2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Review: A Midsize SUV That Goes the Distance

Dripping in value and sized for a family, the Hyundai Santa Fe is a near-perfect crossover SUV

Christian Wardlaw | 
Apr 29, 2020 | 7 min read

Christian Wardlaw

In Hyundai’s SUV lineup, the Santa Fe hits the midsized sweet spot. Larger than the Tucson and smaller than the Palisade, this five-passenger crossover packs plenty of room for a family of four while delivering the modern technology and amenities people seek. Plus, it’s all wrapped up in a stylish, value-rich package.

Barely rising above $40,000 when equipped with every option, the Hyundai Santa Fe is an exceptional bang for the buck. And as a Top Safety Pick-rated SUV according to the , it’s a safe choice for families. So, is the 2020 Santa Fe something that looks good in photos and sounds good on paper, but disappoints in reality? We took it on a road trip to find out.

After more than 800 miles of driving the 2020 Santa Fe Limited that Hyundai provided, it’s safe to say: living with a Santa Fe is even better than you expect—almost without exception.


Value, safety, size, and price are certainly important, and the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe checks those boxes and more. From services and features designed to protect, to delightful handling, the Santa Fe helps to eradicate frustration and simplify your life—both on the road and off.

The Santa Fe comes with both Hyundai’s generous warranty coverage and a free, three-year trial subscription to Blue Link services. They include automatic collision notification, SOS emergency assistance, enhanced roadside assistance, a car finder function, remote engine starting and climate control operation, and programmable alerts related to driver curfew, vehicle speed, and geographic boundaries.

Beyond these offerings, the Santa Fe is simple to operate. The transmission gear selector feels hewn from a block of leather-wrapped steel when shifted and the infotainment system’s features and controls are downright intuitive. This all frees you up to focus on your family and the road ahead instead of a complex operating system. Once you get to wherever your journey takes you, a Rear Occupant Alert system (standard with SE and SEL trim) is designed to remind parents and pet owners not to leave children and fur-children inside the SUV.

Christian Wardlaw


One marathon test drive proves just how comfortable the Santa Fe Limited’s front seats are. Leather-wrapped, heated and ventilated—if a bit flat and featureless—they provide good long-distance support. And the SUV’s heated steering wheel is a pleasure to hold for extended periods of time.

An enormous panoramic sunroof bathes the Santa Fe Limited’s cabin in natural light, and despite temperatures in the 80s and the test vehicle’s black leather seats, the interior remained comfortable, thanks in part to the dual-zone automatic climate control system with a Clean Air ionizer. It blew cool enough to breeze through a toasty day in the desert.

The Santa Fe’s rear seat is mighty accommodating and sits up high for a good view out. Air conditioning vents, heated rear cushions, and manual side window shades help to ensure comfort. The hard plastic front seatbacks, however, are likely to get scratched up over time.


Speaking of hard plastic, the entire lower half of the cabin is covered in it. Hyundai elects to use the shiny, glossy stuff in some obvious areas instead of a matte-coated surface. If anything about the Santa Fe Limited belies its relatively low price tag, it’s the sheen of the interior plastic.

Cargo space is another Santa Fe weakness. The trunk area is roomy and offers both a side bin for carrying gallon jugs or bottles as well as handy underfloor storage compartments. However, the official measurement of 35.9 cubic feet is unimpressive compared to the competition. Use the levers in the cargo area to release the second-row seatbacks, and once they’re flopped down the Santa Fe holds 71.3 cu.-ft. of cargo: again, not a competitive number.

Christian Wardlaw


Outward visibility is terrific, and the Santa Fe Limited is loaded with helpful advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS)—the head-up display even shows data related to the blind spot monitoring system. Between this, the visual and audible alerts, and a dual-camera Blind View Monitor display when signaling a lane change, you’ll have no excuse for sideswiping an adjacent vehicle.

Whether listening to satellite radio (free for three months), or through smartphone integration (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard), the Infinity sound system tucked behind stylishly textured speaker grilles is impressive. That, combined with available wireless device charging, means you’ll always have your favorite music and navigation app available through the touchscreen display.


You could save yourself $1,850 and live with the Santa Fe’s standard 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. But since it gives you just one extra mile for every gallon of gas, why settle?

Rated to make 235 hp, the Santa Fe’s turbocharged 2.0-liter option won’t stun you with prodigious power, but still offers 50 more than you get with the standard engine. The real reason to upgrade, however, is for the turbo-four’s 260 pound-feet of torque, which is available from a low 1,450 rpm to 3,500 rpm.

Torque is what you feel when you accelerate, the sensation that you’re getting pushed back into your seat, and the turbo engine provides 82 extra lb.-ft. of the stuff compared to the standard 2.4-liter. More torque is almost always better than less torque, especially if there isn’t much of a penalty to pay in terms of fuel economy. Also, turbocharged engines don’t suffer quite the same power drop at altitude.

Christian Wardlaw


According to the EPA, when paired with all-wheel drive, the Santa Fe’s turbocharged engine should return 22 mpg in combined driving. These numbers are a little better than a typical V6 engine, but not by much.

An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard, and offers Comfort, Sport, and Smart driving modes. In Comfort and Smart modes, the transmission feels reluctant to downshift. Switching to Sport mode solves for this, but then the engine often runs at higher rpm, consuming more fuel. In theory, Smart mode is the one-size-fits-all setting. In practice, however, it isn’t quite as intelligent as its name suggests.

Christian Wardlaw


Generally speaking, the 2020 Santa Fe displays a terrific balance between ride and handling, and it is remarkably quiet at highway speeds. Perfect for daily driving, yet capable enough to whip around corners if that’s your style, the Santa Fe is a pleasure to pilot, easy to park, and equally at ease shuttling kids around town as it is taking you on a cross-country road trip. Venture beyond the pavement, and this SUV handles ruts, bumps, mud, and deep puddles with relative ease.

Exceptional value makes it easy to forgive the Santa Fe’s few flaws. At an as-tested price of just over $40,000 including the destination charge, the Limited 2.0T vehicle is loaded with value. Most competitors cost more and don’t offer as many comfort, convenience, and technology features as the Santa Fe Limited...though they often do provide more cargo space.

Work, kids, pets, and extracurricular activities present enough demands on your time and challenges in your life. The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe promises to allay, rather than agitate, the chaos.


2020 Hyundai Santa Fe
Trim: Limited 2.0T

Base: $39,425
As Tested: $40,335

Selected Specifications:
Fuel Economy (city/hwy/combined): 20/26/22
Power: 235 hp
Torque: 260 lb.-ft.
Seating Capacity: Five

Advanced Safety Systems:
SmartSense—Suite of ADAS including a driver monitoring system, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and more.
Safe Exit Assist—Prevents rear doors from opening when a car is coming.
Rear Occupant Alert—Alerts driver that a person or pet might still be in the back seat.
Ultrasonic Rear Occupant Alert—Senses movement inside the SUV and honks the horn, flashes the lights, and sends an alert to the owner’s smartphone.

Other Key Trims:*

SEL 2.0T
Limited 2.0T

*MSRP does not include $1,095 destination fee.

Written by humans.
Edited by humans.

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Christian Wardlaw

My first word was “car.” That’s what I’m told, anyway. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with them. The design. The engineering. The performance. And the purpose. I’m a car enthusiast who loves to drive, but I’m also most interested in the cars, trucks, and SUVs that people actually buy. Anybody can tell you that a sports car is fast. What you need to know is whether or not you should buy that new SUV, and why. My life purpose is to help you make that decision.