The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe lineup is still playing a prominent role in Hyundai’s sales ambitions. While the bigger Hyundai Palisade is certainly occupying much of the spotlight, the Santa Fe continues to be an option for buyers that want a large SUV offering but in a different wrapper. But is the 2023 Santa Fe XRT the perfect choice for urban explorers looking to hit the trails on the weekends?
Santa Fe XRT Won’t Make Established Off-Roaders Lose Sleep, Goes On Own Path
Buyers thinking that the Santa Fe XRT will be duking it out on the trail with Jeep Wranglers or Ford Broncos will be disappointed. Hyundai has said in the past that the XRT lineup is not meant for that. Instead, the XRT focuses on the finer details with the bulk of the exterior styling being largely unchanged from the rest of the Santa Fe lineup. The front fascia still has its odd-looking chrome grille and lighting elements but XRT models replace some of the flashy chrome accents for blacked out trim pieces including the black hued roof mounted cross rails.
Our tester’s Calypso Red paint helped add some pop to the rest of the styling and is one of the few colors in the broader color inventory that makes the black accents work with the rest of the SUVs styling. The 18-inch darkened alloy wheels also enhance the XRTs street presence but while we appreciate all the styling garnishes that make the Santa Fe XRT ready for gravel roads and other light off-roading, we wish that Hyundai could’ve done more to fully build on the XRTs looks to not only help the trim level stand out from other members of the Santa Fe family, but also from rivals like the Subaru Ascent and even the outgoing Ford Edge.
Santa Fe Interior Is Aging Gracefully, Still Has The Core Essentials
The interior of the Santa Fe prefers to let its strong build quality and strong feature content do the figurative talking. That said, the cabin is still a very attractive place to spend time in with goodies like a fully digital instrument, heads-up display, heated rear seats, and a large sunroof. Hyundai claims that recent tweaks that the Santa Fe received allows the Santa Fe to follow the Palisade more closely in this regard but thankfully it still has its inner charms fully intact.
XRT models like our tester have a blacked out interior but the H-Tex leatherette seats have perforated inserts scattered in some spots and all XRT models come with Hyundai’s 10.25-inch infotainment system standard with the screen featuring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capabilities. Front passengers have plenty of head and legroom but the second row seats can be a bit cramped for taller occupants. Fold the rear seats down and it helps expand cargo space further which allows the Santa Fe to haul bulky cargo items.
Four-Cylinder Performance Defines Driving Experience
The 2023 Santa Fe continues to have a diverse lineup of engines to choose from but buyers looking to get an XRT model will only have one engine available, a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 191-horsepower and is mated to an eight-speed automatic. This pairing reflects the XRTs unique role in the trim ladder, with the model being in between the SEL and the Limited model with the latter getting a turbocharged version of the 2.5-liter that makes 281-hp.
Our tester proved to be a very reliable companion out on the freeway but we’ll admit that there were times where we wished the engine had more guts in freeway driving with passing power being somewhat constrained when changing lanes. That said, the engine makes up for it by offering an impressive amount of fuel economy with our tester getting an EPA-rated 25 mpg in city driving, 26 mpg in combined driving and a commendable 28 mpg in freeway driving. Adding all-wheel drive to the XRT causes fuel economy to dip slightly to 22/25/24 mpg in all three categories.
Pricing for the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe lineup starts at $30,085 for a base SE model (all pricing includes the $1,335 destination charge) with this model getting traditional analog gauges as well as a smaller 8-inch infotainment system. Climb your way to an XRT model like our example and you’ll be greeted with a base MSRP of $35,585. The Calypso Red on our tester is a $450 option and when combined with some other minor optional extras it caused the final price to nudge upward to $$37,735.
That pricing is right in the thick of it with some of its rivals and the XRT faces some stiff competition from rivals like the Ford Edge, Kia Sorento, Jeep Cherokee, Nissan Rouge, Toyota RAV4, and the Subaru Forester. The Forester in particular is a segment benchmark and while the XRT model plays the part of a trail seeker the Forester leaves little doubt of its intentions with the model getting standard all-wheel drive as well as beefier mechanicals that allow it to take on wilder terrain than the Hyundai. Overall, the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe XRT is a nice alternative for SUV buyers looking for a dash of sportiness to their driveway. As long as you allow the XRT to play within its comfort zone, you’ll be rewarded with an SUV that has an impressive array of standard features and comfort.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.