2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid Review: The Perfect Family Car?

2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid Review: The Perfect Family Car?

Last fall my family had to buy a family car. My wife wanted an upgrade; her previous lease contract was a 2018 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen S. We needed more space – we had a second child in the meantime – and wanted more luxury. My wife wanted more of an SUV, with some extra ride height and the safety of four-wheel drive. And ideally, we were looking for something economical, if not electric – which excluded the Kia Telluride we knew we liked.

We looked at the potential EV options, but in our price range we would have sacrificed both space and luxury – assuming we could even have found an electric vehicle that worked for us. My wife wasn’t thrilled with the surf with the Ford Mustang Mach E – we live within earshot of drag race Mustangs on Woodward Ave outside of Detroit. She loved how the Volkswagen ID.4 drove, but wasn’t a fan of the exterior or interior quality.

So, like many beleaguered parents, we focused on the Hyundai Santa Fewhich met almost all requirements. Hyundai and Kia build the best luxury cars on a budget. The Santa Fe’s interior is huge and has a hybrid option. (Technically, the Santa Fe . has two hybrid options, as these also come in PHEV form, but it didn’t seem like finding the latter would be possible for us in today’s market.)

I wanted the Limited Hybrid trim with the vented front seats and heated steering wheel that I’m used to in my fancy test cars. But the clock was ticking; my wife didn’t want to learn to drive my manual transmission car as a holdover. So when we found a mid-range SEL Premium 90 miles away, we went for it. The SEL Premium is still quite chic with a panoramic sunroof and heated leather seats. And it hasn’t been modernized like the Tucson yet, so there are no pesky haptic buttons.

Tyler Duffy

hyundai santa fe hybrid parked on a suburban street

Tyler Duffy

The Santa Fe Hybrid is very pleasant to drive

The Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid is not super sporty. The 1.6-liter gas engine and electric motor put together 226 horsepower – in a car that weighs just over 4,000 pounds. But it’s smooth, feels fast at low speeds and handles itself competently in typical driving situations. Plus, you get a driver-friendly six-speed automatic instead of a CVT. Changing the throttle using driving modes was a revelation for my wife, who doesn’t drive new cars every week to earn a living.

He survived the winter well. The Santa Fe Hybrid has AWD and a special snow mode. We haven’t had too much snow this winter (by Michigan standards), but my wife did take a pilates class this winter at a major snow event—and she didn’t have to rush me in the 4Runner I was testing her back to commute.

The Santa Fe Hybrid is efficient

The EPA rates the Santa Fe Hybrid for 33 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. My wife has done the most miles and I don’t follow her driving like a creep — but at least during my travels the EPA estimate felt right. I got about 38 mpg in my normal 25 mile short lunch break test route without trying to ride efficiently.

My wife commutes about 10 miles, including when she has to pick up children; she goes to the office three times a week and the Santa Fe Hybrid has a large 17.7 gallon fuel tank. As a result, we’ve had the car for about six months, and she’s probably only filled it a handful of times during that time.

This Hyudai is practical for families with two children

You don’t get a third row with the Santa Fe. But with two kids you don’t need one. And instead, the Santa Fe gives you a massive 36.4 cubic feet of trunk and 72.1 cubic feet of total cargo space. That’s about the same space as a Subaru Forester or Outback with the seat down, and significantly more room than with the seat up. We have not yet come across a situation where we had to think about what to put in the back and whether it would fit.

I don’t spend much time in the back seat; we parked our forward-facing and rear-facing car seats there. But there’s plenty of room to let kids in and out and store their belongings under or between them.

But the Santa Fe Hybrid has one really annoying feature

When backing up, the Santa Fe Hybrid makes a very loud beeping sound to warn pedestrians, as if you were backing up into a huge van. It’s probably good for safety, but it also warns the whole block ahead of you coming and going. (Godspeed to any Santa Fe Hybrid owner caught making a tricky multi-point turn.) I’m thankful it’s not the car I’m taking to the airport at 5:30 AM.

The Santa Fe Hybrid will be a solid bridge to our eventual electric cars

We couldn’t go electric for a family car this time. The amenities and options just weren’t there at a reasonable price. Hopefully the market will be there in three years’ time when our lease expires. And for now, the Santa Fe Hybrid delivers much of what we love about the Telluride — while being about 33 percent more efficient.


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