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2017 Hyundai Santa Fe: A Midsize SUV with Plenty of Ambition

In its higher trim levels, the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe is a midsize SUV with features to match more expensive competitors.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

When it comes to SUVs, designers and engineers within Hyundai know what they need to do to compete with the more established players in the popular vehicle class. If they’re going to take on the typical SUV choices already grounded in the market, they need to offer maximum value and a flurry of features.

The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe manages just that, especially in its higher trim levels. Offering the features and functionality of more expensive vehicles, the Santa Fe is a very sensible alternative and strong competitor for its Japanese and domestic rivals.

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It’s officially midsized, but the Santa Fe is a proper SUV. With ample cargo capacity and potential seating capacity for seven, there’s no crossover flirtation here.

Opting not to go with the familiar engineering trend of going with a smaller engine with a turbocharger to boost power, Hyundai put a 3.3 liter V6 into the standard Santa Fe. That engine will put out 290 horsepower and earn an average fuel economy of 19 mpg. A six-speed automotive transmission puts that power to the pavement.

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The Santa Fe is more apt for civilized urban duty, lacking some of the beefed up off-road bonafides of a Jeep or a Land Rover. However, there’s still enough toughness to its four-wheel independent suspension and standard all-wheel drive to get off the pavement for a bit of adventure.

As the buyer would expect, the Santa Fe’s higher trim levels pack in an abundance of features worthy of more expensive SUVs. The internal features alone include Universal remote transmitter (for garage door and security system), destination guidance with Turn-by-Turn Navigation, audio and cruise controls on steering wheelCruise control, electric power steering, front and rear door pockets, front seat back storage, front, side, and rear view camera, keyless ignition, rear parking sensors and Roadside Assistance.

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The Santa Fe is a hot shot across the midsize SUV bows of Toyota, Honda, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and others in Hyundai’s price class family. While this reporter still thinks the Mazda CX-9 is the best affordable midsize SUV, this SUV can run shoulder to shoulder with anything else in the class at a similar price point.

The overall build quality is solid, but not quite on the level of the German or UK rivals. In those familiar makes and models, there’s a heaviness to the door panels and level of “groundedness” in the ride that the Santa Fe can’t quite touch. But, then again, if you want that Euro character, you’re going to have to pay for it and decorate the mahogany with more green.

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At its maxed out trim designation, the Hyundai Santa Fe is not an inexpensive vehicle. With a listed MSRP just north of $41,000, it could just qualify as an aspirational vehicle in the SUV class. But, its top price falls around or below the entry level prices for similar sized vehicles from Lexus, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, etc.

It’s true many car buyers might not traditionally look to a Hyundai dealership while shopping for SUVs. But, the brand is fighting to change that and plant itself prominently on the radar with well thought out options like the 2017 Santa Fe.