Only the dinosaur that is the Dodge Grand Caravan costs less.
Over the past several years, Hyundai has turned itself into a major player in the US automotive sector. Gone are the days of bland design and, justifiable or not, questionable reliability. Hyundai is now fully on par with the best in the business, and several of its models have become benchmarks for the competition. One such example is the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe. First introduced to the US for the 2001 model year, the Santa Fe has come a very long way since. Bigger, more powerful, and premium is how the 2018 Santa Fe can be summed up.
It's also important to note there are two Santa Fe variants in the US, the smaller Santa Fe Sport and the seven passenger Santa Fe, the latter being today's focus. After all, it really is a proper minivan alternative. Thanks to its extended length, it boasts that coveted third row for an additional two human beings (comfort level depending on height of course). Like the other three row crossovers in this series and most in the segment as a whole, the Santa Fe offers V6 power. But unlike its competitors, that 3.3-liter V6 with 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque is standard. No other engine is offered. Power is directed to either the front or all four wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission.
When this generation Santa Fe launched for 2013, a 6-speed slushbox was pretty advanced. Today, 8-, 9-, and even 10-speeds are common. Looking at the 2018 Santa Fe, it's pretty obvious it's showing its age. It's not like the exterior and interior design looks bad or extremely dated, but the fact is the competition is fiercer than ever. Just look at the all-new Volkswagen Atlas and Chevrolet Traverse as proof. That's why Hyundai just debuted an all-new Santa Fe, the fourth generation model, at Geneva a couple of months ago. Although we haven't driven it yet, Hyundai says it'll arrive in US dealerships sometime this summer in both regular and long wheelbase models, just like the current setup.
This time around, the powertrain is comprised of a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four with around 232 hp, and paired to an 8-speed automatic. But if you're looking for a killer deal on a Santa Fe, now's the time because Hyundai dealerships are likely anxious to depart with leftover inventory of the outgoing model. What you'll be driving home is an exceptionally quiet and smooth three-row crossover that offers 14 cubic feet of cargo volume and 144 cubic feet of passenger space. Only a few short years ago those figures were impressive, but, for comparison, the Traverse has 23 cubic feet of cargo and 157 cubic feet for passengers.
That aside, the outgoing Santa Fe can still seat up to seven passengers and can even tow up to 5,000 pounds. But let's say you're torn between the 2018 Santa Fe and a certain other large family vehicle that's also on its way out, the one and only Dodge Grand Caravan. The base Hyundai Santa Fe SE has a starting price of $27,850 at the moment, while the Dodge Grand Caravan can be had for as little as $25,995. Not a huge difference, but less money is less money. The Grand Caravan also offers an impressive 140 cubic feet of space when the second- and third-row seats are folded flat, while the Santa Fe has just 80 cubic feet with the same seats stowed. Less money, more space, the Grand Caravan is the better deal, right?
Not necessarily. If maximum space and a cheaper price tag are your main priorities, then it's hard to argue here. However, the Grand Caravan is a dinosaur, dating back to 2008. In terms of overall refinement, design and even reliability, the Hyundai Santa Fe is the clear choice. Compared to the smaller Santa Fe Sport, the Santa Fe's wheelbase is 3.9-inches longer, thus allowing space for the third-row. Although the SE, SE Ultimate and Limited Ultimate trims all share the same powertrain, there are the usual packaging differences. Some standard features include dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The mid-range SE Ultimate adds 19-inch alloys, a panoramic sunroof, and an 8-inch touchscreen, while the Limited includes second-row captain's chairs, heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, and an Infinity Premium Audio sound system. Regardless of trim, AWD can be added for $1,750. While a fully-loaded Volkswagen Atlas will set you back a hefty $50,000, a 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited tops off at just under $45,000. It's still early for 2019 Santa Fe pricing, but we can't imagine a dramatic increase. After all, Hyundai has built a reputation for bang for your buck. Stylish, reliable, and still plenty big inside along with solid towing capability, the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe is one of the best all-around minivan alternatives on sale right now.