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Hyundai Santa Fe SE vs SEL


1. Overview

When comparing the SE with the more upscale SEL trim, the Hyundai Santa Fe is a big winner on value, with a difference of only $1,800 for additional features that could cost a lot more. For those looking to keep the cost down, the SE is well appointed with the basics covered. Optional content is limited for the SE and can only be equipped with the Premium Package. Now standard with front-wheel drive due to its popularity, the SE's main features include a 7-inch display in the center stack, Android Auto/Apple Carplay, a rearview camera, and a 6-way power adjustable driver seat. For $1,650, the Premium Package adds a plethora of safety features from Hyundai's higher-level trims, and unfortunately the only way of obtaining a sunroof on the SE. These features will still have the SE coming in at about $2,200 less than the cost of an SEL. If safety features aren't a priority and you see no use for the other additional features mentioned, the SE can be a great value on a well-built midsize SUV. Opting for the SEL could very well be a sweet spot for most buyers. Starting only $1,800 more than the SE, the $2,800 difference from the SE with the added features is something to consider. Now with its own unique face to differentiate from the SE, the SEL standardizes safety technologies that were optional on the SE and a few climate control options. The SEL Popular Equipment Package ($1,600) will add a hands-free liftgate, a household-style plug, and second-row seating options. Compared to the SE and its Premium Package, a buyer could pay the same price for an SEL with more features and a greater distribution among them. [1]

1.1. Exterior Features

Overall, the two models appear to be very similar, but the SEL has a few added features to the exterior that would make up for the price difference between the two. The SEL has a retail price of $26,850, which is only $2,450 more than the SE model, which has a retail price of $24,400. Considering that most of the features of the two models are similar, the added exterior features on the SEL would make the quality of the vehicle more superior to the SE model. An extra $2,450 is not much of a price difference for a vehicle that looks and feels improved from the SE model, so the SEL is definitely worth it in terms of the exterior features.

Starting with the exterior features, the SE and SEL have many of the same features. For example, the SE and the SEL both have 18" alloy wheels, which makes the overall appearance of the two models very similar. Moreover, the automatic headlights, LED daytime running lights, and body color mirrors with LED turn signal indicators all come standard regardless of which model you choose to purchase. Both models even have the rear privacy glass and chrome door handles that have welcome lights, which make it very easy to see where you are going when it is dark out. Some of the more subtle features of the two models include the dual automatic temperature control with CleanAir Ionizer and the 7" display audio system with Android Auto. While not directly related to the vehicle's appearance, it is still a nice new feature on both models and it comes standard. The only difference between the two on the outside is that the SEL has a few extra features that the SE does not have. Starting with the heated side mirrors that have a power tilt and fold function. This is a big upgrade considering the SE has basic power adjustable side mirrors only. The second extra feature is the SEL has an optional panoramic sunroof package for $1,600. This is a very nice added feature that the SE does not have. Overall, the two exterior appearances are very similar and are only separated by a few added features on the SEL model. [2][3]

1.2. Interior Features

Comparing the two trim levels side-by-side, you'll find that the Santa Fe SE and Santa Fe SEL share many similar features. Both offer comfortable seating for up to five passengers and offer an abundance of standard features and numerous available options. However, when focusing on interior features, the Hyundai Santa Fe SEL offers a few extras over the standard Santa Fe SE at a minimal cost. The Santa Fe SEL adds a power driver seat with power lumbar support in place of the manual seat and a 5.8-inch touch screen interface to its list of standard features. It also provides a second row of seating with an extended slide and recline feature and rear side window sunshades, each being something that the SE does not offer. Other various interior features that carry over from the Santa Fe SE to the Santa Fe SEL include steering-wheel mounted audio and cruise controls, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, second row seating that is 40/20/40 split-folding, remote keyless entry, a remote hood and fuel door release, tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, air conditioning, second row HVAC controls, and a conversation mirror that is located within the overhead sunglass holder. With all of that said, most can agree that the $2,050 price increase from a Santa Fe SE to a Santa Fe SEL is well worth the extra features that the Santa Fe SEL has to offer.

1.3. Performance

The first time you drive one of the new 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe models, you are likely to forget that this is a midsize SUV. The moment you start the engine and press on the gas pedal, you are overcome by a feeling of satisfaction. This sensation is the result of a seamless power transfer delivered by the 185-HP, 2.4L GDI 4-cylinder engine. And it's just the beginning. The new 2020 Santa Fe is built to enhance your total driving experience. Loaded with advanced technology, this model is capable of improving traction, stability, and your overall control in adverse situations. The available HTRAC All Wheel Drive system offers multiple driving modes to help the driver master any type of road. This feature allows the Santa Fe to automatically adjust from front-wheel drive to all-wheel drive based on driver input and road conditions. The new Santa Fe also features an industry-first, innovative technology that prevents powertrains with all-wheel drive from certain stability issues. The system can predict traction loss and send power to the wheels that have traction, resulting in improved stability and performance. Don't worry, your efforts haven't gone unnoticed. The new Santa Fe is equipped with a multi-link rear suspension system that is stiffened to optimize responsiveness and handling. This sedan-like ride is achieved by a reduction of trail and the use of an independent rear suspension. This setup contributes to better on-center and transient steering response. This Santa Fe is definitely designed to elevate your driving experience to the next level.

2. SE Trim

The SE trim for the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe includes several of the same features as both of the previous trims, but it also includes various other features. It includes a 7-inch display audio system with 6 speakers, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, dual automatic temperature control with CleanAir Ionizer, rear-seat quiet mode, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated front seats, power driver seat with lumbar support, and a few more minor features. This trim includes a lot of high-end and luxury features for only being $2900 more than the base SE model. Car and Driver even states about the SEL that it "represents the best value" and it is, but the SE trim is actually an even better value. The extra $2500 more for the SEL is definitely justified from the SE trim. Between the extra safety, comfort, and convenience features the SEL is a great deal for only $2500 more than the base SE model. And although price isn't a matter with fuel economy, the extra couple hundred dollars saved in improved fuel economy per year can make a small difference over the course of an extended period of ownership.

2.1. Key Features

Smart Cruise Control with Stop/Start – whereas both SE and SEL offer standard cruise control, SE comes with the more advanced Smart Cruise Control feature. Similar to regular cruise control, but with an added radar sensor and front camera, it is able to maintain a set distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. If the vehicle in front of you slows down, Smart Cruise Control will also slow your vehicle. If the vehicle in front of you stops, yours will also stop, if stopped for less than 3 seconds. If stopped for more than 3 seconds, the driver must tap the accelerator or press resume on the steering wheel to restart. This feature is not offered by any direct competitors of the Santa Fe.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay – SE offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so the fact that SEL does not is a bit confusing, especially at SEL's price point. For those not familiar, and I'm assuming most are, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay allow you to "project" your phone's screen onto the vehicle's screen and access certain apps and services. This means that without having to navigate your phone, you can access your music, maps, and messages all from your car's touch screen. In today's age, I believe this is a very useful feature that more and more people are coming to expect in a new vehicle purchase.

2.2. Pricing

The Santa Fe SE has a base price of $26,850 with FWD, while the AWD model starts at $28,600. Moving up to the SE Popular Equipment Package is priced at $2,900 and includes bigger wheels, a power seat, a hands-free liftgate, a premium audio system, and a new suite of active safety technology. Next is the SE Premium Package at $3,650, which requires the Popular Equipment Package. This adds leather, a panoramic sunroof, memory system for the driver's seat and side mirrors, and a few premium features like a sliding second row with cargo area releases, rear side window sunshades, and manual rear side window sunshades. At the very top is the Ultimate Package for $4,950, which adds eight-way power passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, a heads-up display, and several convenience and active safety features. A top AWD Ultimate 2.0T is priced at $38,800. The SE is very competitive in its respective trims with its primary rivals, coming in just under the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano and carrying a significantly lower price compared to a two-row Hyundai Santa Fe Sport with the same equipment.

2.3. Available Options

One intriguing feature for those that live in cold climates, however, do not want to spend extra money on a higher trim available navigation package is a heated seat upgrade on both the first and second rows. With the highest price per feature, the Heater Package upgrades to the heated seats by changing the 2nd row bench seat to captain's chairs and $1,500. This is an upgrade available on any SE trim Santa Fe package, including those that require it in order to add other features such as the Limited, Navigation, and Moon Roof Packages.

An affordable option that adds Luggage Net and Roof Side Rails to the Santa Fe are the Luggage and Active packages. The Luggage Package is just the Luggage Net and roof rails, however, the Active Package requires the Luggage Package and adds the Cross Rail Bars.

Available options on an SE are a bit complex. The PUENTO Package and VALUE Package, which include several features, are options. The PUENTO Package includes the 20 GB music hard drive, rearview camera, and the premium door sill plates.

3. SEL Trim

For those searching for a touch of extravagance, the SEL trim is the most ideal decision, imparting a significant number of the highlights found in the highest point of-the-line Limited at a lower cost. The SEL adds 7-traveler seating with an discretionary 6-traveler design, control driver's seat with lumbar help, warmed front seats, a manual rearwards and forwards movable headrest for the driver, double zone programmed temperature control with CleanAir Ionizer and back seat HVAC conduit. Extra things of comfort join a Bluetooth sans hands phone structure, a six-speaker sound structure with two front line dashboard mounted tweeters and a 5.3-inch shading touchscreen, a back up camera, modified up/down driver window, turn signals in the side mirrors, a shading LCD trip PC arranged in the measure gathering, chrome inside passage handles, LED light pockets and supplement lighting, an discretionary Premium Package displaying an auto-dimming inside mirror with compass, blind side screen, lifted control "sans hands" back end, Proximity Key section with pushbutton begin and Electroluminescent gage gathering with shading LCD excursion PC and the choice of 2WD or AWD.

3.1. Key Features

This feature is for electrically inclined drivers. Using a 120-volt outlet, they can bypass the engine and recharge the battery in just 9 hours or less using the Easy Fill Home Charger. An electric climate control system allows drivers to precondition the cabin while the car is still plugged in, saving battery energy that would otherwise be required to heat or cool the cabin after unplugging. The system also provides the ability to heat the steering wheel and rear seats for added comfort. An automatic windshield defogger is a rare feature for cars in general, let alone just electrics, but it comes standard on the IONIQ Electric. When it comes to driver safety aids, the SEL offers a pedestrian detection feature added to the automatic emergency braking system, a Lane Keep Assist system, and Smart Cruise Control. The SEL adds more comfort and convenience features with a power adjustable driver seat with power lumbar support, a display audio system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support, and Hyundai's Proximity Key with push button start. Additional interior conveniences include a rear center armrest with cupholders and a sunglasses holder. The SEL has LED Daytime Running Lights and door handle approach lights for added visibility and presence. Step up to the SEL with the IONIQ Electric for these additional features beyond a Hyundai Santa Fe SE.

3.2. Pricing

The price tag on the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe SEL is the next logical step up from the SE, and the many added features that this higher priced trim level come standard with may have you considering it. The starting price of the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe SE is $30,850 compared to the $32,900 of the Santa Fe SEL. That's a $2,050 difference on cars with the $2,200 price bump for AWD. Now, while this seems like a significant jump up in the cost of the car, remember that most of the features that come standard in the Hyundai Santa Fe SEL are an option on the SE. The most reasonably equipped AWD Santa Fe SE with a premium package costs over $34,600. A Santa Fe SEL with the ultimate package is $38,900. The price difference between a comparably equipped Santa Fe SE with the premium package and ultimate package is only $1,000. This makes the difference of the Santa Fe SE and SEL trivial when considering the features that come with the SEL, many of which are not even available as an option for the Santa Fe SE. If you are a person that wants these extra features and you are considering a Santa Fe SE with some of the additional option packages, you may as well get the SEL because it will save you money in the long run.

3.3. Available Options

Hyundai Santa Fe SEL provides multiple packages to choose from. Customers can choose to add the optional Convenience Package, which includes Hands-Free Smart Liftgate, Auto-leveling rear suspension, Compact spare tire, and roof side rails. This is available for $1,900. This package can be considered good value with added useful features with minimal price increase. The Heated Premium Package has been bundled into one package for SEL. This includes everything from the previous 2 packages and heated rear seats and steering wheel. This is available for $1,600 and should be considered if the customer resides in a cold climate. At the top of the available options, there is the Tech Package, which includes everything from the previous packages and a panoramic sunroof, 8" touchscreen navigation, Infinity premium audio with QuantumLogic, Clari-Fi, and 12 speakers, dual automatic temperature control, rear parking sensors, and HID headlights... whew, that was a mouthful. The pricing of this package is only $2,500. If the customer wants all the bells and whistles, the Tech Package will not disappoint. The customer would be hard-pressed to find a crossover with as many features in the same price range. Standalone options available for SEL include leather seats for $2,500 and a panoramic sunroof for $1,000. This means if the customer desires leather seats and a panoramic sunroof, it will be $3,500 extra on top of the Tech package pricing. The HID headlights would be the only features missing from the Tech Package with those 2 standalone options chosen, but it may be worth it for some customers to get all the comfortable features they want without buying the Tech Package.

3.4. Comparison with SE Trim

The SEL trim, being one level higher than SE, is more equipped and more practical. The upgraded 7-seating is one of the features SE is lacking. Besides that, it also equips 2nd row captain seats which can be very useful to entry to 3rd row and for a family with 3 kids. The SE only has 2 seating for 2nd row and it's a bench seat. So the entry to 3rd row can be pretty complicated. Since it's just a trim level higher, the dimension and the body of the Santa Fe is still identical with the SE. Therefore the 2nd row and 3rd row of the seats are very identical. In terms of versatility, SEL is the winner here. Now in the interior features, SEL offers more convenience features, such as the push button ignition, electroluminescent gauge and also the 8-way power driver seat where the SE is only 6-way. In the audio system, SEL adds a single disc CD Player and also a roof-mounted 2nd and 3rd row sunshades for the customers to enjoy music and more comfort for the passengers. This is the first sunshade for Santa Fe, as the SE is not equipped with the sunshades. Moving to the exterior features, SEL offers better headlights and also heated mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer, which will be very useful in a snowy area. With the price difference of $2750, these additional features in comfort and safety are worth the value to the customers who are looking for a more equipped and practical SUV. It will also give a slightly better gas mileage compared to the SE due to the 18'' alloy wheels with 235/60 R18 tires. This will lead to a smoother and more comfortable drive in Santa Fe.


[1] M. McCARTHY, "HE NEW HAMPSHIR," scholars.unh.edu, . unh.edu

[2] A. Tarasov and H. Chu, "Impact of Laser Cavity Configurations and Pump Radiation Parameters on the Characteristics of High-Energy Yellow Raman Lasers Based on Potassium …," Applied Sciences, 2024. mdpi.com

[3] C.F. Sánchez Valdés, M. Arreguin Hernandez, "Magnetostructural transition and magnetocaloric effect in thermally annealed Mn0.5Fe0.5NiSi1-xAlx melt-spun ribbons (x= 0.055 and 0.060)," Instituto de Ingeniería …, 2022. uacj.mx

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