The Hyundai Santa Fe is our highest-rated 2-row midsize SUV of 2023 and a Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Award winner. Pricing starts at $28,200.
Not every SUV buyer needs three rows of seating. Two rows, plenty of space, and reasonable pricing will do just fine, thanks very much. In that case, the 2023 Santa Fe should probably be at the top of the shopping list. The Santa Fe is an excellent 2-row midsize SUV with plenty of standard equipment, and the ability to approach luxury motoring. For those reasons and more, it’s KBB’s 2-Row Midsize SUV Best Buy for 2023.
In fact, it’s earned that annual award four years running now. It also took KBB Best Family Car awards for the past four years running. And scored top marks in independent crash tests.
Pretty darn good, then. If a 3-row midsize SUV is preferred, check out the larger Hyundai Palisade.
The Santa Fe Hybrid and Santa Fe Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) are reviewed separately.
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2023 Hyundai Santa Fe pricing
The 2023 Hyundai
Santa Fe starts with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $28,200, plus a destination charge. This is for a front-wheel-drive SE model.
All-wheel drive is available at every trim level, costing $1,700.
The most affordable new Santa FE SUV powered by a turbocharged engine is the Limited version, from $40,050. A top Calligraphy variant with all-wheel drive comes in at $43,750. There isn’t much else to boost that final price, apart from premium paint at $400 and a tow hitch for $450.
In the bigger picture of midsize 5-seater SUVs, the Santa Fe also impresses with its pricing. For example, the Honda
Passport starts at about $40K. The Jeep Grand Cherokee comes in at roughly $39K, and the Volkswagen
Atlas Cross Sport begins in the mid-$30K range.
Before buying a new Santa Fe SUV, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid for theirs. Hyundai Santa Fe resale values have been historically solid.
Check out: The cars, trucks and SUVs with the best resale value
Driving the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe
In theory, 191 horsepower from a 2.5-liter engine seems like a decent amount of muscle. In a midsize SUV weighing almost 2 tons, it’s not a lot. For undemanding duties, simple A to B then back home to A, this engine is adequate.
Anyone who may be traveling further afield and to higher elevations, especially with a family on board, should consider the turbocharged 281-horsepower alternative in the Limited and Calligraphy models. Granted, these are the most expensive variants, but the fuel bills won’t be that different.
Mountain roads also involve tricky weather conditions, so select the option for all-wheel drive, which is priced quite reasonably.
Ride quality is tuned for comfort, yet with a subtle composure working away in the background.
Once the 2023 Santa Fe SUV is at the SEL trim level, navigation-based smart cruise control comes on board. This system knows when a curve is coming up and adjusts speed accordingly, resuming the preset speed as the road straightens. And Highway Driving Assist adds steering input to keep the Santa Fe in its lane.
One particular luxury that comes with every new Santa Fe SUV is space. While many other midsize SUVs cram in a third seating row, this one sticks with two. The result is an expansive 41.7 inches of rear legroom — better than the Honda Passport and the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Cargo space goes from 36.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats to 72.1 cubic feet when those seats are folded. Not quite as good as the Passport, but still big enough for most purposes.
The cabin starts out quite pleasantly, with cloth upholstery and generally agreeable shapes. Then it heads further uptown as the trim levels rise, reaching its classiest point with the Calligraphy version, which comes with diamond-stitched fine Nappa leather upholstery, plus a head-up display, and ambient cabin lighting.
New technologies can spark new designs. Take LED headlights, for example. They can be thinner than older halogen units, longer, and shaped in many different ways. Hyundai’s stylists have used this to their advantage with the 2023 Santa Fe SUV, creating a distinct look for the front end.
Sporting a black grille and various dark elements, the XRT version is made to appear a little rougher and tougher with fake skid plates, but it doesn’t have any extra hardware or ground clearance to inspire off-road adventures.
Calligraphy trim goes in the other direction, with exclusive-design 20-inch alloy wheels and a premium dark gray finish to the grille.
1. Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
This cable-free form of smartphone integration is standard in the base SE trim with the 8-inch infotainment touchscreen. However, the rest of the 2023 Santa Fe range upgrades to a system with a 10.25-inch display, but requires connecting that cable.
2. Hyundai Digital Key
This allows users to access the 2023 Santa Fe through a smartphone app. Owners can send permissions to other phones. It only works for Android devices, but those of us with Apple iPhones can use a special key card deploying near-field communication (NFC) technology.
3. Hands-free powered tailgate
Standard in the SEL trim, this has an automatic opening function. So no dancing on one foot with armfuls of groceries trying to trigger a sensor. It detects the key’s presence.
4. Driver information display
The Premium package for the SEL model brings this configurable 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that can show various types of information, including video from the Blind-Spot View Monitor.
5. Rear side window shades
Such a simple thing, although always welcome. These are part of the SEL’s Premium package (a highly recommendable choice), then standard in the higher trims.
6. Remote Smart Parking Assist
This self-parking system works for parallel and perpendicular spaces. The driver can choose to remain inside the vehicle, or stand outside and use the buttons on the key fob to control things remotely. Installed at the Limited trim level.
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Engine and transmission
A 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine provides the thrust for the lowest three trims of the 2023 Santa Fe SUV range — SE, SEL, and XRT. Output is 191 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission sends that to the front wheels (FWD) in standard form, or to an optional all-wheel-drive system.
The Limited and Calligraphy models also have a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, but this time a turbocharger is bolted to it, helping to create 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. This connects to a different transmission — a quicker-shifting, more efficient dual-clutch type — but as far as the driver is concerned, it’s still an 8-speed automatic.
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The same standard FWD/optional AWD arrangement applies. Regular gasoline works well enough in both engines.
2.5-liter 4-cylinder (SE, SE, XRT)
191 horsepower @ 6,100 rpm
181 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/28 mpg (FWD), 22/25 mpg (AWD)
2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder (Limited, Calligraphy)
281 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
311 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/28 mpg (FWD), 21/28 mpg (AWD)
KBB’s car review methodology.
This story originally ran onKBB.com.