To win at the wheel is to get something that will be spacious enough for the four of you and everything you lugged on that plane to finish up the Holidays.
You’re traveling during the Holidays. You fly in somewhere – you, your spouse, and your other passengers. You need space for everyone – luggage and gifts included.
Then, you take your roll on the Rental Car Roulette wheel. To win at the wheel is to get something that will be spacious enough for the four of you and everything you lugged on that plane – or train – to finish up the Holidays with an intended purpose.
Sometimes you roll and get the wrong vehicle. One that may be long in the tooth. One with a tire pressure warning popping up in your instrument cluster. Nothing speaks “bad Holiday vacation” than a bad rental car.
If you’re lucky, you may get a Hyundai Santa Fe. If the ball lands on that space on the wheel, you’ve already won.
Why do I say that? The current 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe offers a lot for four-to-five passengers. It has a comfortable cabin, a large cargo hold, plenty of power, and a comfortable ride to get you to do everything to mark your Holiday trip.
The story of the Santa Fe goes back to the 2001 model year as the first SUV sold in North America. This fourth generation has been with us since the 2019 model year. It was one of the first Hyundai models to showcase a new design language during its mid-cycle refresh, as well as offering more power choices including a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid.
The Santa Fe is a versatile vehicle, balancing space with comfort. It always has been.
The rented all-wheel drive 2023 Santa Fe SEL I experienced came as the originally rented front-drive 2023 Chevrolet Equinox LT failed me. A swap at the airport revealed one thing that should’ve been done in the first place.
Frankly, the Santa Fe is a much better vehicle. The primary reasons have already been said.
This is not just some snap opinion. There had been a few turns in this current generation model since it arrived in showrooms back in 2019. For most part, they always had been the most luxurious trims, the more powerful turbocharged engines, along with the plug-in hybrid. The common thread among these Santa Fe models have been that combination families want in a compact-to-midsize SUV.
The SEL rental was far from humble. Yes, it had cloth seats. However, they were comfortable for both short and long drives both front and back. It is equipped with the 10.25-inch infotainment screen. Yet, it also sports a mix of analog and digital instrumentation. You control the transmission with four simply buttons ion the center console. They do control an eight-speed automatic that works well with the naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine’s power band.
About that 191-horsepower 2.5-liter engine, it does a fine job handling this not-so-humble Santa Fe SEL. A few drives in this vehicle makes you think that you don’t need a turbocharger to handle your Holiday vacation. You could get better fuel economy in a hybrid, but you will enjoy the lowest fuel pump prices of the year while averaging 24.7 MPG.
The not-so-humble Santa Fe SEL wears a set of 18-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires. They’re suitable to handle to not-so-white Christmas and milder than usual temperatures some parts of the country have been experiencing this Holiday season.
It also help to load up a lot of presents in the back in a Santa Fe. All told, there is a generous 36.4 cubic feet with the rear seat up. Need more space for a flat screen TV or to refurbish a room using IKEA’s finest flat packaged furnishings? Fold the rear seats down to increase the space to 72.1 cubic. Don’t forget, you have more than ample room for four adults or a young family of five.
Did I mention that it drives very well? It certainly does.
Throughout its fourth generation, Hyundai has offered up to ten trim levels for its Santa Fe. That includes two turbocharged models, three Hybrids and two Plug-In versions. All of which starts at $28,750. The SEL rental with all-wheel drive can be purchased at a sticker price of $35,485.
This is really the end of the line for this fourth-generation Santa Fe. Just because the new generation model will be arriving at showrooms in the weeks and months to come, that does not mean you can enjoy this wonderful version on your next travels. Or, you might be enjoying one right now.
While we certainly await the arrival of the 2024 Santa Fe at V&R, we can still reference this outgoing version as we travel into the New Year.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle(s) rented by Victory & Reseda
All photos by Randy Stern