2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV Limited Review: Not Boxy, But Good
It’s always a little strange to review a vehicle right before a significant redesign has already been announced – and the upcoming 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe has an entirely different look outside and in. The 2023 model may not have the rugged and boxy looks of the new Santa Fe, but it’s still a very good vehicle. I had the opportunity to spend a little more than a week with the Santa Fe plug-in hybrid model in its top-end Limited grade. Its comfort, upscale finishes, practicality, and spaciousness impressed me.
While I much prefer the squared-off exterior of the redesigned model, the outgoing Santa Fe’s design is distinctive and eye-catching in its way. Its most notable design feature its cutout chrome grille, flanked by LED headlights and topped off with narrow accent lights that look like squinting cat eyes.
This plug-in hybrid model has a small 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which works with an electric motor to output a combined 261 horsepower. This all-wheel drivetrain is sufficient, but not exactly quick, thanks to this fully loaded SUV’s 4515-pound curb weight. With an EPA combined rating of 33 MPG, fuel economy is good for its size, and the small 13.8 kWh battery pack provides up to 30 miles of pure electric driving range. The total driving range between gas and electric power is around 440 miles. Since it was particularly cold during the week I had the Santa Fe, I only got 25 miles before the gas engine kicked in. The suspension provides a smooth ride, and the cabin is well-insulated from road noise and vibrations. However, since the small engine has to work pretty hard, engine noise is noticeable.
Hyundai includes a laundry list of safety and convenience technology, including various collision avoidance features, blind spot monitors that display video on the digital instrument panel, a surround-view monitor, distance monitors, and parking assistance features, and Hyundai’s excellent Highway Driving Assist, which does a great job maintaining speed, distance, and lane centering.
The interior of the Limited grade is quite plush, with comfy leather-trimmed seats with quilted upper backrests. The front seats have 8-way power adjustments, along with heat and ventilation. The driver’s seat also has a power extension cushion for leg support. The headliner is covered with a premium material called “Melange.” A large panoramic sunroof brings lots of light into the cabin, and its front half opens to provide fresh air. The 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system delivers clean, natural sound with good dynamic range and a wide soundstage.
The floating center console offers good storage space in the armrest and a tray below for a purse or other small bag. While it looks like there’s only a single cupholder, there’s a second one beneath a flip-up cover. That’s where you’ll find a pair of USB ports as well. There’s also a wireless phone charger, which does a good job of holding phones in place securely. Passengers will appreciate the small shelf above the glove box – providing a spot to hold a phone or wallet.
The 10.25″ wide multimedia touchscreen is fast and intuitive and has both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. Unfortunately, there’s no wireless support for these smartphone integrations. The center console has buttons for media and climate controls, along with toggle switches for temperature and a drive mode knob. A shift-by-wire transmission means getting into gear is done with large, well-labeled pushbuttons. All of this switchgear is surrounded by a slick-looking bezel that could easily pass for carbon fiber.
The rear seating area is very comfortable and spacious, with plenty of legroom and headroom for taller passengers. The seats recline, too, and there’s a middle seat armrest with cupholders. For those of you with little kids, there are rear child safety locks, a power window lockout button, and LATCH anchors for baby seats. There’s also a Quiet mode, which mutes the rear speakers so you can listen to audio while the kids sleep. The back of the center console houses a pair of vents, two USB charging ports, and a 110-volt AC accessory outlet. If you happen to leave a kid or pet in the back seat, the Santa Fe will alert you when it detects motion after you’ve turned off the engine and locked the driver’s door.
If you’re buying an SUV, you’re probably hauling cargo. The Santa Fe has an impressive 72.1 cubic feet of cargo space with the second row folded down and 36.4 cubic feet with those seats in use. The seats fold in a 60/40 split configuration and can be dropped instantly with the push of a button in the cargo area. There’s also a set of small storage trays beneath the cargo floor – a good spot for tools or a first aid kit. That Hyundai bag in the photo contains the plug-in charging cable that works with a standard household outlet and recharges the battery overnight.
The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe is a well-executed SUV that’s stylish, comfortable, and versatile. Its PHEV version sips fuel and lets you make short trips in town on pure electric power. While 2023 is the final model year for this design, Hyundai has yet to announce a plug-in hybrid for the 2024 Santa Fe, so buying one now might be your best bet if you’re in the market for a PHEV SUV. This well-equipped Limited version has a base price of $47,370 and a final sticker price of $48,915, including freight and handling fees. It also comes with Hyundai’s excellent 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain, hybrid/battery warranty, and a 5-year/60,000-mile limited vehicle warranty.