2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Review: Comfortable, Efficient, Questionable Styling

The Hyundai Santa Fe debuted in 2001 as the first sport utility vehicle from the Korean brand. Hyundai now has a full slate of people haulers both smaller and bigger than the Santa Fe (the long wheelbase version of which was replaced by the Palisade), with hybrid powertrains to go with them.

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) comes standard with all-wheel drive and delivers 30 miles of all-electric range. Unlike the Tucson PHEV, it takes about 3.5 hours to recharge on a Level 2 charger (the Tucson only takes about 2 hours).

The Santa Fe was all new for 2019 but received a quick facelift in 2020 to the front end featured now. The SUV comes with a wider three-dimensional grille than the previous model with new T-shaped LED lights embedded in the headlights. The front end is busy, but it looks great at night with just the headlights illuminated.

The Santa Fe has a long hood and scalloped doors along with sharply creased character lines. The windows feature a satin surround while new 20-inch wheels complete the package in the PHEV models. The roof rails have been redesigned too; power-folding mirrors with turn signals and puddle lights are now offered.

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A 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system centers itself inside the cabin of the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe with loads of physical buttons to give haptic feedback when pressing. They're much easier to press while driving, though the push-button transmission takes some getting used to. The drive mode dial is on the center console, inviting switches from Sport to Smart mode.

It feels more upscale than Hyundai's past vehicles with soft, perforated, heated, and cooled leather-wrapped seats. They're adjustable in all ways, including the angle of the seat bottom. Storage spaces are plentiful, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. The touchscreen is a little far away, but the buttons help with not having to reach it all the time. Visibility is good from most angles, and a 360-degree camera covers the few blind spots.

It has space for just five passengers, as the seven-passenger Santa Fe was axed in favor of the three-row Telluride SUV. But for three adults it seems comfortable. The cargo area is about the same as the Nissan Rogue with 36.4 cubic feet, but more than the Nissan Murano. The Toyota RAV4 comes with 37.5 cubic feet while the Venza has just 28.8. The Honda CR-V has the most space of the bunch at 37.6 cubic feet.

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV features a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a new six-speed automatic transmission. The engine alone delivers 178 horsepower and when combined with the 44-kW electric motor total output is 225 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. It's rated at 76 miles per gallon-equivalent (mpg-e) and 33 mpg combined on the gasoline engine only.

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Like many hybrids, the 2022 Santa Fe is quick from a standing stop. The all-wheel drive layout, with variable torque split between sides and front to back, keeps the wheel slippage to a minimum. It loses a little oomph at higher speeds and passing maneuvers require a full stomp of the gas pedal. However, the automatic transmission is quiet and unintrusive, as are road and wind noise.

The brakes are better with bigger discs and a bigger master cylinder than the previous model meaning confident stops. They require a slightly harder press because of the energy regeneration of the hybrid system. The standard suspension covers up the average pothole, even with the 20-inch wheels, and steering inputs are accurate, if not sports-car quick.

Hyundai Smart Sense is standard across the range with forward collision warning, blind-spot warning, lane keeping and following, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors and safe exit alert, which keeps the doors locked if a car is approaching from the rear when exiting the vehicle.

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in Hybrid starts at $40,000 for the SEL trim and $46,010 for the Limited like the test vehicle. The base Santa Fe starts at $27,700, for reference. It slots in between the compact and midsize class, bigger than the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V but smaller than the Subaru Outback and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The CR-V Hybrid starts at $32,010 but has no electric range. The RAV4 Prime starts at the same price as the Santa Fe PHEV, arriving with 42 miles of electric range. The Outback doesn't offer a hybrid or plug-in and the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe is much more expensive at about $58,000. On the luxury side, the Lexus NX is a little smaller but starts around the same price as the Hyundai Santa Fe.

In the end, it's the Santa Fe's looks that will sell or not sell this vehicle. The interior is comfortable, and the travel is efficient, but the front end is a lot. But if buyers can get past that, a solid SUV awaits.