2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate: Handsome Car, Shame About the Fuel Economy [Review]

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate
[Photo: Hyundai]
If you’re in the market for a three-row crossover and aren’t exactly jumping with excitement at your options, I have good news for you. The sharp-looking Hyundai Santa Fe is on hand as an alternative to some of the mild crossovers on the market. It’s Hyundai’s largest and only three-row offering, slotted above the two-row Tucson and Santa Fe Sport. All the way from the base SE to the Limited Ultimate trim, it makes a strong case on value and comes packed with features. Looking for piece of mind with your family vehicle? The Santa Fe comes backed by one of the industry’s best warranties.

What’s New

Hyundai’s largest crossover was heavily revamped for 2017, so don’t expect many changes for the 2018 model year. What the Korean brand did do this year was simplify their trim levels across the Santa Fe lineup. There are now just three trim levels: SE, Ultimate, and Limited Ultimate. Priced at $30,850 before fees, the Santa Fe is priced well against competitors. In this segment, it squares off against other three-row offerings such as the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Chevrolet Traverse, Volkswagen Atlas and Mazda CX-9.

The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate comes packed with all the features you’d want in a modern family crossover. Kicking off at $39,550, this model represents a hefty price hike over the base SE, but comes back with a list of standard features as long as your arm. If you’re looking for extra security, the all-wheel drive model will be $1,750 extra, starting at $41,300.

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate
[Photo: Hyundai]

Comfort and Convenience

Starting on the exterior, the Limited Ultimate comes with 19″ alloy wheels, HID headlights and LED taillights for that crisp, modern look. There’s a power liftgate, parking sensors, and a 360-degree camera system. For added safety, this Santa Fe also has radar cruise control and lane departure warning. You also get a panoramic sunroof and Blind Spot Monitoring.

Hyundai fitted their top-spec Santa Fe with an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with integrated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. There’s plenty to play with, but it’s not the most responsive infotainment system in the world. If you’re looking for onboard WiFi as well, you won’t find that in the Hyundai. However, they balanced that slight annoyance by installing a 12-speaker Infinity Premium Audio system was truly exceptional, with a nice, clear high-range and balance mid-range sound. Hyundai also offers 3 years complimentary service with its Blue Link connected car app.

The ride in the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate, as you’d expect, is nice and compliant. The heated and ventilated front seats are fantastically comfortable for long trips. The second-row captain’s chairs are also nicely bolstered. If you’re relegated to the third row, however, you will be a bit cramped. The Santa Fe offers less leg and head room than all its competitors except the aesthetically-focused Mazda CX-9.

Options in the Santa Fe Limited Ultimate we tested included the $2,100 Tech Package. For the extra money, you get Smart Cruise Control, Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, the HID headlights, and High Beam Assist. Weirdly, the carpeted floor mats are also an option that will relieve you of $150.


The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate houses the same 290 horsepower, 252 lb-ft torque engine as its sister car, the Kia Sorento. Coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission, the driving experience was admirably smooth. However, quick it was not. Punch it, and you will make progress, just not at the rate you may expect with that much power. My first (and lasting) impression when I went to accelerate is that it doesn’t feel like the Santa Fe has nearly 300 horsepower. Performance is pokey, not least of which owing to its 4,169 pound curb weight.

As with the acceleration, Hyundai tuned the steering more toward comfort than out-and-out engagement. They made it nice and light, which makes the car easy to maneuver. It doesn’t evoke the most confidence when the road gets twisty. Despite that, the pure ease-of-use factor a comfort-tuned setup provides should make the Santa Fe an appealing choice to families who buy three-row crossovers. And while the steering may not offer the most feel, the all-wheel drive system works particularly well on snow, and the car stays planted and predictable without being twitchy at higher speeds.

Fuel economy is where the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate really falls down. These days, would you be shocked to learn a mid-size crossovers gets fewer than 20 MPG average? Believe it – I only averaged 19 during my week with the car. The Santa Fe is at the back of the pack when it comes to fuel mileage – even its AWD fraternal twin, the Sorento, scores better at 18 City/25 Highway. Hyundai advertises 17 City/22 Highway/19 Combined MPG for this Santa Fe.

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate
[Photo: Hyundai]

TFLcar’s Take

The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate is a truly handsome car. It offers sharp, if a bit conservative, exterior aesthetics and a well laid-out, aesthetically-pleasing interior. Hyundai packed its top trim level with features, and is good value when stacked up against its competition. Hyundai also offers a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty. However, its thirsty powertrain and average performance work against the Santa Fe’s overall appeal. With a reasonably powerful engine, it could make use of at least an eight-speed transmission to push its fuel economy on par with its rivals.

It’s all-wheel drive system does work well, and will keep you moving in tricky situations. To see just how well it works, check out the video below of the Santa Fe taking on Gold Mine Hill:

SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate

On Sale: Now
Base MSRP: $30,950
Price as Tested: $44,500
Engine: 3.3-liter, naturally-aspirated DOHC V6 w/ D-CVVT
Drivetrain (Layout): Front-engine, all-wheel drive
Horsepower: 290 hp @ 6,400 RPM
Torque: 252 lbs.-ft. @ 5,200 RPM
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Suspension: Front: MacPherson struts w/ gas-filled damper and stabilizer barRear: Multi-link w/ gas shock absorber and stabilizer bar
Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel discs
Tires: Kumho Crugen Premium P235/55 R19
Fuel capacity: 18.8 gallons
Fuel economy (EPA): 17 City/22 Highway/19 Combined MPG


Wheelbase: 110.2 inches
Length:  193.1 inches
Width: 74.2 inches
Height:  66.9 inches
Turning Circle: 36.9 feet
Curb Weight: 4,169 pounds
Interior Volume: 160.1 cubic feet
Cargo Volume: Third row up: 13.5 cubic feet

Third row down: 40.9 cubic feet

All rows down: 80.0 cubic feet