AUTO REVIEW: 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Fails to Resound in Three-Row Crossover Class

(Chicago Tribune/TNS) -

The noise started when we hit cruising speed on the highway. It wasn’t a particular noise, but noise in general coming from the back. And it wasn’t coming from the kids.

My passenger and I figured maybe in the thrill of new car buttons, the kids accidentally cracked a window. They didn’t. The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe is just loud.

There are few exterior changes to the refreshed Santa Fe three-row crossover, which along with the smaller Santa Fe Sport, was redesigned for model year 2013. The grille gets broader and has another slat, complementing a wide, catfish-mouth lower vent with a slight splitter. Around back, the taillights are more rectangular than angular. Rocker panels on the doors get a flash of silver.

With 19-inch alloy wheels, the Santa Fe is one of the sharper looking three-row crossovers.

It looks better than the minivan, of course.

But the minivan is so much easier to get in and out of. You know this and do not care.

The third row sits low to the ground, according to the oldest kids riding in back. There is plenty of knee and head room, and the low seat enables Hyundai to retain the tapered crossover roofline that three-row-vehicle shoppers prefer to the uncarved block of the minivan.

The most significant upgrades to the Santa Fe are not seen but heard, including the slew of available advanced safety features ranging from lane departure warning to dynamic headlights, which are part of the $2,100 ultimate tech package in the test vehicle. Hyundai’s safety bells and whistles are worth the price, though we had difficulty adjusting the distance setting on advanced cruise control.

Those interior improvements come at a cost of just over $43,000 in the top of the line Limited Ultimate trim with AWD.

I know.

Forget the antiquated notion that Hyundai makes budget cars; the fully loaded Santa Fe is competitive with other loaded three-row crossovers.

It’s an expensive time — historically expensive time — to be a car shopper.

The features in the Santa Fe are premium, but the finish is not quite there. The faux wood on the dash feels faux, and the chrome elements are plastic. On the other hand, the layout of the redundant steering wheel buttons is intuitive and the center console phone storage area is a clever use of space.

It’s not a bad car by any means, but the redesigned 2016 Mazda CX-9 three row is better at nearly everything that matters except the warranty.

The Santa Fe’s naturally aspirated V-6 is pokey, there’s no real burst, and the car moves larger than it looks from the outside. It has the body roll and numb detached steering of a minivan.

But the third row is roomier and there’s more cargo volume despite being shorter (and easier to park) than the CX-9. Both the Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer are roomier in this segment; they’re both a little more expensive when similarly equipped.

Only Hyundai has the sweeping panoramic sunroof, but I have to think that contributed to some of the road noise in the Santa Fe.

Some of that perceived noise might have come from being the last in a string of premium crossover test vehicles.

It wasn’t so loud that three of the four grade-schoolers couldn’t fall asleep on the way home from an amusement park. And that’s a sweet way to end a road trip.


2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate at a glance

Vehicle type: Three-row crossover

Base price: $32,550

As tested: $43,400 (excluding $895 delivery)

Engine: 3.3-liter V-6

Transmission: Six-speed automatic in AWD

Parting shot: The imminent redesign should be quieter, better.