My Thoughts Exactly: 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe

The Hyundai Palisade is getting all of the attention of my colleagues in the automotive press. Hey, I liked it, too! In fact, it helped highlight a year of recovery for me from some nasty health issues.

And, yes, that car will be forever linked by its sibling over at Kia. You know, the one that won #VOTY19?

While the noise and hoopla centered on those two three-row mid-size SUVs, we cannot forget that Hyundai also produces a lineup of fantastic SUVs.  Especially the one that sits just below the Palisade, the Santa Fe.

A year-and-a-half ago, I reviewed this two-row SUV that is larger than a compact and smaller than a traditional mid-size. If we measure this vehicle in Goldilocks terms, this could be, well, just right.

Size, class, and other market definitions aside, Hyundai’s original SUV offering in the USA has been with us for twenty years, debuting as a 2001 model. The Santa Fe was the first model in this market to give Hyundai some credibility after years of producing vehicles that were missing the mark in terms of quality, reliability, and customer satisfaction. It has been an uphill trajectory ever since.

For 2020, there have been a few changes made to the Santa Fe. First, the trim levels have been reshuffled to add more content across the board. The Ultimate model has been eliminated a lot of the features from this top trim is now repackaged in the Limited model. My tester is the Limited 2.0T model, representing the new top of the Santa Fe lineup.

Secondly, the Santa Fe Limited receives the new Blind View Monitor that made a splash on the Palisade. The system has cameras on both sides, instead of just the passenger side found on select Hondas. On the Santa Fe, the Blind View Monitor’s screen pops up in the middle of the digital speedometer/information screen, actuated by the turn signal.

For those who are visual people will love the dark chrome finishes that are on the Santa Fe Limited. Not only does it further distinguish the Limited models from the rest of the Santa Fe lineup, but it also gives this model a look that could be – dare I say it – almost mistaken for a Genesis. That is a great compliment to make since Hyundai's luxury brand is really starting to gain traction with the revised G90 and the new GV80 SUV.

The Santa Fe is already a solid two-row SUV that is comfortable for up to five humans and a cargo hold that would take them across state lines for fun. Or, to do a month’s worth of grocery shopping for the household. The trim level reshuffle is designed to attract those who want don’t need a three-row SUV and want to save money compared to a Palisade. But, the new tech will attract those who are exactly looking for a more advanced vehicle in its class.

With that said, let applaud the new Limited 2.0T for being (and feeling) lighter than some of its direct competitors and having the performance from its 235-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged engine to instill a bit of fun while driving this Santa Fe. The engine had plenty of help from its smooth shifting eight-speed automatic transmission connected to this tester’s all-wheel-drive system. 

A prime example of this performance advantage was put to the test in a real world situation – the road trip.

A friend of mine – a motorsports enthusiast and a reader of this website – saw the endgame of his Volvo 850 winter beater. Since he is taking on a long-term substitute teaching position that will pay substantially, he needed a new winter daily driver. He found one…in Duluth.

Let's not shame my friend for not finding something locally here in the Twin Cities. He did find some vehicles, but they were already sold. Luckily, he found one at the dealership he used to work when he was in college. It was waiting for him some 150 or so miles away.

I offered to ferry him up to Duluth to purchase this vehicle in the Santa Fe. It also offered an opportunity to catch up on things, as well as to experience the 2.0-liter turbo on the Interstate heading north towards the Twin Ports.

His impression of the Santa Fe was very positive. It actually mirrored my own impressions. Despite some tire noise, he found it quieter than anything he drove on the same route. He liked how it rode, absorbing bumps and smoothing out everything underneath the Santa Fe. He was impressed with the technology, including the Blind View Monitor and the Smart Cruise Control system. The seats were very comfortable and supportive as we headed north on Interstate 35.

After he signed his paperwork and took delivery of his new-to-him winter daily driver, we parted ways and gave me a chance to take the Santa Fe for an improvised tour of Minnesota's top getaway destination. Year-round, Duluth is a great weekend getaway for Twin Cities people to enjoy some cooler air and the beautiful blue waters of Lake Superior. This is the place where you take a Santa Fe after a hard week at work by bee-lining to somewhere in Canal Park.

In testing any new vehicle, the opportunity to stretch out its legs is an excellent form of evaluation. It gives the vehicle a chance to show what it can do as it gobbles up miles and provides feedback on the task at hand. This is why the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe should be considered if you are looking at an SUV that fits your lifestyle, your family, and your friends to do anything and go anywhere.

Is the Hyundai Santa Fe perfect? It is close enough. Then again, no vehicle is perfect, right?

Which brings me to the discussion about fuel economy. With the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, it did meet the advertised EPA combined average of 22.6 MPG. I was hoping for better, but one can blame this on our winter climate in Minnesota. Honestly, that is more of an excuse than a scientific measurement.

One thing to consider is how much this top-of-the-line Santa Fe will cost. My 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited 2.0T AWD tester came to $40,430. Yes, it’s “up there” in price, but consider what you get for the money and how well it executes overall. If you are price conscious, the 2020 Santa Fe lineup starts at $25,125 for a front-wheel-drive SE model with the 185-horsepower 2.4-liter engine. You can also get the turbocharged engine in the SEL model for $3,000 less than the Limited 2.0T.

Whether you are ferrying a friend to get a new vehicle in another part of the state or taking your family or friends somewhere far afield, I think you’ll enjoy this latest version of the Hyundai Santa Fe.

Besides, if you really don’t need a Palisade – as awesome as it is – the Santa Fe is definitely a good choice.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Hyundai Motor America

All Photos by Randy Stern

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