Is the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe better as a PHEV?

It can get up to 50 km (31 miles) of electric only driving range

6d ago
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While the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-In Hybrid may look like an all-new model, it’s actually still part of the 4th generation architecture. But you’d be forgiven for thinking that because it received a lot of upgrades and changes when it was updated in 2020. For 2022, the Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) variant joins the lineup.

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Performance

Engine – There are four, yes, FOUR powertrain options with the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe. This PHEV version is powered by a 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 178 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque (132 kW & 264 Nm) on its own. Paired with it is a 66.9 kW electric motor that can produce 90 hp and 224 lb-ft of torque (67 kW & 304 Nm). The total system output is 260 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque (194 kW & 350 Nm). To put that into perspective, the smaller Toyota Rav4 Prime has 302 hp and the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has 237 hp. So the Santa Fe is right in the middle in terms of power.

One of the biggest complaints I had of this 4th generation Santa Fe was the lack of power from the base engine. This new PHEV version doesn’t have that problem. The instant torque of the electric motor gets the 2 tonne SUV going pretty quickly from a stop. Then the turbo of the 1.6L engine gets into its stride and really gets the Hyundai shifting.

But of course it’s fuel economy that matters most in a hybrid. The 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV is rated for 3.1 Le/100km (75.8 MPGe) with both the engine and electric motor.

The problem with this PHEV powertrain is that it doesn’t give you as much control as other systems. Yes, there is a button to switch between Automatic, Hybrid & Electric modes but when the cabin is cold (or hot) and the climate control is turned on, the engine will turn on. Even if you push the HEV/EV button to switch the Santa Fe to Electric mode, the engine will remain on until the cabin temperature is met and the engine is partially up to operating temperature. This primarily happens on cold starts but occasionally still turns on once in a while just to maintain the cabin temperature. Also, there is no “charge hold” mode. You cannot tell the car to save the battery charge for later use.

As a result of these two drawbacks, I only managed a fuel economy rating of 3.6 L/100km (65.3 MPG). Still very good, no doubt there, but it could have been better as my commute is less than 10 km each way but the engine needed to turn on to defog the front windshield in the cold & rainy mornings.

Battery & Charging – The Santa Fe plug-in hybrid has a 13.8 kWh liquid cooled battery that can hold enough electricity for a claimed range of up to 50 km (31 miles). That’s actually quite a bit for a plug-in hybrid and should satisfy most people’s needs for daily commutes. When the battery is depleted, it drives like a normal hybrid vehicle.

Charging the Santa Fe will take approximately 14 hours from a regular wall outlet and up to 4 hours from a level 2 charger.

Transmission – Unlike other PHEVs, the Santa Fe PHEV utilizes a 6-speed automatic transmission instead of a CVT. It’s not the fastest shifting or most responsive 6-speed automatic out there but it does provide a better driving experience over a CVT. You can improve the shifting responsiveness by putting the car into Sport mode but then fuel economy is going to go out the window.

Braking – Again, unlike other PHEVs, the 2022 Santa Fe PHEV does not have different modes for regenerative braking. When lifting off the accelerator pedal, the SUV will provide some regen braking but it’s similar to lifting your foot off the throttle in a gasoline only vehicle. When applying the brake pedal, more energy is recovered but that also uses the physical brakes to some degree to slow the Santa Fe down. Happily, however, there is no discernable difference between the physical brakes and regenerative braking.

Handling – The Hyundai Santa Fe was never meant to be a sporty driving SUV. It is first and foremost a family SUV. As such, the driving dynamics reflect that. The steering is direct but it lacks any feel which is completely fine for this type of SUV. It is easy to maneuver the Santa Fe around a parking lot and the steering requires hardly any input on highways. It also has a pretty good turning circle. There is also some body roll around corners but it’s not excessive.

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-In Hybrid comes standard with HTRAC AWD. It is a mechanical AWD system rather than an eAWD system like how you would find in the Toyota Sienna. In most driving situations, the engine’s and electric motor’s power is sent to just the front wheels with power being sent to the back under less ideal driving conditions. There are also three modes to choose from depending on the terrain; Sand, Mud, Snow.

Comfort

Ride Comfort – The 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV is a comfortable vehicle. The suspension is supple and provides a smooth ride whether on city streets or boring, long highways. The front and rear seats have soft cushions with the fronts offering enough adjustability regardless of your height.

Interior Space – This is only available as a 2 row SUV but it is bigger than its sibling; the Hyundai Tucson. In the front, tall adults will find it has plenty of leg and headroom. The seating position is quite high offering good visibility but without taking away from headroom. The rear seats are also spacious for tall adults. Sitting behind my 6’4” driving position, I can comfortably fit without any issues. The rear seats can also recline and slide for added comfort.

Behind the rear seats, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV has 1,032 L (36.4 cu-ft) of cargo capacity. The great thing is that this is the exact same amount of space as the non-hybrid variant of the Santa Fe. Fold the seats with a couple of buttons in the trunk and the cargo capacity increases to 2,041 L (72.1 cu-ft).

Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – The interior of the 2022 Santa Fe is well refined without a hint of squeaks or rattles from the trim pieces. The transition from electric to the gasoline engine is pretty much imperceivable and the engine itself is quiet. So long as you don’t mash on the throttle pedal, then of course it becomes a noisy little bugger. On highways, tire noise varies depending on what type of road surface you’re on. Smooth asphalt doesn’t produce much noise but concrete highways do. However, it’s wind noise around the exterior mirrors that is most prevalent at speeds above 100 km/h. For the most part though, the Hyundai Santa Fe has a quiet and calming cabin.

Odds and Ends

Pricing – In Canada and the United States, the Plug-in Hybrid version of the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe is only available on two trim levels. But those trim levels differ between the two countries. In Canada, it is available as the Preferred and Luxury trims. In the United States, they’re SEL Convenience and Limited. The SEL and Preferred are essentially the same trim which starts at $44,999 CAD ($39,350 USD). The Luxury trim in Canada costs $48,499 CAD. However the Limited trim in the United States has more features but it’ll cost you $45,360 USD. Of course, the PHEV variant of the Hyundai Santa Fe is eligible for government rebates. Check your local dealership for details.

Gadgets – This particular demo vehicle is the Luxury trim. It is equipped with almost everything that a driver would want. It has leather upholstery, heated & ventilated front seats, heard rear seats, a panoramic sunroof, a full suite of advanced driver and safety aids, parking sensors, wireless Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, a digital driver display, heated steering wheel, wireless phone charging, and hands-free power liftgate to name a few.

But the Limited trim in the United States is available with a few more features. It has a larger 10.25” touchscreen with the latest Hyundai infotainment system, surround view cameras, remote smart parking, and highway driving assist.

Interior Design – The completely redesigned interior is very family and user friendly. Some may say that the center console is festooned with buttons but I prefer buttons to haptic or infotainment menu controls. It just makes things so much simpler when needing to change a setting while driving. The material use is good with soft leather in most areas that you touch and hard plastics relegated to the lower portions of the cabin. Also, the Santa Fe does not follow in the Tucson’s footsteps and use gloss black trim pieces that attract fingerprints and dust like opposing magnetic poles. Aesthetically, it is a pleasing and simple to use interior.

Exterior Design – The exterior may be a bit more polarizing than the interior to some. It looks completely different than what it was when this 4th generation Santa Fe was introduced. In my opinion, I think it looks better than the current design language of the Tucson and Santa Cruz. I especially like the daytime running lights that look like a vampire’s fangs.

Warranty – In Canada, Hyundai provides a 5 year / 100,000 km new vehicle warranty along with a powertrain warranty that is the same time & mileage period. In the United States, it is 5 years / 60,000 miles for the new vehicle warranty while powertrain and the hybrid components warranty is 10 years / 100,000 miles but only for the first owner of the vehicle.

So in the end, should you get the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-In Hybrid? Overall it is a great SUV. It’s comfortable, spacious, easy to drive, quiet, full of technology, and looks pretty unique. But it’s only a good PHEV. It doesn’t provide you with the same amount of control as other PHEVs offer when it comes to driving on electricity or saving the battery charge. Plus the fact that it requires the engine to run to heat up the cabin on cold starts, just defeats the purpose of having a 50 km range PHEV. It is a $5,600 and $4,600 CAD premium over the hybrid powertrain on the Preferred & Luxury trims respectively. But if you don’t mind the lack of a battery charge hold mode and the fact that the engine has to turn on cold starts to provide heat (as well as occasionally to maintain the cabin temperature), then the PHEV 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe is a solid choice.

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