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2023 Hyundai Santa Fe plug-in hybrid offers solid middle ground among eco-friendly vehicles Featured

Posted On Tuesday, 31 October 2023 02:23 Written by
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The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV will provide 31 miles of electric-only miles, enough to handle many people's daily commutes without needed to use gas The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV will provide 31 miles of electric-only miles, enough to handle many people's daily commutes without needed to use gas Photo courtesy of Hyundai

In the SUV business, where competition is increasingly cutthroat, a brand has to have as many tools in its arsenal as possible.

For Hyundai, its Santa Fe midsize SUV has been around for over two decades, and currently offers just about every variant you can imagine — from ICE versions, to standard hybrid, to plug-in hybrid (PHEV).

Of note is that the Santa Fe is wrapping up its current design before its radically different, brand new 2024 version goes on sale early next year. As is the case when any redesign occurs, the opportunity may arise to catch a price break on 2023 Santa Fe models that dealers may want off the lot.

I recently tested a 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV — which competes mainly with plug-in hybrid options from Ford, Toyota, Kia and others —  and I’m back with a full report.


LOOKS

The most noticeable element on the Santa Fe PHEV’s exterior design is the large and bold front grille, featuring a chain-link style design that gets your attention.

The charging port can be found on the rear of the vehicle, and roof rails are featured on top.

The exterior design on the 2023 model is pleasing to the eye, but perhaps less striking than the new 2024 model that was just unveiled. Buyers can make the choice of what appeals to them more between the two.

My test vehicle featured 19-inch alloy wheels, high-quality LED lighting that improved vehicle safety, power folding side mirrors and a panoramic sunroof.

Moving inside, you’ll find comfortable seating for five passengers. Leather seating and trim materials are high-end, with nothing feeling overly cheap. You get plenty of unique small storage areas throughout the vehicle, including a shelf above the glove box, and another shelf below the center console.

Controls for the infotainment system, and the unique gear shifter buttons, are located on a large center console area.

Lowering rear seats can be done via push-button, and rear seat cup holders are included. All seats are comfortable, and cargo space is excellent for the class, at 36.4 cubic feet with seats up, and 72.1 cubic feet with rear seats down.

The vehicle features ventilated front seats; heated front and second-row seats, 60/40 split folding 2nd row seats, heated steering wheel, auto temperature controls, manual rear and side window sunshades, and auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink.

HOW’S THE RIDE?

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV is powered by a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder turbo engine plus an electric motor. Its total output is 261 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque.

A 13.8-kWh battery pack allows for up to 31 miles of electric driving. Hyundai makes all-wheel drive standard on the Santa Fe PHEV, and a six-speed automatic transmission is included along with paddle shifters.

Depending on your driving situation, a dial lets you choose between Eco, Sport, Smart and Snow modes. You can also switch between EV and hybrid modes with the touch of a button.

Traditional ICE versions of the Santa Fe offer a pair of engine options, offering either 191 or 277 horsepower. And the traditional, non plug-in hybrid offers 226 horsepower. 

So the PHEV is one of the best choices to make if you want a more powerful version of the Santa Fe.

In my experience behind the wheel of the Santa Fe PHEV, it was a competent vehicle to drive with respectable acceleration. Zero to 60 time is around the 7-second mark.

Overall, the ride was smooth and quiet, but powerful when I needed it to be. You won’t break any speed records, but it’s a solid experience all around and you’ll never feel underpowered. Handling is responsive and the vehicle handles curves quite effectively for its size.

The Santa Fe PHEV is rated to tow up up to 3,500 pounds.


TECHNOLOGY, SAFETY

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV features a user-friendly infotainment system with controls that are straightforward and not confusing.

There is a standard 10.3-inch touchscreen up top for entertainment and navigation. Below it, you will find helpful physical buttons for climate controls, gear shifting, seat heating and cooling, and more. 

Voice commands in the Santa Fe PHEV were effective, with little to no hiccups. And the vehicle’s sound system was booming and clear.

One unique feature that Hyundai offers is Sounds of Nature — an ambience option offering sound options such as Lively Forest, On a Sailing Ship, City at Dawn, Experience the Universe, Rainy Day, Moment of Meditation and Warm Fireplace to help you clear your mind on your drive.

Every Santa Fe PHEV also features a 12.3-inch digital display in front of the drive, and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility come standard. A wireless charging pad is featured in the front row, and both rows get USB ports.

Upgrades on the top trim level include a more powerful 12-speaker/630 watt sound system, and surround-view cameras.

Moving on to the Santa Fe PHEV’s safety features, standard items include:
— Blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic warning, which will warn the driver when a vehicle shows up in a blind spot during lane changes
— Adaptive cruise control, which keeps a proper distance between you and the car ahead
— Forward collision mitigation warning, which lets you know if a collision is going to happen, and can apply brakes on its own
— Lane centering system, which keeps drivers properly in their lane
— Driver attention warning, which monitors for fatigue

Additional options include an automated parking system that steers the Santa Fe into parking spots without driver involvement required, and the blind-spot camera that displays what it’s seeing in blind spots on the instrument panel in front of the driver.

The surround-view cameras let you see what’s all around your vehicle, even offering a birds-eye view from up top. This is great in tight parking situations.

Add all that up, and the result is that the Santa Fe PHEV holds up to government testing and gets a five-star safety rating for 2023.


FUEL MILEAGE, ELECTRIC RANGE

Depending on your daily driving habits, the plug-in Santa Fe can be very beneficial to avoiding the gas station.

The vehicle offers a total of 31 all-electric miles on a full battery charge. So if you’re charging your vehicle at home nightly (a full charge will take about 3.5 hours with a 240V charger), and your daily driving covers 30 miles or less, you could in theory go a very long time without ever filling up the gas tank.

Once those 31 electric miles are used, the gas engine will kick in and take you the rest of the way on your daily journeys.

The combined gas-electric rating on the is 76 MPGe. And a 33 MPG average comes with the gas-only driving.

If you’re driving at least 50 miles a day, I would recommend skipping the plug-in and instead choosing the regular hybrid version of the Santa Fe. The regular hybrid is rated at 36 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.
  

PRICE

Hyundai’s pricing on the Sante Fe lineup is reasonable, and varies depending on the type of Santa Fe you are buying. A standard ICE Santa Fe starts around $30K, the hybrid starts around $37K, PHEV starts around $43K, and my test vehicle was priced at $48,915.

The PHEV specifically is slightly less expensive than Toyota RAV4 Prime, a key competitor. There are two trim levels on the PHEV — SEL Convenience and Limited.
Moving up to the Limited model gets you extra features such as the panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery and heated rear seats.

There are also some full EVs which are close in price to the Santa Fe PHEV if you want to fully jump into the charging lifestyle.

Hyundai has all the powertrain options covered with the Santa Fe, depending on your driving needs and what fits your lifestyle, which is a wise move.

Another plus is that Hyundai’s warranties are industry-leading, including:

— 5-year/60K new vehicle warranty
— 10-year/100K powertrain warranty
— 10-year/100K hybrid system components warranty
— 10-year/100K hybrid battery warranty
— 3-year/36K complimentary maintenance
— 5-year/unlimited mile roadside assistance

BOTTOM LINE

On the scale of eco-friendly vehicles, the Santa Fe PHEV is a solid middle ground between standard hybrids and full EVs. 

With regular home charging and limited daily miles, you can drive most of the time as an EV, but you have backup ability to use gas for longer journeys — a best of both worlds scenario.

Combine that with quality design and performance credentials, and the Santa Fe PHEV makes a strong case as one of the best plug-ins available today that doesn’t cost a king’s ransom.

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AutoTechReviews.com can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page. Follow AutoTechReviews on Instagram at @Autotechreviews. Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu



Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV
  • Price as tested: $48,915
  • Best feature: Strong tech setup, home charging keeps you away from the gas station  
  • Rating: 4 out of five stars   
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Buyers seeking a midway point between regular hybrids and pure EVs, in an SUV with strong design and tech.   
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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