Tech reviews

2023 Hyundai Santa Fe holds its own against top midsize SUVs – The Oakland Press

The interest in Hyundai’s SUVs has seen a resurgence in recent years due to some high-profile new models including the popular Palisade, but the brand’s SUV history started way back in 2001 with the introduction of the Santa Fe SUV.

Still around decades later, the Santa Fe is now considered the midsize SUV offering from Hyundai — slotting in between the smaller Tucson and the larger Palisade — and remains a stout competitor in a massive sea of crossovers that dwarves what was available two decades ago.

I recently spent some time beyond the wheel of a 2023 Santa Fe Calligraphy model, the final year of the current look before an anticipated 2024 redesign, and I’m back with a full report on how this family 5-seater measures up in this busy SUV landscape.


  • Vehicle: 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Price as tested: $45.255 (starts around $30K)
  • Best feature: Bold performance from turbo engine, sharp interior, excellent tech setup
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Families seeking a strong SUV with sharp looks, power and tech


A vehicle that lasts for over two decades must continue to update its looks to stay current. So the exterior design on the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe retains some sharp upgrades that were made a couple years back to the design, including a bold front grille and sharp wheel designs.

The look is less rugged in looks and performance than competitors like the Subaru Outback, but makes up for that by being more refined looking. While I wouldn’t call the current design best in class, it’s definitely near the top of the list in terms of design quality.

Highlights on my test vehicle included 20-inch Calligraphy exclusive alloy wheels (18-inch wheels come on base model), LED headlights and taillights, power-folding heated side mirrors with turn signal indicators, a panoramic sunroof and roof side rails.

Moving onto the 2023 Santa Fe’s interior design, this is a two-row SUV and there is no option to make it three rows. If you need three rows, look into the Palisade.

The Santa Fe is not a luxury vehicle, but offers as high-end an experience as you can get in a non-luxury ride. The only other non-luxury brand that I believe offers interiors this sharp these days would be Mazda.

The Nappa leather seating was extremely high-quality and comfortable for all passengers on rides short and long, and the amount of interior room for both passengers and cargo are strong for the class.

The Calligraphy trim level that I tested maxes out the class with quilted stitching in the seats, and adds in ambient interior lighting options as well as a faux-suede headliner.

Other interior features include:

  • Power front seats with driver seat memory
  • Heated front and second row seats, ventilated front seats
  • Power release second-row seats, and 60/40 split folding second-row seats for storage versatility
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Side window sunshades

Headroom and legroom are standouts for the class, even tall drivers and passengers will be comfortable. And the rear seats can recline for further comfort.

The modern interior design, from the sharp look of the tech/infotainment setup to the seating and creature comforts, will have drivers feeling very welcome.

Cargo space comes in at 36.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and 72.1 cubic feet with the rear seats down, which is an ample amount for the segment. Gear selection is done through push-button controls, freeing up space in the center console.


A couple different engine options are available on the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe. More tame versions will feature a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine offering 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque.

Luckily, I was able to test the stronger engine option, a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder power plant which claims an impressive 277 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional.

Both of these engine options are paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission, and paddle shifters are available to simulate a manual experience. These engine options, particularly the turbo, are better than what you’ll find on many rival two-row SUVs. (There’s even hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Santa Fe available if that’s the lane you’re pursuing in your SUV search.)

In the end, it’s all about the ride quality. And I truly enjoyed driving the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe. Zero to 60 acceleration was impressive at just over six seconds, and the overall ride was quite smooth with the turbo engine. The vehicle responded well to driver input and handled impressively on all sorts of roads, all while keeping out most road noise. And if you want to test the power, you have the horses to make it move.

I would recommend avoiding the base engine, but anyone who opts for the turbo engine will not be disappointed. It’s not the most engaging ride in this class of SUVs, but it’s definitely trending close to the top of the list.

Some basic off-roading may be possible due to a decent ride height of 8.2 inches, but don’t go on any crazy adventures as it’s not as built for that as some competitors. If you need to pull a trailer or a boat, towing capacity tops out at 3,500 pounds on the 2023 Santa Fe.


The tech setup in the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe features a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster directly in front of the driver, as well as an excellent 10.25-inch touchscreen (8 inches on lower trims) that is the hub of the vehicle’s navigation and infotainment system.

This is a strong overall system that’s one of the best in the business. There are tons of touch buttons in the center console for climate and other functions, but they are easy to master in a short time span. The touchscreen above these controls responds well, too, but I rarely needed to use it because the system responded extremely well to my voice commands for navigation and music choices.

There are also well-placed physical volume and station control buttons. And the Santa Fe offers a wireless phone charger (in a nice, hidden vertical area that saves space), plus USB ports in the front row and second row. Wireless phone mirroring via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is also featured, and you can boost stereo quality by opting for a premium, 630-watt, 12-speaker audio system.

In terms of safety, Hyundai once again delivers, taking home a five-star overall government safety rating.

Its basic self-driving system takes control of steering the car effectively, even on more curvy roads. You quickly learn to trust it and any initial apprehension is soon gone after a few turns.

The Santa Fe includes a bevy of safety features, including a full complement of airbags, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist,
Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Driver Attention Warning (warns driver of drowsiness), and Heads-up Display.

All of these systems work quite well and don’t overreact to road conditions.

The Surround View Monitor (with its top-down view of your surroundings) and Blind-Spot View Monitor with rear cross-traffic alert are especially helpful to ensure safe driving and parking situations. And Remote Smart Parking Assist is a unique feature that allows the driver to pull their Santa Fe in and out of a parking spot from outside the vehicle.


Official fuel mileage numbers on the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe that I tested, with the upgraded turbo engine and all-wheel drive, were 21 city/28 highway/24 combined.

My real-world results fell short of those numbers, as I averaged 17 mpg, but to be fair I mostly drove in Sport mode and was not trying to maximize mileage.

If your main concern in a vehicle is maximizing fuel mileage, many of the Santa Fe’s key rivals are better equipped in that regard.

Opting for the hybrid model will improve the mileage situation, improving the listed mileage to as high as 36 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. And the plug-in hybrid will also give you up to 31 miles of electric-only driving.


The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe that I tested was priced just over $45K; and the base price starts about $30K. The five main trim levels are: SE, SEL, XRT, Limited and Calligraphy.

Pricing is relatively affordable compared to rival SUVs, especially when considering how much the Santa Fe has to offer even on lower trims. There are also hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions available.

Adding to the value of the Santa Fe is Hyundai’s excellent warranties. The five-year/60K mile overall warranty, and 10-year/100K powertrain warranty are the best in the industry, and you also get three years of free scheduled maintenance.


The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe delivers a powerful engine, good speed, a smooth ride, great tech, plus a roomy and high class interior — making it among the best two-row midsize SUVs available.

It’s a budget-friendly crossover with more to offer than many competitors, even if it’s not a segment leader in all categories, and plenty of positives to appeal to families seeking a strong all-around daily driver.

Matt Myftiu can be reached via email at His past reviews can all be seen online at Follow AutoTechReviews on Instagram at @Autotechreviews.


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