NASHVILLE, Tenn. — We’re quickly seeing how devoted Hyundai is to getting electrification right. Take the Ioniq 5, for instance, and the oodles of praise we’ve heaped upon it and its platform-sharing cousin, the Kia EV6. But Hyundai’s not new to electrification. We’ve enjoyed the Ioniq trio and the Kona Electric for some time now. But as the industry continues to move toward an electric future, Hyundai also has some half-steps in place for those who might not be ready to completely push off from the internal combustion pier. Hyundai has a couple of plug-in hybrids, which might be easy to overlook in the shadow of the new and upcoming EVs, or even of their larger gas-powered nameplates upon which they’re based. We’ve already had the chance to familiarize ourselves with the 2022 Tucson PHEV and its tremendous value proposition – now it’s time for its midsize sibling, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV.
Now, we were splitting our day amongst several vehicles as part of a Hyundai-sponsored event so our time with the car was brief, but it was still enough to leave a lasting and positive impression.
The Santa Fe PHEV pairs Hyundai’s Smartstream turbocharged 1.6-liter gasoline engine and six-speed automatic transmission with 66.9-kilowatt (about 87-horsepower) electric motor and 13.8-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion polymer battery. That’s good for a total system output of 261 horsepower. It’s enough to create a cognitive disconnect knowing when the vehicle moves so eagerly when such a small-displacement engine is churning under the hood (the engine itself produces 178 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque). This fairly innocuous but admittedly handsome family crossover actually feels sporty accelerating through town and onto the highway. Furthermore, this PHEV comes standard with all-wheel drive (a mechanical one too, as opposed to simply having an electric motor at the rear axle), so in addition to giving a point boost to confidence in bad weather, it performs that punchy acceleration without wheelspin or torque steer.
The Santa Fe PHEV’s onboard charger can accept electricity from a 240-volt source at a rate of 3.6 kW. That’s not all that fast, considering something like the Ioniq 5’s 11-kW onboard charger, but it doesn’t need to be. With just 13.8 kilowatts of capacity, the battery can recharge in about four hours. A full charge is good enough for an EPA-rated 31 miles of all-electric range, and a gasoline engine is always ready to do the work when the battery is depleted. With gas and electric power, it’s rated at 76 miles per gallon equivalent. With no electric range available, it still boasts an impressive 33 mpg combined. There’s a button that allows you to toggle between EV and hybrid modes, but the car will automatically revert to hybrid mode — still using the brakes and coasting for regen and the e-motor for power — when the battery is depleted. There are also the same drive modes — Normal, Eco, Sport, Smart and Snow along with an AWD lock button — selectable from a rotary dial that you’d find in other Hyundai vehicles.
While its electric power is convenient and the overall powertrain pleasantly potent, the really impressive thing about our tester was its gorgeous interior. This Limited trim featured quilted Nappa leather seats, with a beautiful combination of leather, soft plastics and glossy almost-carbon-fiber-like plastic trim throughout the cabin. The fine materials on well-sculpted forms create a welcoming and comfortable place to spend time. A panoramic sunroof helps bring light to both rows of seating. The infotainment screen is easy to use, and the digital instrument cluster is crisp and clear. There are plenty of places to store small items, including a cubby under the center console’s control. To the rear of those controls, in front of the larger center console bin, is a covered cubby with a USB port inside. Just behind that, next to the cupholder, is another storage slot where you can stash you phone vertically and charge it wirelessly.
The Santa Fe is full of other useful tech, especially in this limited trim. It features Hyundai’s robust Highway Driving Assist suite, with adaptive cruise control, lane centering steering assist and a number of active safety features. With the digital instrument panel, you get the blind-spot camera feed right in front of you whenever you use your turn signal. It also has an easy-to-read head-up display with a wealth of information that’s configurable from an infotainment menu. Hyundai doesn’t hide the most important controls in the touchscreen, though, putting things like audio and climate controls, heated/ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, and things like brake auto hold, hill descent control and parking aid buttons on the center console.
Pricing for the Santa Fe PHEV begins at $41,295, including $1,295 in destination, for the SEL trim. That’s $8,850 more than the gas-only SEL AWD, and $1,640 more than the standard hybrid (HEV) in SEL Premium trim (which is the equivalent of the gas-only SEL trim with the Premium Package). The Limited trim, at $47,305 represents a better value compared to the gas-only powertrain — it’s just $4,900 above the Santa Fe Limited AWD — but $5,300 more than the Hybrid Limited. Yes, the standard-hybrid Limited costs less than its gas-only counterpart. However, when you factor in the PHEV’s eligibility for $6,587 in federal tax credits (not to mention fuel savings), it’s hard to knock the value of the luxury-adjacent plug-in.
The 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV is a surprise gem in the Hyundai lineup, with a sporty but efficient powertrain, an excellent interior and loads of useful technology. Our brief drive left us wanting more seat time in the PHEV to better get to know its ins and outs. It was enough, though, to assure us we’d be happy living with this electrified crossover, especially considering the closest PHEV competition besides its Sorento cousin, is the smaller Toyota RAV4 Prime. For someone looking for a comfortable and capable midsize SUV, and looking to get into a plug-in vehicle without completely ditching the range and convenience of a gas motor, the classy Santa Fe PHEV would be a savvy choice.