2012 Hyundai Santa Fe Expert Review

3.1 Overall Score
Performance 2.8 Comfort 3.2 Styling 3.0 Value 3.4

Editor's Overview

The Hyundai Santa Fe offers sensible accommodations for five passengers and, in typical Hyundai fashion, a high level of standard equipment. The vehicle is now in its sixth year of production; an all-new, totally redesigned 2013 Santa Fe is scheduled to hit showroom floors this fall.

You'll Like The 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe If...

If you know how to pinch a penny, you'll appreciate all the good features Hyundai puts into the 2012 Santa Fe while keeping it one of the most affordable compact SUVs.

You May Not Like The 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe If...

If you need the added utility of a third-row seat, eliminate the 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe from your shopping list. Also, those looking for newer or more edgy styling should look to the Chevy Equinox or the Honda CR-V.

What's New

For 2012, the Santa Fe receives only minor changes. These include a new grille, some new color choices and the addition of Downhill Brake Control (DBC) on all models.

Interior Features

The 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe is full of high-quality plastics artfully blended with faux wood and, on some models, contrasting lower dash and door panels. The Santa Fe's instruments are neatly arranged under a hooded covering. Heating and audio controls are clustered together one atop the other and are easy to see, reach and operate. At night, the entire panel glows with blue backlighting, which produces mixed results: It makes the instruments easy to read after nightfall, but harder to see at dusk. Behind its roomy rear seat is 34.2-cubic-feet of cargo space. If you need more room, the 60/40 split folding second-row seats can be folded flat, creating 78.2 cubic-feet of level storage space.

Exterior Features

The Santa Fe compact SUV is a very different creature than the first vehicle to wear the Santa Fe name. Quirky lines and odd-looking grilles have given way to clean flowing lines, flush-mounted headlamps and taillights, and handsome alloy wheels. You won't find any tacked on body cladding on the 2012 Santa Fe. Unlike some smaller SUVs, it makes no pretense of being an off-road vehicle. A wide track helps give the Santa Fe a more substantial look that, from a distance, might easily be mistaken for a small Lexus SUV.

Driving Impressions

For such a tall vehicle, the 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV delivers a smooth and confident ride, with minimal lean and roll during hard cornering. Even when pushed into emergency like maneuvers, the standard (and government-mandated) electronic stability control kicks in to keep things from getting ugly on wet or slippery pavement. It's easy to find a comfortable driving position in the 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV, although our front passenger complained about the rather flat seat bottom that, unlike on the driver's seat, cannot be angled upwards. With the exception of some wind noise in the front and road noise from the rear, the cabin remains fairly quiet at freeway speeds.

Pricing Notes

For 2012, the base Santa Fe GLS has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of around $24,000, while all-wheel drive (AWD) and an automatic transmission bump that closer to $26,000. The mid-range SE model starts at about $27,000, and a fully-loaded Limited tops out around $34,000. Before you buy, be sure to check the Santa Fe's Fair Purchase Price on kbb.com to see what it is typically selling for in your area. While pricing is close to that of a Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V, the 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe's resale values fall far below its Japanese competitors. The Santa Fe does, however, hold stronger resale values than the Suzuki Grand Vitara and Mitsubishi Outlander.

Notable Equipment

One way Hyundai is muscling its way onto the shopping lists of long-time Toyota and Honda buyers is by offering a long list of standard features on its vehicles. The 2012 Santa Fe's long list of standards is enough to cause many to switch loyalties.

Notable Options

Most popular options can be grouped together in packages that vary depending upon trim level. All-wheel drive (AWD) is available for all Santa Fe models. Other options include heated front seats, a power outlet in the cargo area, 360-watt premium audio system, a power sunroof and a navigation system with a 6.5-inch screen and rearview camera.

Favorite Features

3.5-liter V6 Engine

Not only does the 2012 Santa Fe SUV's 276-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 deliver 100-plus more horsepower than the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, it also offers similar fuel economy.

Standard Features

One way Hyundai is muscling its way onto the shopping lists of long-time Toyota and Honda buyers is by offering a long list of standard features on its vehicles. The 2012 Santa Fe's long list of standards is enough to cause many to switch loyalties.

Under the Hood

Hyundai offers two engines for the 2012 Santa Fe SUV: a 175-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder or a 276-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. The 4-cylinder is standard on the GLS and Limited models, while the V6 is standard on the SE and optional on the Limited. Both engines are paired to 6-speed transmissions. The 4-cylinder is more than just acceptable, but the V6 delivers substantially more power and roughly comparable fuel economy.

2.4-liter in-line 4

175 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm

169 lb-ft of torque @ 3,750 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 (2WD, manual), 20/28 (2WD, automatic), 20/25 (AWD, automatic)

3.5-liter V6

276 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm

248 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/26 (2WD), 20/26 (AWD)

Editors' Notes

The Hyundai Santa Fe started life as a low-cost but well-equipped alternative to more-popular compact SUVs. Over time, the Santa Fe has grown in size and price, but its initial mission remains the same. The 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe compact SUV isn't so compact anymore. Its previous quirky styling has been replaced with a much more cohesive and upscale look. Made for tackling urban commutes as opposed to off-road jaunts, the 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe is an excellent vehicle for fetching the kids from soccer practice, hauling back antiques from weekend shopping expeditions, or escaping to a snowy mountain ski resort for a weekend's worth of fun. Although the 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV does not offer a third-row seat, its long list of standard and available features, good fuel economy, and outstanding 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty makes it worthy of serious consideration by compact SUV shoppers.

Road Test Video Reviews

2012 Hyundai Santa Fe Owner Reviews

168 Reviews
48% 35% 13% 2% 1%
Leave your review Would you recommend this vehicle?
(Select your rating)

Highlights and lowlights if my 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe.

2012 Hyundai Santa Fe

I own a 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe, all wheel drive, 6 cylinder. Pretty nice ride but it is a little rough over bumps. The car is like a jack rabbit off the light, sometimes a little to fast off the mark if someone is sipping coffee. Very good front window view while driving. Extremely reliable! After seven years of ownership I never had one problem! However, I have noticed recently that the cruise control works intermittently but eventually turns on. I am not going to get it fixed. Overhead dome light is extremely dim and is in the rear. The map reading lights are also extremely dim. Steering wheel is hard to turn when car is not moving, for example; the process of backing into the garage. Towing package/hitch works really nice and I pull my two ton boat with trailer all over the place with no problems. I got the pearl white paint with the car. That Hyundai paint color unfortunately starts to pit after a couple of years. If you look closely at the paint you can see all these tiny rust colored dots underneath the paint, but you do not notice them if you more than 4-5 feet away. Headline lights work great at night, but I always turn the fog lights on too and I see everything. Stereo system is just mediocre. Every other car I get into always seems to have much better sounding speakers than my Hyundai. Not enough bass. All in all I am very happy with my Santa Fe and I am glad I bought it.

- Tom H

Perfect for families who need larger backseat but don't want a large vehicle.

2012 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS

The Santa Fe is a great vehicle for families that need a little bit larger of a backseat (think teenagers or multiple car seats) but don't want a huge SUV. I get decent gas mileage'about 20 on the highway and 15 in traffic or town'especially for the age of the vehicle. The body still looks good, even though I have to park outside in the weather. There are minimal rust issues. Also, the bumpers are strong and sturdy. I feel very safe driving this car, and feel comfortable letting my daughter, who is a newer driver, drive it. The turning radius is not very good, so sometimes having to get out of a narrow parallel parking spot or performing a u-turn can be a little challenging. The seats do adjust; however, sometimes it is difficult to find the exact perfect position for me, since I have shorter legs. And driving for any extended period of time can become uncomfortable, as there is not a great deal of lumbar support in the seats. Overall, this car does great, especially for shorter trips (to and from work and church, shorter travel'a few hours away max, around town to shop or run errands). If five people have to fit in it for a long time (driver, passenger, and three in backseat), it is not comfortable for very long, but does work for shorter trips.

- Elise L

Good car with a few issues every once in a while.

2012 Hyundai Santa Fe SE

I love the size of the Santa Fe, it fits my family of 4 comfortably without making me feel like I am driving a school bus. I test drove other SUVs prior to making my purchase of the Santa Fe and I did not feel others offered a clear line of sight out the back/hatch window. This concerned me for safety reasons. I wish the layout of the hatch area were different as it does not always accommodate what I am hauling. I feel stylish and trendy while driving my Santa Fe and feel it is a good vehicle that will continue to work for our family. I have had issues with the battery, however, which is a little irritating. I have owned my Santa Fe for 6 years and have already replaced the battery twice. As far as other mechanical issues, I have had experienced trouble with the front headlights going out regularly. These are both issues I believe are important to note as they make the car a little less reliable. I continue to drive my Santa Fe and would definitely consider purchasing another in the future, with the hopes that some of these issues will be resolved. I would highly recommend the Santa Fe to my friends and family members.

- Heather C

Leave your review