We’re currently a one-car family, so anytime CarseatBlog asks if I’d like to review a vehicle, my response is always an emphatic, “Well duh!” It’s nice having an extra car for a week, but it’s even nicer when I wind up really liking the car…although that also makes it hard to say good-bye when my time is up.
I recently had the pleasure of driving a 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe, and I have to say: I fell in love with it. And I really didn’t want to part with it, but I gave it back because I have a clean record and would like to keep it that way. Hyundai confirms that there are no significant changes for the 2015 Santa Fe, other than some minor marketing changes to various options packages.
Now, I’ll admit that I might not be that hard to impress when it comes to cars. Like I said, we’re a one-car family, and the one car we have is pretty basic (a 2010 Honda Odyssey with no frills). I’m like a love-starved teenager who falls for any boy who gives her attention, only replace “love-starved teenager” with “harried mom,” replace “boy” with “car,” and replace “gives her attention” with “has a blind-spot detection system.” But it’s different with the Santa Fe. I really, really love it. We’re soul-mates, I swear.
Perhaps I’m being a bit hyperbolic, but there really is a lot to like.
The Santa Fe I drove was a six-passenger model with two seats each of three rows. There is also an available seven-passenger model with a bench seat instead of captain’s chairs in the second row. At first I thought I might have liked that more, but the six-passenger model turned out to be great for us. My oldest child could easily walk between the captain’s chairs to get to the third row, and he likes having his own space. You can also access the third row thusly:
The first thing I noticed about the Santa Fe was how sleek it looked on the outside. Like a lot of SUVs these days, it looks more aerodynamic than boxy. When the rep opened the door, I was a little startled to see a brown interior paired with the silver exterior. I actually thought it was an ugly combination, but I wasn’t about to complain.
When I got in to take it for a spin, I started it using the keyless ignition and it played me a little song. I’m sure after a while I’d stop noticing that (and it might even get annoying) but I got a kick out of it during my week with the Santa Fe. It made me kind of happy to have a musical greeting played. (It also plays a little good-bye tune when you turn it off.)
Pairing my phone via bluetooth took less than a minute, and then I was good to go. I couldn’t resist opening the panoramic sunroof. I’m not generally a sunroof kind of person, but opening that baby up made it feel almost like being in a convertible.
Maybe it’s because I drive a boring minivan, but the Santa Fe felt like a sporty, agile car in terms of drive and handling. It had good pep, lots of zip, and zoomed around turns effortlessly. There are actually three different drive modes you can choose from (Normal, Sport, and Comfort). Sport makes the steering a little stiffer, while Comfort requires the least effort. I didn’t notice much difference between Comfort and Normal, though Sport did take just a little more effort. After I played with all three modes, I left it in Normal. Given more time and more driving situations I might have played with those options more, but I’m not picky about such things.
The model I had came with a backup camera and parking sensors, which are hugely important to a person like me who isn’t very good at parking. It was especially handy when I drove it into Chicago and needed to parallel park.
The best feature, though, is the blind-spot detection system. At first I didn’t even realize it was equipped (I, uh, didn’t read the manual before I started driving), but on my way back from Chicago I noticed a little thingy lighting up in my sideview mirror. I realized it was an indicator letting me know as soon as a car on either side approached the back of the car, and it would stay lit until the other car had passed the front window. If I put on my turn signal (in the direction of the passing car) during that time, a beep will sound, letting me know it wasn’t yet safe to change lanes. Blind spots always make me nervous, so I absolutely adored that feature. Also included with this feature are rear cross-traffic and lane departure alerts. It is standard on Limited trim and a $3500 option in the Premium Package for GLS trim.
Other nice features on my model included heated front and second-row seats, heated mirror, navigation, dual climate-control zones, and a communication system that allows you to get directions, send text messages by voice, and request roadside assistance.
Although the Santa Fe didn’t provide as much storage space as my Odyssey does, it was sufficient for what I needed. I would have had a lot more room without the third row in use but even with it occupied, we were ok. It was a little tight, but I could fit my stroller (a Baby Jogger City Mini) and my daughter’s dance bag in behind the third row. With half of the third row folded down, I was able to transport a few extra car seats.
The center console is spacious and well laid-out (unlike a certain minivan I might drive) and I loved that there was a space perfect for holding a cell phone right by the power outlet.
Gas milage is 20 mpg (18 city, 24 highway) which is about what I’d expect from a midsize SUV. The 2014 Santa Fe still hasn’t been crash-tested by NHTSA, but IIHS gives it its best rating of “good” in four categories: front-moderate overlap, side, roof strength, and head restraints & seats. It has not yet been tested in the small-overlap category. The fully-loaded Limited model I drove has a sticker price of just over $41,000, but the base model starts just under $30,000. You can get a 7-passenger 2WD GLS trim with all the safety goodies, leather seats, power liftgate, dual zone climate control with CleanAir Ionizer, side window sunshades and a few other Premium Package options for about $34,000 MSRP, or a street price of about $31K.
Here is Darren’s quick video review to give you an overview. Continue down below to read about how car seats install in the Santa Fe.
If you’re reading this blog, you probably want to know how the Santa Fe does with car seats. Turns out: Very well.