The company's all-new, fifth-generation Santa Fe is an incredibly bold take on a nameplate that's adamant about Hyundai's modern lifestyle. Back in the 1990s, the company was looking to change the way customers viewed its ethos, and the model that appeared in 2000 for the 2001 model year was a cornerstone thanks primarily to great US sales.
It was then transformed into a mid-size crossover SUV starting with the second generation in 2005, and all subsequent iterations followed along the same path with sweeping lines and much interior space. Curiously, although it's the second largest SUV in Hyundai's strong, seven-CUV American lineup, the previous generation was only offered with room for five people on board. If you wanted more, you had to go sideways to the Kia Sorento cousin or upstairs for some Palisade goodies.
Today, though, things are a lot different – and there's pressure to do a lot more both from below and above, not to mention the direct rivals. But Hyundai set its Santa Fe on an interesting course of bold design mixed with an outdoor lifestyle, and many fans might reckon it has everything it takes to succeed. However, no one should take its rivals any less. Yes, the mid-size CUV has gone through a radical exterior transformation and a thorough interior upgrade, yes, the H-shaped LEDs both front and back make a massive statement, and yes, the all-new Santa Fe looks a mod or two away from turning into an unlikely overlanding rig.
But there are still a lot of unknowns – and most of them will probably unravel only in August when the company will provide additional details. Until then, we can look at the spacious, boxy-styled exterior that promises a lot of space for cargo and folks too. Plus, we can also take note of the many high-tech features like the Panoramic Curved Display and dual wireless charging, the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that's connected to the infotainment field just like Mercedes used to, for example, and try to draw a sword against the competition.
If you can't wait for the new Santa Fe to arrive sometime late this year or even during the first months of 2024 but still want to go home in a Hyundai, the choices are two. Either you contend with a smaller yet as bold Tucson, with the 2023 model year kicking off at just $26,900 or $31,350 and $37,500 if you want the Hybrid or Plug-In Hybrid versions, respectively. It's hip and cool, but only with five seats. Alternatively, the three-row Palisade is currently the flagship CUV in Hyundai's US lineup from $35,900. But it's not as boxy, indeed.
The second thing you can do is expand your search to Kia and choose 'a brother from another mother,' the $30,900 Kia Sorento – which too is available with traditional ICE power, as well as in hybrid or PHEV formats. It's much more conventional than any Hyundai, so it's probably a matter of taste if you want this or the Santa Fe because now both have space for seven people onboard. Well, from then on, the choices grow extremely wide and alluring. If you like Asian carmakers, then you cannot go wrong with the companies from Japan, right?
So, there's the third-generation Honda Passport, but it's too expensive for our liking and also doesn't have three rows of seats – as such, we can only defer to the all-new fourth iteration of the Honda Pilot as a proper rival. It starts from $36,300, and of course, an interesting trim is the new TrailSport. The alternatives are also cool – you could also become an early adopter of the first-ever 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander if you don't mind the higher $43,070 MSRP tag, and it also has a Hybrid version from $44,670. If you want to go quirky, then the Subaru Ascent is also an excellent option to assess – from a very low starting MSRP of $33,895, which is quite lovely, indeed!
It's also worth mentioning the Mazda CX-90, but the all-new model is going toward the premium category, with many other entries to choose from – both crossovers and fully-fledged SUVs. As such, the Americans are left fighting the new Hyundai Santa Fe with classic nameplates like the Dodge Durango (we heard that its days are numbered, and the Stealth moniker will soon take its place) – which indeed has the upper hand with its many powertrain options that go as high as 710 horsepower in SRT Hellcat supercharged form. Alas, if you want the cheapest, you must shell out at least $39,050.
Then there is also the Ford Explorer from $36,670, but of course, in this case, the most interesting options are the Timberline for outdoor fans (from $48,980), the feisty ST model for sporty CUV enthusiasts (from $50k), and the mighty King Ranch for those in search of rugged luxury from $54k. Last but not least, some wild cards are also easy to spot. The GMC Acadia acts as a jack-of-all-trades three-row SUV that does many things well enough but also doesn't stand out in any particular area (from $36,800), or you could go German-American with the Volkswagen Atlas that was just refreshed for the 2024 model year and now starts at $37,725. Hey, it even has a Peak Edition from $46,555!