It didn’t take much, but others couldn’t be bothered.

    They were a cynical exercise in profits over safety – that put everyone at risk.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      As long as standard bumper heights ignore the fact that vehicles on hard braking tend to have the front bumper quite a bit lower than the rear one, they do not mean very much.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        That exactly what saved my CUV from thousands in damage. Break-nose dive- go under. When accord pulled out its nose, there was just a small $100 plastic cover broken

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        So if you’re in a car and about to be hit head-on by an SUV, you should probably accelerate before impact and hope that the SUV brakes hard enough for the bumpers to meet. I suppose you could also swerve in the direction of a taller vehicle that is about to T-bone you in order to raise the relative height of your door.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Why not put in a 2nd row middle removable seat? My Highlander does that and the little middle chair can be removed and stored under the front console. Best of both worlds if you ask me.

    Re death of Veracruz, did Hyundai decide that the name didn’t have enough equity? Obviously they thought there was a market for a three row crossover just not one wearing the Veracruz name?

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Probably just about the most generic Crossover for sale. It does nothing for me. I like the Highlander, it’s a sort of a bargin-MDX. I like the Durango and Grand Cherokee, they have Hemis. The Explorer isn’t bad, and the Pathfinder has a cushy interior.

    This though is just about as middle of the road as it gets. Certainly, not a bad vehicle. It’s roomy, decently reliable and well-powered. Hyundai definitely played the safe card though.

  • avatar
    frankev

    I personally preferred the grille treatment of the 2007-2009 Hyundai Entourage to the grille treatment of the 2006-2010 Kia Sedona. Kia’s tiger nose grille appeared on Sedonas for the 2011 and 2012 model years and in a slightly revised form for 2014.

    I have friends who are reluctant to drive a minivan (one says, “I’d feel like I’d given up if I had to drive one of those”), but I still think they can’t be beat for versatility. We have 90k miles on our 2011 Sedona, a former rental unit bought used from Carmax, and when it dies I’ll replace it with yet another minivan (although it’s pretty, I think Kia lost the minivan script with the newest Sedona).

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      “although it’s pretty, I think Kia lost the minivan script with the newest Sedona”

      I’m curious about this comment, frankev. The interior is gorgeous with the two-tone leather options and the second row ‘first class’ seating configuration, even if the front of the cabin is more car-like (waterfall center console, more cocoon like seating) than other minivans, and the exterior is pleasing in its simplicity even though I don’t find it as appealing in person as I do in photos. Beyond that, it is supposedly one of the better, if not best, riding minivans available – whereas one of the standard critiques of H/K cars has always been the crude suspension tuning. It has two power sliding doors with plenty of passenger and cargo space, so how exactly has it lost the script/plot?

      • 0 avatar
        frankev

        GiddyHitch: Upon further reflection, perhaps my comment was too strongly worded. My comment about Kia having “lost the minivan script” was based on information contained in Timothy Cain’s review of the latest generation Sedona published earlier this month. I think it’s more accurate to say that I don’t agree with certain of Kia’s decisions, to wit:

        (1) Having a full console between the two front seats – I would much prefer to have the ability to walk between the seats to get to the rear of the vehicle

        (2) Not allowing for stowage or removal of the second row seats – it would have been nice to include this cargo-friendly feature, especially since this was a clean sheet design.

        I have since examined the interior photos that show how the second row seats fold up against the first row in the latest generation Sedona and I believe this is an improvement over the prior generation. (This feature is available for the lower trim levels – I think it’s especially helpful when moving objects such as bicycles.)

        (3) Not allowing the third row seats to fold flush into the floor – I prefer to have a completely flat floor for moving cargo, e.g., boxes, which I do every so often.

        A minor beef: I wish the windows for the third row were larger. I did investigate and compare cargo capacity between the second and third generation Sedona and found that it had actually increased from 141.5 cu. ft. to 142 cu. ft., so you are indeed correct, GiddyHitch, about the vehicle having plenty of space.

        Out of the three criticisms I have concerning the new generation Sedona, I feel most strongly about the large, non-removable console. Perhaps Kia researched the behavior of typical minivan owners and determined that the passthrough was no longer important to most people.

        I hope my expanded comments have edified you! Thank you for making me think more deeply about the matter.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Ok…read the review.
    And again…why buy this over the Edge?
    Even the Highlander starts at 29K. The hybrid start at 47!
    No. Way.
    Sorry…would never pay this much for a car that removes rear view and poor MPG.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    This Santa Fe link might be of interest to someone looking out in a year or so at CUVs.

    http://www.caradvice.com.au/347879/2016-hyundai-santa-fe-spied-in-australia/

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