2017 Hyundai SANTA FE Ultimate – Road Test Review – By Tim Esterdahl


Overlooked by many consumers, the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe is the sleeper pick by many journalists as the best full-size CUV on the market. Why the disconnect between consumers and critics? No idea, it is really that good.

The Hyundai Santa Fe has been around for years and in 2012 a longer-wheel base model called the Limited hit the sales rooms. As opposed to the smaller Sport model, the Limited offers a third-row – a key item for family shoppers. It also received a different grille design, optional 19 inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust tips and its overall shape distinguishes it from the Sport. These changes have been met with increased attention from journalists and SUV customers. Hyundai just completed its best February ever led with Santa Fe sales.

Design and Size Surprises

One of the first things striking you about the Hyundai Santa Fe Limited is how small it looks on the outside. With many SUVs seemingly growing larger and styling cues helping to reinforce this notion, the Santa Fe Limited feels like it is simply a stretched mid-size size (arguably it is), however, this has an additional benefit.

Whereas a third-row seat means a taller vehicle for many manufactures, the Santa Fe Limited is very easy to get in and out of. Plus, the lower floor allows for easier access for children.

This design of a sleek looking SUV with a sloped front-end may look less bold than competitors; it works to favor the Santa Fe Limited with making it an understated stylish SUV.

Inside, the dash is smartly laid out items in logical places and a center stack of buttons easy to reach and use. While other automakers are trying to make these stacks overly technical or fancy, the Santa Fe Limited provides a very simple design interface. Refreshing and still stylish, it is one of those vehicles which is very easy to use.

The driver’s seat position is absent any poor visibility spots and it is seemingly can fit many different sized drivers without complaint. In the back, the middle row is sized right for adults while the third-row is surprisingly large for the size of vehicle. It may still be too small for some adults, but it may also surprise those same adults.

Straight Gasoline Power

If there is one knock on the Santa Fe Limited, it would likely be in its use of a naturally aspirated V6 engine with its 3.3L V6 mated to a 6-speed automatic. Don’t miss understand the point here, the V6 is plenty powerful for this size SUV with producing 290 HP and 252 lb-ft of torque. However, fuel economy is a concern.

Most competitors these days are either offering turbo-charged gasoline or diesel engine as well as hybrid variants of their SUVs along with 8-speed transmissions in the race for better fuel economy.  For the Santa Fe Limited this means it is behind the curve for MPGs.

For example, our AWD test model came in at 17/22/19 city/highway/combined fuel economy whereas an AWD 2017 Toyota Highlander is rated at 19/26 city/highway. That’s a 2 MPG jump in city and a 4 MPG jump in highway. This can be a considerable amount of difference when the miles start racking up.

Also, the turbo-charged engines will feel faster off the line than the Santa Fe Limited. With increasingly crowded roads, making hectic driving situations, having the feeling of more get up and go is a benefit for many drivers.

On the Road

Behind the wheel, the powertrain provides smooth power and it is an easy to drive SUV. In fact, the negatives of a non-turbo engine are quickly forgotten with the way the powertrain responds.

Also, helping it is the smooth ride. It is quite surprising even with 19” wheels, the Santa Fe Limited handles road nuisances without complaint and it is one of those vehicles you could drive all day.

During our week of testing, we drove on dirt, on pavement and out on the highway. In all cases, the Santa Fe Limited responded really well and it is easy to see why it was named the “Full-Size CUV of Texas” by the Texas Auto Writers Association.

Santa Fe really is surprisingly good.

Our test model was the Ultimate trim level as well which likely helped improve our thinking of it. This trim level includes a variety of upgrades like a “panoramic sunroof, premium exterior door trim with silver-painted accents, 8-inch touchscreen navigation system with Android Auto, Infinity® Premium Audio with Quantum Logic® Surround and Clari-Fi™ Music Restoration Technology, heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, integrated Memory System (IMS) for driver seat, ventilated front seats and a multi-view camera system.” All of these features put it on par with other top models offered by the competition.

It is worth noting the Hyundai Santa Fe Limited also comes with one of the best warranties in the business with 5 year, 60,000 miles on new vehicles (more than the 3 year, 36k commonly offered) and the powertrain has a 10-year warranty.

Finally, the build quality was really impressive on this vehicle and the more we drove it, the more we appreciated how good it really was for the price of $44,295. We have driven other similarly priced competitor vehicles that didn’t feel nearly as solid.

In the end, the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited may remain an oft-forgotten competitor in a segment filled with many good competitors, yet that’s too bad. It is really a much better SUV than consumers seem to give it credit for.

Model: 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate

Engine: 3.3L V6

Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic

Fuel Economy: 17/22/19 City/Highway/Combined


  • Ultimate Tech Package (smart cruise control with stop/start, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, electronic park braking with auto hold, high intensity discharge headlights, dynamic bending light, high beam assist) – $2,100
  • Carpeted Floor Mats – $150

Price as Tested: $44,295 with $895 inland freight and handling fee