It is just your run of the mill Santa Fe with a J1772 port on the side. Which means that it is not a full electric vehicle, but a plug-in hybrid.
Gee, this Hyundai Santa Fe doesn’t look like an IONIQ 5. Yet, it has a port for a Level 2 J1772 plug. I mean…this is not an EV Santa Fe using the E-GMP platform, right?
That is correct. It is just your run of the mill Santa Fe with a J1772 port on the side. Which means that it is not a full electric vehicle, but a plug-in hybrid.
While I have driven Hyundai’s hybrids and its World Car Of The Year award-winning EV, this would be my first time running one of their PHEVs. You might see this a compromise towards not going with a full EV. However, plug-in hybrids offer a mix of all-electric driving before the gasoline engine kicks in. That is, if you have some juice in the battery.
This is not the first time V&R has worked with a plug-in hybrid. It is the first one from Hyundai’s corporate family that made it onto our workflow. There’s plenty to talk about here.
The PHEV driveline starts with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Then, you add 66.9-kilowatt electric motor to the mix, drawing from a 13.8 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery. All Santa Fe PHEVs has standard an all-wheel drive system channeled through a six-speed automatic transmission. In all, the driveline puts out a combined 261 horsepower.
Hyundai claims that the PHEV system can spot you 30 miles of electric range, when the battery is full. Charging from near empty takes over four hours from a Level 2 plug. Perhaps best if you’re charging at home overnight, but not at a public charger. Fuel economy-wise, I ended up averaging 30.4 MPG.
Does the PHEV make for a better driving experience in the Hyundai Santa Fe? This mid-size, two-row SUV is already a pleasant driving vehicle. Granted, the extra power and instant torque does come on when you expect it, but the Santa Fe PHEV can bring in the gasoline motor when a bit more push is necessary in passing maneuvers.
Take the driveline away from the equation, and that pleasant driving experience is present in the Santa Fe. The ride quality is nice. It absorbs the road quite well. Rougher roads present a challenge, but the Santa Fe takes them quite easily. In terms of handling, it does a good job taking on corners and maneuvers. The suspension is well behaved, and the 19-inch tires have ample sidewall to smooth things out.
While it turns in quite tightly, the steering system has a bit of a soft feel. Then again, doesn’t most electric steering systems feel this way these days? On-center feel is fine. As far as being a hybrid, the braking system is pretty good. Pedal feel and response are solid and responsive. So are the stops in normal and panic situations.
There is really nothing different about putting in the PHEV driveline in a rather nice and competent vehicle. Simply, because last year’s mid-cycle refresh did a good job distancing the Santa Fe from the rest of the pack. At least the competitive set for the Santa Fe has settled down a bit.
Still, the Santa Fe remains a compelling design up front. The lighting placement helps with a good set of lamps to illuminate the way, as well as to distinguish it on the road during the day. The doors open wide open for passenger entry and exit, as does the liftgate. This Limited tester – the top trim for the PHEV model – adds some nice touches, such as the chrome grille and 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels.
One thing the Limited trim offers is perforated leather upholstery, with some quilted pieces in the upper seatback. Front seats are supportive and fatigue-free, offering the right amount of bolstering and overall comfort. Rear seat room is good for two adults.
The driver works with an environment that offers plenty of technology and ease of operation. The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster offers a lot of information and readouts. The Blind Spot View Monitor pops up on the corresponding dial – one of Hyundai’s best features, if you ask me.
The center console has a plethora of controls and buttons. That starts with the simple transmission control – just four buttons. Need to fine tune your shifts? There are paddle shifters on the back of the steering wheel. Otherwise, the center console’s controls have you covered.
On top of the center stack is the wide 10.25-inch infotainment screen. You do have tactile controls below, which help these days. My Limited tester offers 12 Harmon Kardon premium speakers that emit a nice tone around the cabin. With the wide screen, you have to tether your device via a USB-A port for smartphone mirroring. One day, Hyundai will make this a wireless system. Well, one would hope…
When it comes to cargo volume, Hyundai made sure that the same available space is the same as in their other models. The battery pack is neatly position for the maximum amount of room for everyone – and everything. With that said, you start off with 36.4 cubic feet with the rear seat up, expanding to 72.1 cubic feet with it folded down.
When it comes to pricing, the Santa Fe PHEV starts at $40,000 for the SEL Convenience model. My Limited tester came with a sticker price of $46,780. If you would rather not pay such prices, you can just get a Hybrid without the plug-in port. They come in three trim levels, starting from $34,300. Run of the mill, non-electrified Santa Fes start from $28,200 with a choice of five trim levels.
Having this first experience with Hyundai’s plug-in hybrid system under my belt, I am trying very hard not to question the rationale for offering it. If this is one way to introduce consumers to a modern plug-in vehicle, then Hyundai will have to convince the doubters of its merits.
The price point is important to note. If trim levels were equal, you do get a better range in the Santa Fe PHEV – and some more cargo space – for $10,000 less than a comparably equipped fully electric IONIQ 5. Some may argue that you could save even more money, if you just got the Hybrid without the J1772 port. That’s another $6,000 savings…
However, if you believe that a plug-in hybrid is your solution for sustainable motoring – even with an internal combustion engine on board – there is nothing nicer than a Hyundai Santa Fe Limited. It is just a pleasant way to live life without guilt.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Hyundai Motor America
All photos by Randy Stern