When it comes to mid-size crossovers, it’s definitely a buyer’s market out there right now. Almost automaker has such a vehicle in its portfolio – Hyundai happens to have two. The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe lineup is split into the five-passenger Santa Fe Sport and the three-row Santa Fe giving Hyundai a solid one-two punch in this highly competitive segment.
At their roots, three-row crossovers like the Santa Fe are simply alternatives for minivans, which offer the space and conveniences of their sliding-door counterparts with improved visual styling inside and out. Following significant updates last year, the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe is carried over untouched, and with an all-new Santa Fe debuting at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, this is likely the last model year for the current model. With that in mind, we send this big crossover out in style by spending a week in the loaded 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate FWD.
2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Exterior
From the front, Hyundai’s design language has always looked very cohesive on the large 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe, and last year’s refresh made things even better. More importantly, it created more distinction between the Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Sport.
Up front, the Santa Fe gets vertical daytime running lights in the fascia, new headlights with restyled lighting elements and softer version of Hyundai’s signature grille. At the rear, new taillights have a more upscale look, while the vertical reflectors in the lower rear fascia give this view less of a minivan-like appearance.
The Limited Ultimate also gets 19-inch split-spoke wheels and metallic-look trim at the bottom of the doors to match the trim found on the front and rear fascia. This tester was painted in Storm Blue, which was a good color to contrast the light colored trim and lower grey cladding.
2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Interior
Hyundai definitely knows how to craft a fine interior whether you’re looking at the $15,000 Accent or the $40,000 Genesis G80. In the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe, Hyundai delivers a great cabin with a mix of clean lines, great materials and modern technology that is easy to use. The Limited Ultimate takes things up a few notches with light perforated leather on the seats and soft, stitched leather found on the steering wheel, stylish faux wood trim, heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row captain’s chairs, second-row sunshades and a massive panoramic roof. You know a trim level is nice when even the thick carpeted floor mats are noteworthy!
Although this trim only seats six, the Santa Fe comes standard with a seven-passenger layout, and there are power outlets/charging ports for all three – as well as two in the cargo area. The Santa Fe’s interior is extremely versatile with 13.5 cubic feet behind the third row, and this opens up to a decent 80 cubic feet with both rear rows folded. To make loading cargo easier, the Santa Fe has second-row seat release levers in the cargo area and the Limited Ultimate comes with the hands-free smart liftgate.
While the interior is slightly smaller than some three-row rivals, the biggest downside of the Santa Fe’s cabin is the fact that controls for the rear-zone HVAC controls are located in the third row; maybe Hyundai figures if you have to sit in the “way back,” you should at least have access to the heat and A/C.
2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Powertrain
While some rivals are ditching big engines in favor of turbocharged four-cylinders, the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe delivers a silky smooth 3.3-liter direct-injected V-6 rated at 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, and this engine is paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. Lacking the downsized engine or a higher-gear transmission means that the Santa Fe is at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to fuel economy. Its EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 17 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway** among the worst in its class, but if you shy away from the Ultimate trim level, fuel economy does get slightly better – up 1 mpg in the city and 2 mpg on the highway. During our week with the Santa Fe, this tester averaged almost 21 mpg in combined driving.
On the road, the Santa Fe has the smooth, compliant and no-fuss ride you would expect from such a family hauler. The Santa Fe has a tall seating position with excellent visibility, and while it’s probably designed with long road trips in mind, it still has the perfectly capable of tackling city commutes, too. The suspension makes easy work of bumpy roads and highway expansion joints, and it does so while still feeling confident while rounding corners. In addition to accommodating up to seven passengers, the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Safety
Regardless of whether you’re looking at the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe or the smaller Santa Fe Sport, both have top safety scores with a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a five-star overall crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate came with the $2,100Tech Package that added advanced driver assist technologies like Smart Cruise Control with stop/start, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning and High Beam Assist.
2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Overall
The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe is the jack-of-all-trades in the mid-size crossover market. It’s not as sporty, efficient or spacious as some of the three-row CUVs currently on sale, but the Santa Fe is one of the most comprehensive offerings in its class with a great design, a luxurious interior and a smooth powertrain. Bottom line, the Santa Fe is a great choice if you’re in the market for a family-sized vehicle that doesn’t look or ride like a minivan.
In true Hyundai fashion, the Santa Fe lineup of mid-size crossovers is still a great value, too. The 2018 Santa Fe Sport starts at an affordable $24, 950, while the Santa Fe stands as one of the most affordable three-row CUVs starting at $29,350*. Moving up to the Limited Ultimate trim level increases the starting price to $39,550*, and the options of this FWD tester resulted in an as-tested price of $42,630.
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation Hyundai dealership and test drive the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe today!
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2018 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.