Road Test Review – 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe – This SUV Is The Real Deal

When Hyundai announced that it was revamping the Santa Fe for the 2024 model year, we wondered how the Korean car maker could possibly top the previous generation model. While it was starting to show its age, the previous generation Santa Fe had a strong focus on comfort and technology. This time around, Hyundai wanted to bring the Santa Fe back to its roots with the company bringing rugged charm to the Santa Fe’s bag of tricks. But is it all enough to bring the fight to a new crop of SUV entries?


Boxy Shape Mixes Santa Fe With Brinks Armored Car

The exterior styling of the 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe will certainly draw plenty of stares and perhaps generate its fair share of debate among observers. Unlike the outgoing model, the 2024 Santa Fe pitches the curvy lines and catfish-like front grille and replaces it with a design that brings the Santa Fe back to an era when boxy style and ruggedness defined SUVs. The front fascia gets new headlights that feature H-shaped accents while the front bumper also gets a design that actually makes it into a large H-shape.

The side profile gets large wheel arches and Hyundai says that the boxy shape registered a 0.28 in aerodynamics testing which makes it as slippery through the air as some of its EV offerings. Hyundai reps we spoke with in Tennessee said that unlike other models where the design process starts from the front, the 2024 Santa Fe team focused on developing the rear first before making their way forward to the rest of the vehicle. The rear is also the most controversial part of the design with the liftgate’s struts and their components forcing the engineers to move the taillights closer down to the rear bumper. These lights also have H accents in them but their new location makes us wonder how much it would cost to fix them and the rear bumper in the event of an accident.

Santa Fe Interior Ups The Ante With Tech and Comfort

The Santa Fe’s cabin is heavily improved and when you get inside, you feel like you are in a wider space. While select trim elements make this somewhat of an illusion, the Santa Fe’s 1.8-inch stretch in length and a similar growth spurt in width also play a part in this as well. The steering wheel may seem like it was swiped off a Land Rover but we’re glad that the center console is no longer a disjointed mess of buttons. It has a cleaner look now and Hyundai made good use of the space with the Santa Fe now boasting two wireless phone charging pads as well as several charging ports. Material quality is also improved and the 2024 Santa Fe is the first SUV in the segment to offer a bi-directional hinged center console which allows second-row occupants to get access to the console.

A pair of 12.3-inch screens aee standard with the two covering the digital instrument cluster and the infotainment system with both of them being housed under one single sheet of glass. Two gloveboxes are also on deck with the upper one being equipped with a UV sterilization system. This feature may seem gimmicky but it was actually created during the COVID-19 pandemic and while Hyundai says it designed the system to sanitize face masks and cellphones we see it being used as a clutch play by family buyers. For example, if they have young children and they need to sterilize a pacifier or a toy after a long day of use (including the occasional trip in their mouth) the tray can help sterilize those items for future play especially when paired with other cleaning methods.

The second-row seats offer good amounts of room for adult passengers but the bi-directional console forced Hyundai to get rid of the rear climate controls to make the system work. The third row is best left for children but when folded down it helps expand the amount of cargo space available. It also makes the Santa Fe a great impromptu camper thanks to several well-placed outlets as well as a rear air conditioning system. In-car camping is a popular activity in South Korea and we look forward to seeing how the Santa Fe functions in this role if we have one visit our office.


Santa Fe Impresses On The Trail But Misses The Mark In Urban Commuting

Hyundai wanted to show that the Santa Fe was an excellent all-rounder in the segment. To help show us this, the Korean car company chose a route that took us through Tennessee’s hill country with long meandering rural roads being balanced out by occasional twisty switchbacks. The 2024 Santa Fe will be powered by two four-cylinder engines but at launch, customers will only have access to one: a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 277-horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. A hybrid equipped 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder will come shortly after with this engine making 232-hp and promising higher fuel economy figures.

An eight-speed dual-clutch automatic is standard on the 2.5-liter and as we made our way through the rolling hills we sensed that something seemed, missing. The electrically operated steering rack lacks on center feel and the engine felt overwhelmed by the Santa Fe’s weight with the powertrain making more noise than torque when going up hills. The brake pedal also felt wooden and it made finding the bite point in the brakes difficult when we had to make a couple of panic stops during our time with the Calligraphy. Look for that to not phase family buyers since the suspension delivers a glass smooth ride and wind noise is virtually absent.

That said, the Santa Fe managed to regain some ground when we made the trek to Bell’s Reserve for some off-road driving. We switched to an XRT model for this portion of our drive with the trim not only getting all-terrain tires but also a slightly raised suspension. Bell’s Reserve boasts 560-plus acres to explore and is also bordered by 20,000 acres of protected wilderness. This beautiful backdrop and the off-road trails hidden within revealed that the SUV was a capable bruiser when tasked with going through the woods.

While the Santa Fe will never be mistaken for a trail-rated Jeep, we were impressed with how much capability was baked into it. An electronically operated lock system for the four-wheel drive system helped make steep hill climbs easier while the handy hill descent feature provided safe and controlled descents on the tail end of our trek. The suspension also did a good job soaking up bumps and obstacles here as well but we wished we could’ve stayed on the trail longer since it seemed that’s where the Santa Fe felt the most comfortable.


Value Quotient

Pricing for the 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe starts at $35,345 which includes the $1,345 destination charge. As you climb up the trim ladder, the prices go up accordingly with the XRT and Limited models crossing the $40,000 barrier. Our Calligraphy tester starts at just over $48,000 but adding the $1,800 AWD system and some minor accessories helped push the final price to $50,145 after we had the chance to configure a replica of our tester in the company’s configurator.

Hyundai says that the Santa Fe is banking on its impressive amount of standard equipment and it doesn’t hurt either that the model gets an EPA-rated 20/29 mpg in city and freeway driving with the all-wheel drive system causing freeway economy in non-XRT models to lose 1 mpg to check in at a revised 28 mpg. The extra off-road gear in the XRT and the lifted suspension make this version the thirstiest of the bunch with the EPA saying that it gets 19/26/22 mpg. That’s noticeably less than the rest of the trim ladder but it’s easy to forget that difference when you’re making your way past a lazy river bank or a steep hill.

The SUV is also facing some stiff competition in the mid-size three-row SUV segment. The 2025 Ford Explorer recently got a refresh that brought more technology and performance to the model with the Ford’s infotainment system offering more features than the Hyundai. Meanwhile the Jeep Grand Cherokee L offers the front passenger a touch screen and not only is it better suited for serious trail work, but it’s also got a V8 and a PHEV variant which are both missing on the Santa Fe.

However if you’re willing to look past all that and are looking for an SUV that focuses on adding a high level of standard equipment and doesn’t go overboard in its attempts to draw in a crowd, we think the 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe could be the right fit for your family especially on a weekend camping trip in the woods.


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

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.

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