2024 Hyundai Santa Fe creeps up in size and utility

When an automaker redesigns a vehicle, it almost always gets bigger. This size creep phenomenon is helpful for family vehicles because it gives them more space for people and their cargo. If the automaker is smart, the redesign includes a striking new look that will draw in buyers. Well, Hyundai is pretty smart, and the redesigned 2024 Santa Fe is bigger and sports a bolder design, and Hyundai also threw in some smart storage solutions for good measure. Unfortunately, it’s also more expensive, but isn’t everything these days?

At 190.2 inches long, the fifth-generation Santa Fe is 1.8 inches longer than the outgoing model, and its 110.8-inch wheelbase is almost two inches longer. It’s also 1.4 inches taller at 67.7 inches tall. That’s your classic size creep.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyunda Santa Fe: A size queen

It looks bigger, too, as part of a brash new blocky design that will attract buyers on its own. The Santa Fe takes on the slab-sided look of a Range Rover, though with cues of its own. Prominent wheel arches angle their way around each tire, and the profile is more squared off than before.

The details are interesting, too. Up front, a horizontal grille is bisected by a lightbar that ends in two H-shaped LED headlights. Active grille shutters sit in the lower air intakes, which reflect the look above. The squared-off rear end is clean up top, and a pair of H-shaped LED taillights sits low to leave room for the tailgate to open as wide as possible.

The angular, horizontal look continues inside, where the dash sports a pair of 12.3-inch screens angled toward the driver. Every Santa Fe gets dual gloveboxes that sit above and below a line of vents at the bottom of the dash. The top glovebox can serve as a UV sanitizer that takes 10 minutes to clean your disgusting phone. The dash also has a tray for small-items storage, and the center console is available with one or two wireless phone chargers.

The smart packaging doesn’t end there. The center console can open from the front or the back to let second-row occupants access it. They can also access it through a tray at the bottom, and they can move the front passenger seat forward (if nobody’s sitting there, please) via buttons on the inside rear of that seat.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe

Buyers get cloth, synthetic leather, or real leather upholstery depending on the model, and 6-way power adjustments are standard for the driver’s seat, though 8-way adjustments are available for it and the front passenger seat. The seats are roomy and all-day comfortable, and the interior materials improve as you move up the lineup, culminating in the Calligraphy model that feels close to Genesis quality.

Second-row passengers have stretch-out space with up to 42.3 inches of legroom, or 1.4 inches more than last year. Fitting three adults on the standard bench seat will be tight, though. Available captain’s chairs will make two second-row passengers happier.  

The larger footprint gives the Santa Fe more interior space, and Hyundai adds a third row for the first time since the second generation. The third row has only 30.0 inches of legroom, a number that would make Spirit Airlines blush, and low, short seat bottoms mean passengers sit knees up without thigh support for long trips. A pair of adults will fit back there if they negotiate with second-row passengers for more legroom, but they won’t be comfortable. Getting back there is fairly easy, as buttons on the second-row seats tilt and slide them out of the way, though that takes some time when those seats are powered in higher-line models.

The extra space also means more cargo room. The new Santa Fe has 14.6 cubic feet behind the third row (which is about as serviceable as a midsize sedan’s trunk), 40.5 cubic feet with the third row folded flat, and 79.6 cubes with the second and third rows folded down. That’s 4.1 cubic feet more than the outgoing model behind the second row and 7.5 more cubes behind the first row. The tailgate is 6.0 inches wider than the outgoing model and 2.0 inches taller. All the better for loading bulky items. Team that with a low liftover and a flat load floor, and the Santa Fe is a great choice for a weekend trip to Home Depot.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai Santa Fe power and handling

A bigger footprint means more weight, and the 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe gains up to 700 pounds, or somewhere between 400-500 pounds engine for engine. That means last year’s 191-hp 2.5-liter inline-4 no longer cuts the mustard, so the new base engine is last year’s optional choice. It’s a 2.5-liter turbo-4 that spins up 277 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. It’s a strong engine in the Genesis G70 and Hyundai Sonata N Line, and while it does the job here it doesn’t make the new Santa Fe quick. The 0-60 mph sprint takes about eight seconds, according to a Hyundai engineer. That’s plenty of power to get the Santa Fe out in front of traffic or make a well-planned highway pass.

The turbo-4 sends its power to the front or all four wheels via an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It shifts smoothly in most instances, but it can grab the next gear too soon for the best power and it sometimes gets confused in city traffic when you might start slow, speed up, then have to slow down again.

The alternative is a carry-over 178-hp 1.6-liter turbo-4 hybrid powertrain that teams with a 44-kw electric motor in its 6-speed automatic transmission. It makes a combined 231 hp and 277 lb-ft, and while we haven’t driven it yet, it’s 0-60 mph time is likely closer to nine seconds. That’s starting to get slow nowadays, but its advantage is fuel economy. While the base engine gets EPA ratings as high as 20 mpg city, 29 highway, and 24 combined, the hybrid tops out at 36/35/36 mpg. Given that difference, the $500 premium for the hybrid will pay off shortly.

Bigger isn’t necessarily better for handling. While the new Santa Fe offers a composed, smooth, and quiet ride, it feels like there’s a lot of vehicle around you from the driver’s seat, and there is notable body lean in turns. At 4,343-4,575 pounds, it’s heavy for the class and that translates to languid moves instead of agility. The steering is quite satisfying, though. With a 13.7:1 ratio, it’s surprisingly quick, and it has enough weight that it remains stable.

With 7.0 inches of ground clearance, the typical Santa Fe isn’t an off-roader despite the Land Rover looks. However, the XRT model gains 1.3 more inches of ground clearance as well as all-terrain 30-inch-diameter tires. The knobby Continental TerrainContact tires dig in for traction on steep uphill dirt climbs, and they’re aided by the all-wheel-drive system’s standard locking center differential. Hill-descent control helps it pick its way down hills as well, and the taller ride height improves the approach, breakover, and departure angles to clear more off-road obstacles, but Hyundai gives the XRT no special front and rear fascias for even better clearance.

Still, the XRT isn’t an accomplished off-roader. Without skid plates, low-range gearing, front or rear locking differentials, or off-road cameras, it can’t handle things a Jeep Grand Cherokee can. It’ll get you to that off-the-beaten path campsite and handle any dirt or gravel road, but don’t make reservations for Moab.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai Santa Fe lineup and prices

A bigger footprint and more power mean higher prices, $5,260 more at the bottom of the lineup and up to $9,000 more at the top. While the 2023 Santa Fe started at about $30,000, the base price for the 2024 model is $35,345. That’s for an SE model that comes standard with cloth upholstery, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a hands-free tailgate, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The Santa Fe also comes in SEL, XRT, Limited, and Calligraphy trim levels. Buyers will have to pay up to get some of the cool features. For instance, the $41,995 XRT adds such amenities as synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, navigation, a wireless phone charger, a digital key, a wifi hotspot, a 115-volt power outlet, and a sunroof. Moving up to the $44,745 Limited gets leather upholstery, the full-function 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a heated steering wheel, cooled front seats, heated rear seats, driver’s seat memory, a Bose 12-speaker audio system, a surround-view camera system, and 20-inch wheels. The Calligraphy starts at $47,895 and gets the glovebox UV sanitizer, second-row captain’s chairs, a head-up display, a synthetic suede headliner, ambient lighting, and 21-inch alloy wheels.

We think the XRT comes with a lot of the features we’d like, though we’d also be tempted by the extra equipment of the Limited.

With its higher prices, the Santa Fe doesn’t come off as quite the bargain it has in the past. However, with a new upscale look, more room for people and cargo, and some smart storage solutions, it serves families better than ever. In this case, bigger and bolder is better.

Hyundai paid for travel and lodging for The Car Connection to bring you this firsthand report.