|Positives: Refined exterior and interior styling, good driving manners, good in-car tech experience, hushed interior, upscale materials.|
|Negatives: A lot pricier than the just-as-efficient non-PHEV hybrid version, unsettling brake feel, initial gas pedal lag, all-electric driving feels almost impossible, meh efficiency for a PHEV.|
|Bottom Line: The Santa Fe PHEV in Limited trim is wonderful in just about every way except for the powertrain. It lacks smoothness, and it's just not as compelling as the far more affordable hybrid version.|
We enjoyed our time in the Santa Fe Hybrid, so we were excited to drive the PHEV. Unfortunately, the powertrain doesn't feel as smooth or responsive as we would like. It's still a comfortable crossover to drive, but there are some quirks we could do without.
Ride Quality: The Santa Fe is a smooth operator. It manages undulating pavement really well, and dampening is very good. The only time it felt a little sloppy was over big pavement gaps in sweeping turns.
Acceleration: 0-60 comes in 7.0 seconds, which is about a half second quicker than the standard hybrid. We did not like the turbo lag that was similar to the hybrid. When attempting to drive it in battery-electric mode only, the Santa Fe PHEV kicked in the gas engine with just a little bit of additional throttle. Getting it to stay was an ongoing challenge.
Braking: The blended brakes are not great. They lack initial bite, which is unsettling. You also can't adjust the regen aggressiveness with the paddle shifter, which actually do help the unresponsiveness of the transmission to downshift.
Steering: Steering lacks feedback, but turn-in is responsive. We'd like to see more effort since it's on the light side.
Handling: The Santa Fe manages its weight pretty well. There's a modicum of body roll, which isn't unexpected for a family crossover, but it's not overwhelming.
In-car tech for the Santa Fe PHEV Limited is very good and upsized from lesser trim levels. The digital instrument cluster is great to look at changes based on drive mode. The infotainment system also looks great but could be improved in terms of response to inputs.
Infotainment System: Hyundai makes a great infotainment system that looks good and is easy to navigate. It's not overly complex like most other systems, and they don't rely on too many colors to make things confusing. Our only issue was the responsiveness of the system. The 10.25" landscape-oriented touchscreen looks great and is plenty big.
Controls: The buttons and knobs for climate and audio on the center console are some of the best in the segment, and controls are nicely knurled for great control. We're glad the haptic feedback version in the new Tucson isn't present here, only good ol' physical controls. We don't like the responsiveness of the pushbutton transmission, but it's one of the better systems out there.
The 2019 redesign of the Santa Fe didn't last long, and we don't blame Hyundai for refreshing it two years in. That crossover looked good but not all that distinct in a highly competitive segment. This one goes upscale inside and out, and the result is a vehicle that turns heads. The good thing is that the refreshed Santa Fe, the redesigned Tucson, the three-row Palisade all look very different from each other.
Front: Yes, the grille is huge now, but it looks quite good with the sophisticated mesh pattern and the thin DRLs and the big integrated headlight units built into the outer edges of the grille. It also helps that the lower grille isn't overly complicated.
Rear: The taillights have a nice shape and some depth to them from the side scalloping which mimics the contour of the tailgate. The matte metallic trim on the lower rear fascia look great.
Profile: The Santa Fe manages to pull off both a rugged and refined look with great body creasing and chunky fenders. We don't love the PHEV's two-tone wheels, but at least they look sporty with their thick five-spoke pattern.
Cabin: The Santa Fe's cabin is unequivocally beautiful thanks to the floating center console, the layered dash, and the gorgeous quilted leather seats that look like they belong in a European luxury car.
There's a lot to love about the Santa Fe's interior. It has improved with each generation, and the current Santa Fe in Limited trim is on par with premium brands. The material quality is excellent, and the second row is truly spacious for tall adults.
Front Seats: We loved the seats in our tester. The quilted leather is well-padded, and the seats were very supportive.
Rear Seats: There's a spacious 41.7 inches of rear legroom here, which means a six-footer can sit behind another six-footer without a problem.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The cabin is hushed thanks to a good amount of sound deadening. Wind and road noise are kept to a minimum. The build quality is also solid with no errant noises.
Visibility: There are no overly thick pillars on the Santa Fe, and the seating position also helps. We had no problem adjusting for the right sightlines out the front.
Climate: The Santa Fe's climate system works really well, and the large vents in the dash moved big air volumes with no problem. We also loved the heated/ventilated seats that were quick to operate, and the controls are well-placed, too.
The Santa Fe is one of the safest small crossovers on the road today with excellent crash test scores, as well as a comprehensive set of safety technology features that put it at the top of the heap.
IIHS Rating: It earned the Top Safety Pick+ rating having received "good" in all crash tests and small demerits in headlights and LATCH ease of use.
NHTSA Rating: It earned five stars from the federal government.
Standard Tech: The PHEV Limited tester came standard with Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist w/ Pedestrian Detection, Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist & Lane Following Assist, Ultrasonic Rear Occupant Alert, High Beam Assist, Smart Cruise Control w/ Stop & Go, Rear View Monitor, Lane Following Assist, and Highway Drive Assist.
Optional Tech: None.
Even with the stylish interior, the Santa Fe Hybrid has thoughtful spaces for in-cabin storage, and the rear cargo section has ample amounts of space, along with a flat load floor.
Storage Space: The center console has two large cupholders, a big tray, and a deep rectangular binnacle. The armrest is also-well sized, as are the door pockets. There's even a long shelf in the dash for smaller items. Everything's in reach, too.
Cargo Room: The hybrid has the same cargo space as the gas version, which is great. It has 36.4 cubic feet behind row two and 72.1 with the seats folded flat. That's bigger than the Ford Escape and the Toyota RAV4 but a tad smaller than the new Nissan Rogue.
The Santa Fe PHEV is rated at 33 combined. Our numbers in combined driving conditions were lower than we expected.
Observed: 28.3 mpg.
Distance Driven: 116 miles.
The premium Harman Kardon system is great, and it's even better because it comes as standard equipment on the Limited trim. The sound is excellent, and there's plenty of bass and good clarity.