2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL Limited Review and Road Test

2017 Santa Fe XL Limited 

Hyundai’s people mover gets a nip and tuck for 2017

Words by: Adam Allen



So, what’s new with the Santa Fe XL?

Perhaps Hyundai didn’t get the memo that a mid-cycle refresh usually consists of the addition of a few convenience features and maybe a new exterior colour or two. The Santa Fe XL wasn’t exactly a barebones 7-seater to begin with, yet Hyundai has seen fit to throw a whole bunch of goodies at their largest CUV offering. Outside, a new grille, head and taillights along with new wheel designs and LED daytime running lamps distinguish this year’s XL over last. Inside, occupants will enjoy a revised center stack with a 5-inch touchscreen as standard equipment. All trim levels will get Drive Mode Select which lets the driver toggle between Eco, Normal, and Sport settings that endow the Santa Fe with different characteristics ranging from relaxed to alert. Buyers who step up the new Ultimate trim get even more stuff, like adaptive cruise control, adaptive HID headlamps and even autonomous emergency braking.

That’s quite an update…anything new under the hood?

Hyundai’s product planners must have had the old cliché “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” top of mind when the conversation turned to changes to the oily bits.  Remember that this is a mid-cycle refresh and an overhaul of powertrains usually occur from one generation to another. The Santa Fe XL is therefore equipped with carry-over engine and transmission choices. That’s not a bad thing because the 3.3 litre V6 and 6-speed auto have always played nice together and allow the XL to make the most of its 290 horsepower. The two conspire to move the Santa Fe around with minimal effort and returned a fuel consumption figure of 14.7L/100km. While that’s quite a bit thirstier than Hyundai’s quoted combined mileage of 11.3, we spent most of our time driving in the city which included battling through a snowfall- driving scenarios that don’t do fuel economy any favors.

How does it drive?

We’ve always remarked how much we like the smaller Santa Fe’s ride and handling, and the longer wheelbase of our XL tester makes things even more comfortable. We wouldn’t go so far as to call the XL’s dynamics lazy, but those who are seeking something a little sportier on the spectrum might want to look elsewhere. It simply doesn’t encourage zealous driving even when you select the Sport drive mode. We have a feeling that those who buy the Santa Fe (namely, families) won’t care a lick that their CUV isn’t the fastest or adept at carving up a curvy stretch of road. What they will appreciate is the comfort afforded by the leather clad seats and the lack of road and wind noise intruding into the cabin which can make long drives so tiresome.

How about the interior?

The Santa Fe’s cockpit is a nice place to spend wither long or short stints behind the wheel. Our Limited model was not lacking in the features department, but it doesn’t impart the same feeling of luxury as you get with other similarly equipped competitors. It’s a bit dour inside and the little splashes of grey plastics here and there don’t do much to brighten up the proceedings. We wish the rest of the interior could take a couple of cues from the infotainment system. Hyundai’s unit is a pleasure to use and most people will never have to consult of the owner’s manual to get the most out of it. Part of what makes it so great is a combination of sharply rendered graphics, easy-to-navigate menus and commands that are executed very quickly. Android Auto is now available and makes the Santa Fe a natural extension of your smartphone. How so many manufactures struggle to get the infotainment thing right we’ll never know, but Hyundai’s remains one of the better systems in the industry. Also a pleasant surprise: the panoramic sunroof. While frigid temperatures prevented us from exploiting this feature for our enjoyment, we marveled at the mass expanses of glass that convers almost the whole passenger compartment so much so that we wondered if maybe they might add a “Targa” badge to the rear liftgate. Although we didn’t open the roof at any point, it did take the edge off the somber interior color scheme.

What might go wrong?

We’ve often praised Hyundai for nailing the bang-the-buck and advancements in quality as each model year passes, but there is still work to be done with respect to driving dynamics. There’s more body roll than we’re used to, and in certain situations going over large bumps we felt some wonky behavior from the rear suspension- it doesn’t feel like it was calibrated in the same lab as the front. Perhaps engineers can mitigate this simply by tuning the shocks for a little sharper rebound control. The interior would be a much happier place with a few splashes of colour as well.

Should I buy a Santa Fe XL?

If you’ve got a sour taste in equal parts towards minivans and spending a heap of money on a nicely equipped three-row CUV, the Santa Fe XL will make a nice addition to your fleet. Although the 2017 model has been refreshed extensively and remains competitive in its segment, the other guys it competes with haven’t been resting on their laurels and offer similar levels of equipment at a price threshold that is slowly closing in on the Santa Fe’s value proposition. If Hyundai engineers can spend a little more time massaging the chassis hardware and make it more enjoyable to drive, it will really have a winner on its hands.


2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL Limited with 6 seats — Specifications

  • Price as tested: $44,799
  • Body Type: 4-door, 6 passenger CUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Engine:  3.3 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
  • Horsepower:  290 @ 6,400 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 252 @ 5,200 rpm
  • Curb weight: 2,014 kg (4,440 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 14.7L/100km (16 mpg)