As I was looking for inspiration for the following piece, surfing through the Santa Fe’s gallery on Auto123.tv and looking through its specs on Hyundai’s website, I came across the following line: “One size never fits all.”
It got me thinking about the segment that the Santa Fe XL dabbles in: midsize crossovers. In a category where utes with three rows make up an important sub-segment, and where all are expected to carry everything and everyone, how does the Hyundai stand out from this busy crowd?
All of these utility vehicles are large with cavernous interiors, so essentially very much alike. Their collective goal is to be the same size (or slightly bigger) in order to meet multiple-member family expectations. So one size could fit all, but the Santa Fe XL continues to put forth value, as well as a modern and pleasant design to go along with a good drive.
Far more cookie-cutter than you might expect, this category does have a few stars and the Santa Fe XL is one of them.
The 2015 Santa Fe XL is longer than the Veracruz it replaces, however, it’s not quite as wide (perfect for city driving). With 4,531 litres of interior volume it’s not the largest of the lot, but you’ll be hard pressed to run out of useable space with 4 or 5 passengers and a weekend’s worth of gear.
The front perches are large and sufficiently comfortable for average adults, while the rear bench (in the 7-passenger configuration) will do fine for three kids from a teenager to a toddler in a booster seat. My as-tested 3.3 Luxury featured 2nd row captain chairs that accommodate all body types. The 3rd row is a good backup plan for two booger-makers about 5-feet tall.
Contemporary design inside
The 2015 Santa Fe XL’s dashboard looks busy, but quickly becomes familiar thanks to its ergonomic layout. Many of the important controls are located within easy reach and are simple to operate; I’m thinking specifically about HVAC.
The only exception is the narrow touchscreen located at the top of the centre stack. It can take a few moments to navigate through the menus and, for those with ageing eyesight, said menus can be difficult given the size of the font.
There is plenty of storage all over the interior. The centre console, armrest and door-bins do a great job of swallowing all kinds of stuff.
Depending on the selected trim (base price is $29,999), available amenities include navigation, Infinity audio system, rear-view camera, heated steering wheel and seats, leather, and a sunroof.
My tested XL Luxury 6-seater retails for $40,699 and includes heated 1st and 2nd row seating and steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, leather, and more.
Contemporary design outside
The current Santa Fe’s outer shell was first introduced three years ago with the arrival of the Sport. The XL’s longer wheelbase positively affects the Santa Fe’s sharp and mature lines. In fact, I prefer the XL’s extra inches for more than one reason.
Nothing about the body is over the top. The 18” wheels, fog lights and LED positioning lamps all serve a purpose and accent this good-looking ute.
Longer wheelbase = better ride
Although the Sport outsells the XL roughly 9:1, the Big Brother is the better choice for road trips, and for more than just its interior space.
The 100 supplemental millimetres are instrumental in making the ride quality that much better. Our terrible roads upset the Sport quite a bit while the XL suffers far less jitters and body movements. Handling is not negatively affected and body roll, despite the XL tipping the scale at about 100kg (220lbs) more, is only barely noticeable over the Sport.
This V6 is an asset
The Santa Fe Sport makes due without a V6, which is very trendy. Its 2.0T engine generates all the required power; but in the XL, the 3.3L V6 is an absolute asset.
Its 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque are plenty healthy, getting the large ute up to speed briskly and (more importantly) smoothly. The smart 6-speed autobox plays a considerable roll in keeping the driving experience interesting. Unlike numerous recently evaluated slushboxes, Hyundai’s is fairly alert and willing to shift and responds when called upon.
The 3.3L fared well during my weeklong test; almost equal to a Sport I reviewed a while back. Its thirst for fuel was a reasonable 12.5L/100km, which I consider to be very good.
The XL is quite easy to navigate. Steering has selectable assistance, but Normal is the best option. In this mode, the required effort and steering response are ideal for all types of driving situations. I liked the brakes and their performance thanks to a firm pedal feel.
The 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe XL plays rough with the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Chevrolet Traverse, and Toyota Highlander. There are others, but these are its main competitors.
The base XL has the lowest entry price, but is not the “cheapest” of the bunch. The Ford Explorer features a 4-cylinder engines but it is the exception. I’m no fan of the latter nor do I really like the Nissan, but the Mazda CX-9 (another option) always surprises.
My choice would fall between the Highlander and the Santa Fe XL.