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2023: Hyundai Santa Fe vs. Tucson

1. Exterior Design

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe tops every previous design iteration and then some! It features sleek and modern lines that are meant to make the consumer feel like they're driving the future. The front and rear of the vehicle have been redesigned to show off an even slimmer, modern profile for an 'elegant' look. This results in the front grille and headlight setup turning into one horizontal band across the front fascia. The rear of the vehicle mirrors the front with tail lights that are a single uniform component connecting the two rear quarter panels. When combined with the dual panel glass roof, this is unprecedented, even for a premium, appearance. Designers have taken a more unique approach when styling the wheels. Silver-colored wheels were designed to resemble the weave of a basket, and most intriguing, the patterns are identical on both the left and right sides of the vehicle. At the moment, this is an industry first, and we can't wait to see what up and coming competitors do to match this... if they can. Step on the SEL 2.5T and top Calligraphy trim and Santa Fe will roll on 19-inch wheels featuring a wholly different design concept but equally attractive; dark chromic looks giving an unparalleled level of sophistication. Because if you want to be sophisticated, don't cheap out on the wheels. The Santa Fe can also be equipped with 20" wheels. Black wheel side moldings are applied on all trims. (Camperson2023)(Cardini & Wang, 2023)

1.1. Santa Fe's sleek and modern design

The new Hyundai Santa Fe is larger in every aspect and rightfully so. It is 70mm longer in length, 10mm wider, and has a larger wheelbase of 65mm, and it shows. A true 7-seater SUV has been brought back into the line where the Santa Fe now slots in perfectly between the 7-seater mid-sizer and the larger 4x4s, leaving room and deemed unnecessary for the axed off 5-seater variant. With a $40K price gap between the Tucson and Santa Fe, there is now no confusion as to which vehicle fits what segment.

Sharp lines, refined and proportioned, the fourth-generation Hyundai Santa Fe is designed upon a robust and wide stance, providing an undoubtedly distinctive look that its rivals struggle to match. All the features and fittings come together harmoniously, exuding finer elements, a reflection of attention to detail. Such details are ingrained in the vehicles of European origin, its design accredited to Hyundai's premier Frankfurt-based studio. The new Santa Fe also bears a resemblance to its current smaller sibling, the Hyundai Tucson, making obvious design links, which is rare in vehicles these days. Whether this new look will float all potential buyers' boats is a different story, nevertheless, it will impress many.

1.2. Tucson's bold and dynamic styling

Tucson's dynamic design expresses itself in the form of the dominant full-length body that is poised to seem moving, even when stationary. It combines athletic presence with greater aerodynamic effectiveness, ensuring a decrease in fuel consumption and lesser wind noise. Available in a wide range of exterior colors, customers will be able to choose from a total of 10 varieties, including three newly developed colors. High-contrast elements prominently feature over the car's body, providing variety in the design's looks, such as the aluminum applied on the molding of the body side and black on the back garnish. A number of high-tech lights are featured on the Tucson, including HID headlamps with dynamic auto leveling, providing maximum visibility. Around the back are the LED combination lamps. Other features include front fog lamps, welcome light, puddle lamp, and a glass antenna. (Chen et al., 2023)(Ebbers et al.2024)

The Tucson has a bold and dynamic styling that has been brought up by global design. It is centered on the harmony between a futuristic design and the integrated look of nature, providing the auto with an innovative, poised, and confident image. The look of the new Tucson will show the direction of the latest Hyundai's and examine a scope of future design, projecting a unique image of compact SUVs.

2. Interior Features

In terms of interior, Santa Fe is known for its large and airy cabin, thanks to its long wheelbase of 2,765mm providing long flat floors for second row passengers and doors that open wide to 90 degrees allowing for easy entry. Santa Fe offers plush seats for driver and passengers alike and general all-round comfort with standard features of seat warmers and dual air con, whilst high-end models offer seat coolers and electrically adjustable driver's seat with memory function. Soft touch materials and detailing in the Santa Fe can be seen on the door trims, instrument and dash, console and floor console and steering wheel and gear knob (on selected models), providing car-like ambience. This combined with high-end features like the panoramic glass sunroof on the Elite and Highlander models make the Santa Fe a comfy car to be in within the city and the open road. Meanwhile, Tucson models combine a modern interior design with an array of technological features. Slightly smaller than the Santa Fe, Tucson also offers front and rear passengers similar comfort and seating quality with standard features of seat warmers on Highlander models. High-end features on selected models include electric driver's seat, dual-zone climate control, and panoramic sunroof. Tucson's cockpit is heavily driver-focused and utilizes smooth curves and high-quality materials including soft-touch finishes on the dash, center console, and door trims. Entry-level models are equipped with a 7-inch touch screen and reversing camera which upgrades to an 8-inch satellite navigation system with Apple Play when moving into the Highlander range. New technological innovations include the heated steering wheel and a Smart powered tailgate on the Highlander model which automatically opens the tailgate when standing within a meter behind the vehicle for 3 seconds with the proximity key, making life just that little bit easier for the driver.

2.1. Santa Fe's spacious cabin and premium materials

The new Santa Fe uses a 10.25-inch touchscreen, which acts as the main hub for the car's connectivity, infotainment, and navigation systems. The screen is used in conjunction with an instrument cluster, also of the same size, to provide a wide and clear display for the driver. Twin Bluetooth connections also allow up to two phones to be connected to the car simultaneously, as well as the driver having the ability to make and receive calls on one phone while the other is connected for audio streaming.

The Santa Fe Elite and Highlander take it a step further, adding nappa leather-appointed heated and ventilated front and outer rear seats. The driver and the passenger can easily control the temperature for their seats using built-in air conditioning/heater buttons. It is a combo box with the premium rear door and side window sunshades. These high-quality materials can also be found on the door trims, steering wheel (with a satin/gloss finish), and the console tray with rear finish. On the Highlander model, ambient lighting adds a touch of luxury by illuminating the footwell and door sill areas. The colors can be changed to suit the driver's mood. A further upgrade to the interior comes in the form of the Santa Fe Highlander's luxury package. This package gives the interior a premium feel with a range of improvements, including a premium look headlining, suede and nappa leather-appointed interior in brown or black colorways, as well as a premium matte finish to the woodgrain.

Before talking about the specific features that are mentioned in the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe, I would like to share my impressions regarding the most critical part in car buying: an empty space where the driver and the passenger will spend most of their time - the cabin. Santa Fe's cabin is super spacious and makes its passengers feel comfortable by offering a lot of legroom, even in the second row. Not to mention, its large glass house will make the cabin feel even more spacious. The interior has a modern look and feel that is further enhanced by the availability of a panoramic sunroof. This will give the passengers the opportunity to enjoy natural light, usually during the day.

2.2. Tucson's innovative technology and comfortable seating

While one might reasonably expect the larger Santa Fe to offer superior front and rear seat comfort compared to the Tucson, there really isn't much difference between the two. In both cases, Hyundai has raised the cushion height compared to the previous-generation models, which helps prevent the too-low seating positions that have afflicted certain older Hyundais and Kias. It also makes for a more natural and SUV-like outward-facing leg angle, even though the actual hip point of the seat remains modestly lower than the typical crossover. We sampled both cloth and leather front seats, and all were comfortable. From our brief experience, we wouldn't consider spending the extra for leather. At the rear, we had no trouble accessing the Santa Fe's third row, and while the bottom cushion is a little low, the second-row seats are amply padded and provide good thigh support. In both vehicles, headroom might be a bit tight for six-foot passengers in some small areas under the optional panoramic sunroof. But overall, adults and even two larger child seats will have sufficient space and comfort in any seating position.

Functionality aside, both infotainment systems have very attractive interfaces, with logical menu structures and quick responses to input. Given our limited exposure to the Santa Fe's system, speculation time is over. Our only area of concern is one we have with all touchscreen-based systems: they tend to accumulate unsightly fingerprints, and Hyundai's high-gloss screens are especially prone to this.

The Tucson was the only one of the two to offer Android Auto as well as Apple CarPlay, which goes a long way in impressing us. We weren't able to test out the Santa Fe's system since its debut is still several months away and the prototypes we drove were effectively shell cars with belts. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay essentially give drivers access to streaming audio, messaging, and navigation through the car's infotainment system, which in theory helps reduce the temptation to use the phone while driving.

2.3. Comparison of cargo space and practicality

Santa Fe offers 1,016 litres of room on the 5 seat models with the 2nd row seats upright and an immense 2,025 litres when you fold down the 2nd row of seats. This is a significant increase in both configurations compared to the CM series Santa Fe. For 7 seat models, cargo space when 3rd row seats are folded flat is a commendable 516 litres. Tucson on the other hand has 513 litres of cargo space with the rear seats up and a maximum of 1,503 litres when the 2nd row seats are folded. Both Santa Fe and Tucson models are equipped with a full-sized spare alloy wheel under the cargo area, a premium sound system, and a sunglass holder. Santa Fe models also feature a luggage under-floor storage tray for added protection and practicality. It is important to note that the average luggage capacity in the medium SUV segment is only 402 litres with the rear seats up and 1,049 litres with the rear seats down, making Hyundai's cargo capacities very impressive.

3. Performance and Engine Options

The Santa Fe's base engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that produces 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. This is slightly more powerful than the base Tucson's 2.0-liter, with 187 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. Both of these engines are paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission; however, the Santa Fe's comes with SHIFTRONIC and is smoother in its gear shifting. The Santa Fe offers two higher performance engines. The first is a 2.5T 4-cylinder that comes in two different horsepower ratings. The standard is 277 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque, while the higher performance version produces 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. This engine is paired to an 8-speed Wet Dual Clutch Transmission, a segment first and exclusive to the Santa Fe. The Tucson does not have these higher performance engine options and would be outperformed by the Santa Fe at these levels. The Santa Fe can be equipped with All-Wheel Drive with any of these powertrains. Both vehicles contain HTRAC AWD systems with various driving modes to provide superior traction in poor weather and road conditions. Towing capacity is another area where the Santa Fe outshines the Tucson, but may not be important for some buyers. The Tucson is capable of towing up to 2,000 pounds, which is more than enough for smaller trailers and other lightweight towing needs. The Santa Fe offers substantially higher towing capacity at 2,000 pounds with the base engine and 3,500 pounds with the 2.5T engine. This may be of interest to someone who tows a larger trailer, boat, or camper. High-performance engines and higher towing capacity make the Santa Fe the clear choice over the Tucson for someone seeking more power in their vehicle.

3.1. Santa Fe's powerful engine choices and towing capacity

The latest Hyundai Santa Fe is the first SUV from the South Korean firm to get the choice of hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrains. However, they're likely to be relatively niche versions compared with the big-selling diesel and turbo petrol models. The HEV pairs a 1.6 T-GDi 230hp engine with a 60-hp electric motor. The 1.49 kWh lithium-polymer battery gives a combined power output of 230hp, with CO2 emissions of less than 130g/km in mixed driving cycle. This power is sent through to a six-speed automatic transmission. Probably the version of the Santa Fe that will be of most interest to caravanners and towing drivers is the new HEV, which couples a 1.6 T-GDi engine with a 44.2 kW electric motor and 13.8 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery. This delivers a combined 230hp and a meaty 350Nm of torque, sent through an active on-demand four-wheel drive system with 8-speed automatic transmission. The HEV has a towing capacity of 1650kg for braked trailer, which is around 200kg less than the diesel engine equivalent. A 44.2 kW starter-generator allows for electrical power to be used for the trailer and tow hitch accessories or for non-driving functions when resting. This Santa Fe will also have a class-leading feature which will prevent the car rolling back on a steep incline by automatically engaging the electric parking brake or applying brake pressure to all four wheels when a directional change is detected. This potentially could be a very useful option for customers living or driving in hilly areas. The plug-in hybrid Santa Fe is scheduled for launch in early 2021. It will be powered by a 180hp engine and a 90hp electric motor, with a more powerful 13.8 kWh battery. It is expected to have around a 50km electric only driving range and reduced CO2 emissions compared with the HEV. Unsurprisingly, its towing capacity is restricted to 1300kg.

3.2. Tucson's efficient performance and hybrid option

In contrast to Santa Fe's more performance-based options of engine gating, Hyundai engineers have set out to ensure better fuel economy in Tucson. Tucson targets urban and suburban users who want to eat their cake and have it too. Tucson's standard 2.5L direct-injected 4-cylinder engine features an estimated 190 HP and 182 lb-ft and will see you not only zipping in and out of tight spots with its estimated best-in-class 28 MPG. But getting to your A to B a little faster than others running on leftover welcome to the car hey it still runs fuel. This is complemented by the option for an HTRAC AWD model which includes a locking differential and a snow mode for easier inclement weather handling. The cherry on top of this, however, will be the available hybrid model. This will feature a 1.6L Turbo GDI engine and a 44W electric motor with a total output of 230 HP and an estimated 30% fuel economy than its SCE counterpart. The Hybrid Tucson will feature a blind spot view monitor, remote smart parking assist, and a 10.5-inch infotainment system. This includes all the features available in other models and added hybrid-only features. This will be an option for consumers with an eye for the high-quality efficient vehicle who don't want to fiddle around with some traditional hybrid's lack of features.

4. Safety and Technology

Hyundai Both Santa Fe and Tucson offer comprehensive safety features, but there are differences. Advanced safety features are standard on Elite and Highlander Santa Fe, which are missing from the equivalent Tucson models. This includes Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. All Santa Fe models have Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), which includes inter-urban function and is forward and pedestrian facing. Tucson features AEB but is not inter-urban. Santa Fe also has standard Advanced Smart Cruise Control (ASCC) and an Electronic Parking Brake with auto-hold function. All Santa Fe models from Active and above have rear occupant alert as standard. This is in addition to the expected features like electronic stability control (ESC), vehicle stability management (VSM), Traction Control System (TCS), and anti-lock braking system (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist System (BAS). Infotainment/Connectivity The Tucson's audio system is slightly varied across models, with the base models inclusive of a 6-speaker system, moving up to an 8-speaker system on Active X, which are both located on a 7-inch touchscreen. The Elite Tucson has an 8-inch touchscreen with an 8-speaker system, and the range-topping Highlander has a 7-speaker system on the 8-inch touchscreen. Both Santa Fe and Tucson audio systems have AM/FM Radio, MP3, iPod, and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. However, Santa Fe models have 2 USB ports located in the front of the vehicle, whereas the Tucson models only have one. A key difference is the inclusion of in-built satellite navigation and SUNA live traffic updates with the Santa Fe models, features which are not available across any Tucson variant.

4.1. Advanced safety features in Santa Fe and Tucson

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe and 2023 Tucson come with an extensive suite of safety features that are designed to keep occupants safe in a wide range of situations. Aside from their suite of airbags, there are some key safety differences between the two models. The Tucson comes with two sets of LATCH connectors in the rear outboard seats, and a third tether anchor. With the new Santa Fe, curiously, only the rear outboard seats feature LATCH connectors and tether anchors. The Santa Fe has a slight edge in terms of child safety, as its extra seating position is likely to accommodate more child passengers. Both vehicles come with Hyundai SmartSense. With the Tucson, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and driver attention warning come standard. The Santa Fe starts with the same features, and adds on with blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and safe exit assist. This means the Santa Fe has some key features which the Tucson does not, at an equal starting price. The Santa Fe has the edge here. A significant safety feature available on both vehicles is the remote smart park assist. This feature allows the driver to park and unpark their car from tight spaces, all while standing outside the vehicle. This safety feature is designed to protect occupants by allowing them to enter or exit a vehicle that is parked in a safer location, away from traffic. This is a class leading safety feature in both vehicles, as you would expect to find the technology in luxury sedans not SUVs. The only other SUV in this class to offer a similar remote parking feature is the BMW X3. Both vehicles also offer a rear occupant alert system, which issues a notification to the driver if rear seat motion is detected after the driver has vacated the vehicle. This is designed to prevent the driver from leaving a child or pet unattended in the car. This is a useful safety feature often overlooked in similar vehicles. However, the Santa Fe has another edge over the Tucson with the availability of a surround view monitor and blind view monitor. These are features which show a 360 degree view around the vehicle while parking, and a monitor of rear blind spots located in the gauge cluster. This provides the driver with an enhanced level of awareness while parking and changing lanes. The features are comparable to those only found in high end luxury cars such as Lexus and Infiniti. The Santa Fe wins in terms of availability of advanced technology features.

4.2. Comparison of infotainment systems and connectivity options

In terms of audio, the Santa Fe and Tucson SE and SEL come standard with a 6-speaker setup. The Tucson Limited and above feature a Harman Kardon premium audio that is also standard on the Santa Fe Limited and Calligraphy. Both systems sound very good and include Clari-Fi and QuantumLogic Surround technologies. The benefit of having a larger screen and the premium audio simultaneously may incentivize a high-trim Tucson or Santa Fe purchase.

Santa Fe has a more attractive 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. This is standard from the SEL Hybrid and above. Wireless CarPlay and Auto are offered exclusively on the Limited Hybrid and Calligraphy trim. Info and maps are displayed next to the instrument cluster for convenience, and there are more hard buttons and knobs for quick access between functions.

The infotainment system on the 2023 Tucson comes on an 8-inch display that brings together the latest connectivity and premium audio for family-friendly driving comfort. Hyundai's easy-to-use 8-inch touchscreen interface is standard across the board. It's responsive and clearly laid out, and it includes wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The SEL trim and above feature wireless CarPlay and Auto, and allow multi-Bluetooth connectivity with front and rear phone chargers.

4.3. Additional technology features and driver-assistance systems

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe and Tucson are SUV models that have been enhanced to provide an appropriate and safe driving experience. They have applied innovative technology to ensure and maintain the safety and convenience of the driver and passengers. Both models share similar cutting-edge driver assistance systems and safety features. The additional technology allows you to drive without problems with technologies such as the navigation system's traffic information, readily available information on driving condition, a Thinkware U1000 LTE front and rear dash cam to record your journeys, and safe exit warning. Apart from this, Santa Fe offers a Highway Drive Assist system and automated speed limit assist which are not found in Tucson. Highway Drive Assist is a smart feature that helps drivers drive well in the highway lane with keeping to legal speed limits and safe distance with the ahead vehicle. The automated speed limit assist reads and recognizes speed limit signs and helps maintain the correct speed by adjusting the throttle to help the driver adhere to speed limits and prevent receiving tickets. This technology can be an invaluable tool for preventing possible speeding violations that may affect future insurance costs. In Puerto Rico, Santa Fe owners are offered the BlueLink® LTE WV2 telematics system which provides SOS emergency assistance, enhanced roadside assistance, maintenance alert, maintenance management, and remote engine diagnostics. This also communicates safety with the Sanctuary Maintenance telematics feature.


Camperson, S. (2023). Regulating Vehicle Emissions: California’s Embattled Exception. LSU Journal of Energy Law and Resources, 11(1), 6. lsu.edu

Cardini, P. & Wang, I. V. (2023). From Anthropocene to Aerocene, through Biocene: Critical Reflections on the Future of Air Mobility. Temes de Disseny. raco.cat

Chen, Y., Bush, J., Nguyen, T., Harp, T., & Lahiji, N. (2023). Economic Contribution Study of Hyundai Motor America's US Operations. hyundainews.com

Ebbers, S., Gense, S., Bakkouch, M., Freiling, F., & Schinzel, S. (2024). Grand theft API: A forensic analysis of vehicle cloud data. Forensic Science International: Digital Investigation, 48, 301691. sciencedirect.com

2023: Hyundai Santa Fe vs. Tucson

The Hyundai Santa Fe and Tucson are two popular SUVs, each offering a range of features and capabilities. Learn more about their differences, specifications, and features in the articles below.