Why The New Hyundai Santa Fe Doesn't Have A Third Row

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If you want three rows, Hyundai says, you'll be much happier in the Palisade.

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe has just arrived in the United States, sporting a dramatic facelift, a revamped cabin, new safety technology, more cargo space, and even new powertrains in the form of a turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder and a new hybrid variant. It may not be a complete redesign, but it still represents a major update.

One thing that hasn't changed, however, is the number of seats; the Santa Fe still only offers two rows of seating, with no 2021 return of the three-row "Santa Fe XL". During a recent call with media, Hyundai explained why that is.

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Hyundai says that simply put, the decision not to bring back the Santa Fe XL was driven by customer research.

"This is something that we studied quite a bit," explained Trevor Lai, Santa Fe Product Manager. "The research we have done showed that our buyers would be at a disservice by having a third-row seat. It does not provide enough legroom for any sense of satisfaction."

For those buyers who require a third row, Hyundai offers a solution: "For that proper three-row experience, we do have our popular Hyundai Palisade," Lai says. "That provides significantly more room not only in the third row but also for cargo, especially with the third-row deployed. It's a no-compromise three-row from Hyundai."

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Of course, stepping up to the Palisade brings with it a sizable jump in price, from the $28,025 starting MSRP for the Santa Fe to the Palisade's $32,525 price tag. But while Hyundai itself doesn't offer a smaller mid-size option with a third row, another brand within the Hyundai Motor Group does.

"We noticed our sister company doing a third-row option," Lai said, referring to the Kia Sorrento. Like Hyundai, Kia has a larger mid-size option, the Telluride, but the brand still decided to offer the new Sorento as a seven-seater starting at $29,390. Granted, by any objective measure, that back seat is pretty cramped. We suppose that's Hyundai's point.

2020-2021 Hyundai Palisade Front View Hyundai

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