Better-looking and safer, too: improved Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport due for ‘17

Last Update August 22nd, 2016

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

What changes make the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe different?

Fresh styling, higher fuel economy, and first-time availability some of the latest high-tech accident-avoidance safety systems highlight midcycle updates. Last redesigned for model-year 2013, this midsize crossover SUV leads a sort of double life. The Santa Fe Sport is a five-seater competing with the likes of the Chevrolet Equinox and Ford Edge. The just-plain Santa Fe is a larger six- or seven-seat rival for crossovers such as the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, and Toyota Highlander. For ’17, both Santa Fe iterations receive cosmetic revisions to nose and tail and play catch-up with the segment’s safety leaders by adding such features as automatic emergency braking.

Why should I buy a 2017 ?

To get the latest styling and features. They’ll keep your Santa Fe current until the next full redesign, which is on target for model-year 2019. About 75 percent of Santa Fe buyers choose the more affordable Sport model. It comes in base form with a naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine and in Sport 2.0T and dressier Sport 20.T Ultimate trim with a turbocharged four-cylinder. The Sport is slightly larger than most compact-class crossovers, but smaller than any other SUV in the midsize class. Stretched 8.6 inches overall, and by 3.9 inches in wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axles), the Santa Fe model is dimensionally about midpack for a midsize. Its lineup starts with an SE grade and ascends through SE Ultimate, Limited, and Limited Ultimate trims. All these use a V-6 engine and, like every version of the Sport, come with a six-speed automatic transmission and a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD).

Check out our 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Preview for the latest info

Should I wait for the 2018 model instead?

Little reason to. Neither the 2018 Santa Fe nor the Sport is expected to change mechanically in any way worth waiting for. Basic dimensions inside and out will be reprised, too. Buying a ’17 will probably save you some money, as well. The ’18 almost certainly will cost at least few hundred additional more, and its styling and features will have a shorter shelf lift. Details about the next generation Santa Fe are sketchy, but sales have been strong under the two-vehicles/one-basic-name strategy, so the automaker probably won’t abandon it. Look for the Sport to retain its four-cylinder-engine-only lineup and to again straddle the line between the compact- and midsize-crossover classes. The redesigned Santa Fe reportedly will be enlarged, becoming wide enough to accommodate three adult passengers in both its second and third seating rows. That would increase capacity to eight and help it compete with the eight-seat Pilot and Highlander.

Is the 2017 styling different?

Yes, as subtle but effective freshening. New headlamps, newly available LED daytime running lights and fog lamps, and a brushed-finished grille update the nose. A recontoured fascia, revised taillights, and a new dual-exhaust outlet design revamp the back. Silver accented rocker panels and new designs for the 17-, 18-, and 19-inch alloy wheels strengthen the brand-family resemblance, particularly with its smaller showroom sibling, the Tuscon. Inside there’s a revised center stack of controls with either a 7- or 8-inch touchscreen display available (depending on the model) as an alternative to the standard five-inch screen. A power-adjustable passenger seat is newly optional, while the Santa Fe Limited version gets new second-row cupholders and the Santa Fe can now be fitted with matte-finish woodgrain trim. As before, both Santa Fes have pleasing cabins, with well-laid-out instrument panels. The Sport seats four adults in comfort and can squeeze in three across in back.

The Santa Fe SE and SE Ultimate come with a three-passenger second-row bench, the Limited and Limited Ultimate substitute a pair of buckets, reducing capacity to six. In both, the two-place third-row seat best suits teenage-and-younger physiques. Ford cargo volume, the Sport is commensurate with a compact-class crossover, while the Santa Fe is competitive with other three-row midsizers.

Any mechanical changes?

Yes: decreased power for the Santa Fe Sport and addition of driver-selected performance modes for all versions of this crossover.

Aiming to increase fuel economy and improve driveability, Hyundai revises both four-cylinder engines in the Santa Fe Sport. The base model continues with a 2.4-liter that now generates 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque, down from 190 and 181, respectively. And the Sport 2.0T models reprise a turbocharged 2.0-liter, but now with 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, verses 265 horses and 269 pound-feet of torque. However, both engines now summon peak output at lower revolutions per minute, specifically 250-500 rpm earlier. The effect is quicker throttle response from low and moderate speeds with little noticeable loss in actual acceleration. So the 2.4 is again good for adequate if uninspired performance and the turbo 2.0 feels quite lively.

The three-row Santa Fe returns with an unchanged 3.3-liter V-6 that again makes 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. It delivers prompt, smooth acceleration, feeling logy only with a full load of passengers and cargo. All models continue with a six-speed automatic as their sole transmission. Every ’17 version of both Santa Fes gets Hyundai’s Drive Mode Select system. This gives the driver console button to tailor engine and transmission calibrations and steering firmness between Sport, Eco (economy) and Normal modes. You’ll notice softer throttle response in Eco, but the differences in any mode are minor; even in Sport, the steering still feels artificial and remote.

The available AWD system normally furnishes power to the front wheels, automatically shuffling it to the rear when sensors detect compromised front-tire traction. This can happen during acceleration or in slippery conditions, such as snow. The system includes Active Cornering Control, which sends additional engine power to the outside rear wheel and brakes the inside wheel in a turn to help quicken cornering performance.

Does fuel economy improve?

Yes, by a modest but welcome 1-2 mpg for the Santa Fe Sport, bringing its EPA ratings abreast of most five-seat midsize-class rivals. The base version rates 21/27/24 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 20/26/22 with AWD. The Sport 2.0T rates 20/28/23 mpg with front drive and 19/26/22 with AWD. The slightly heavier, feature-laden Ultimate versions rate 20/27/23 and 19/24/21-mpg, respectively.

Ratings for the Santa Fe SE and SE Ultimate are unchanged, at 18/25/21 mpg with front-drive and 18/24/20 mpg with AWD. They’re also unchanged for the Limited and Limited Ultimate, 17/23/20 and 17/22/29, respectively.

Does it have new features?

Yes, primary among them are a number of important safety features. For starters, a rearview camera is now standard across the line, with a multi-camera version that provides a top-down view of the vehicle and its surroundings optional. Also newly available for Sport 2.0T models and SE Ultimate and Limited versions of the larger Santa Fe is a Tech Package that includes key accident avoidance features. Foremost is emergency braking that can automatically bring the vehicle to a full stop if the driver isn’t reacting quickly enough to avoid hitting another car, obstruction, or even a pedestrian. This helps models so-equipped earn coveted Top Safety Pick+ status from the influential Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The package also includes adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, steering-linked headlamps, automatic high-beam dimming, and a lane-departure system warns of inadvertent drift but lacks automatic steering correction. Other new-for-2017 features include revamped touchscreen infotainment systems, an available power height adjustable passenger seat, and a third-row USB port available on the Santa Fe.

Are 2017 prices different?

Base prices increase a nominal $400-$450, depending on model. (Base prices listed here include Hyundai’s $895 destination fee.)

The Santa Fe Sport starts at $26,245 with front-wheel drive and at $27,99 with AWD. Popular options include the 2.4L Popular Equipment Package ($1,500), which adds the 7-inch display with Android Auto, dual automatic climate control, Hyundai Blue Link hands-free connectivity, a power driver’s seats, LED daytime running lights, and fog lamps. Order that and your eligible for the 2.4L Premium Equipment Package ($3,550). Among its additions are blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts, leather upholstery and heated front seats, power front passenger seat, sliding second-row seat, keyless entry with pushbutton ignition, and an electroluminescent gauge cluster. The 2.4L Tech Package ($3,650) requires the Premium package and features a panoramic moonroof, imbedded GPS navigation with an 8-inch display, multi-view rear backup camera and rear parking sensory, memory driver’s seat and mirrors, heated steering wheel, and heated and cooled front seats.

The Santa Fe Sport 2.0T starts at $32,595 with front-drive and $34,245 with AWD. In addition to its turbocharged engine, it includes everything in the 2.4L Sport Premium Equipment Package, plus 18-inch alloy wheels versus 17s. The Sport 2.0T Ultimate is priced from $39,145 with front-drive and from $39,145 with AWD. It essentially adds the items from the 2.4L Tech Package, plus such standard features as 19-inch alloys, xenon headlamps and LED taillights. The 2.0T Ultimate Tech Package ($1,550) gets you all the desirable new safety features described above, from Smart Cruise Control to automatic emergency braking.

In the Santa Fe line, the SE has a base price of $31,695 with front-wheel drive and $33,445 with AWD. The SE is essentially a seven-passenger version of a Santa Fe Sport with the 2.4L Popular Equipment Package, plus 18-inch alloy wheels. Its SE Premium Package ($3,650) mimics the 2.4L Premium Package, with the addition of a power liftgate. Priced from $39,595 with front-drive and $41,345 with AWD, the SE Ultimate echoes the Sport 2.0T Ultimate kit, while the SE Ultimate Tech Package ($2,100) adds the safety items found in the 2.0T Ultimate Tech Package. Similarly, think of the Santa Fe Limited and Limited Ultimate as enlarged cousins of their Santa Fe Sport counterparts. The three-row Limited starts at $35,845 with front-drive and $37,595 with AWD, the Limited Ultimate at $40,295 and $42,045, respectively.

When will it come out?

Release date for the 2017 Santa Fe was February 4, 2016.

The Santa Fe is better than the…

Among five-passenger Santa Fe Sport rivals: Ford Edge, which seems bigger and clumsier to us than it should be; Jeep Cherokee, handsome and off-road-worthy but lacks refinement, particularly for nine-speed automatic transmission, and Nissan Murano, which seems overstyled and suffers lackluster road manners. Among three-row models, the Dodge Durango is roomy, but also heavy, and the Nissan Pathfinder and Ford Explorer, while they have their merits, are a notch off the pace.

The Santa Fe is not as good as the…

Among Santa Fe Sport competitors: the more-fun-to-drive Mazda CX-5; the remarkably diverse lineup of the Jeep Grand Cherokee; and the overachieving Subaru Forester and Outback. Among Santa Fe rivals: the hard-to-fault Honda Pilot; sportier-driving Ford Explorer, and more-refined-overall Toyota Highlander.

What change would make it better?

Sharper steering and handling, and oddly enough, maybe a new naming convention. That might reduce any confusion between two crossovers that serve two distinct audiences. We recognize Hyundai’s desire to capitalize on whatever recognition attaches to the Santa Fe name. But it may prove wise to keep “Santa Fe” (and drop “Sport”) for the better-selling five-seater and to rename the larger seven-seater to help it carve out a clearer identity as a true, full-size family crossover.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]