Whether as a family car, daily driver, or the occasional off-road vehicle, the Hyundai Santa Fe has mass-market appeal.
Its widely known for its affordable price, comfortable ride and nicely appointed interior although it’s not as fuel efficient as some of its rivals.
JD Power has given the Santa Fe above-average ratings. In 2022, this vehicle received a consumer score of 81 out of 100, with great individual ratings for “resale” and “driving experience,” at 86 and 82 (out of 100), respectively.
Explore the different sections of our guide below to learn more about which Hyundai Santa Fe models to get and which to steer clear of.
Table of Contents
Here’s The Short Answer To What The Best And Worst Years For The Hyundai Santa Fe Are:
The best Hyundai Santa Fe models are from 2018 onwards, 2015, 2016, 2011, 2010 and 2006. On the other hand, the worst Hyundai Santa Fe models are 2017, 2013, 2014, 2007 – 2009, 2003 and 2004. Taking note of these model years is important if you are looking to purchase a Santa Fe.
What Are The Best Years For The Hyundai Santa Fe?
Hyundai has produced a lot of great Santa Fes in the model’s lifespan.
Listed below are those that deserve the nod as the best of the best Hyundai Santa Fe models.
2020, 2021, 2022 & 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe
The 2020 – 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe models take the podium spots as the best models. All four model years boast multiple trims, a robust and powerful engine, the latest features and great driving dynamics.
If you had to choose the most affordable Santa Fe among the bunch, then finding a used 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe would be your best bet without missing out on too much.
Otherwise, go for the latest 2023 version, for updated safety and technology features.
The 2020, 2021, and 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe models secured an identical score of 4.6 out of 5.0 according to Kelley Blue Book. Over at JD Power, the 2020 Hyundai scored an 83 out of 100 while the other two secured a respectable 81 out of 100. Based on consumer ratings on Edmunds, the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe is the best among the trio, bagging 4.5 out of 5.0
The 2023 model is expected to score equally high scores too.
One Santa Fe owner had this to say on Kelley Blue Book:
“Did not have one problem with this car. Great quality and comfortable to drive. Wonderful safety features. Great gas mileage and car warranty. Easy to service and the car exceeded my expectations.”
Over at Edmunds, this car owner chose the Santa Fe over another worthy midsize SUV:
“I just purchased this car on 8/11/21 and absolutely love it! Originally planned to buy a 21 Kia Sorento Xline but when I saw all of the features…”
2018 and 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
The 2018 and 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe models are great alternatives to the model years above as they still feature similar engine performance and smooth handling, the downside of course is their expiring warranty terms.
Despite being a few years old now, there are certainly some great options in the used car market that can be considered “good as new.”
The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe scored the highest rating on Edmunds among its peers, securing a near-perfect score of 4.7 out of 5.0. The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is no slouch either, being given a score of 4.4 out of 5.0 (Edmunds) and 4.6 out of 5.0 (Kelley Blue Book).
One Santa Fe owner shared his admiration for the vehicle:
“This car has not had one service problem since I leased it 33 months ago. This car drives wonderful and gets great gas mileage. I would sell this car to my best friend.”
Over at Edmunds, this car owner shared his (and his wife’s) view on the Santa Fe:
“Its been over two years, and my wife and I are still content with our purchase…”
2015 and 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe
There are a lot of 2015 and 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe models on the streets running loud and proud and for good reason. The engine power, fuel economy, and ease of driving are still present in these two powerhouse SUVs.
If you are on a tight budget but would still like to enjoy the (somewhat) modern exterior design and interior styling of the Santa Fe line, then either of these model years should suffice.
The 2015 and 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe models secured an identical rating of 83 out of 100 on JD Power, but the 2015 model year edges its 2016 counterpart over at Edmunds, getting a score of 4.4 out of 5.0 (compared to the 4.0 out of 5.0 rating of the 2015 model).
Over at Edmunds, this Santa Fe owner provided a comprehensive analysis of his beloved SUV:
“I believe this car is the best value, most overlooked, and totally underrated in the three-row segment. It is smooth, quiet, has a nice V6 engine, the interior ergonomics are well thought out, and it is pretty solid to drive…”
2010 and 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe
The 2010 and 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe models are definitely old in terms of car age, but do not let this take away from the fact that these were the best midsize SUVs of their respective generations.
If you have a good eye for quality used vehicles in the second-hand market, then you may be able to find a great 2010 or 2011 Santa Fe at a very affordable value.
The 2010 and 2011 models were awarded a 4.2 out of 5.0 and 4.1 out of 5.0, respectively, at Edmunds. However, these two models received relatively low ratings at JD Power, only securing 76 out of 100 and 79 out of 100, respectively.
Over at Edmunds, this car owner talked about his Santa Fe which was purchased from the second-hand market:
“… Really enjoy this vehicle. Bought it 3 years ago, used with 36k and in great condition. It hasn’t given me a single problem mechanically…”
2006 Hyundai Santa Fe
The 2006 Hyundai Santa Fe brings nostalgia without forgetting about engine power and handling.
If you find a good deal at a reasonable mileage count (ideally less than 150,000 miles) with a full-service history, then perhaps you could risk the purchase.
There are two reasons why the 2006 Santa Fe is on this best of the best list. First, it scored a 4.6 out of 5.0 at Edmunds. Second, it scored an identical rating of 4.6 out of 5.0 at Kelley Blue Book.
One Santa Fe owner shared his feedback on Kelley Blue Book:
“We bought a 2006 Santa Fe 2.7L V-6 AWD GLS new in Maryland and drove it for 12 years and over 150,000 miles with no issue whatsoever with the mechanical, body or anything for that matter other than regular maintenance like battery, tires/alignment, breaks, etc. Only mechanical repair we had at around 128K miles was tie rod and sway bar ends/bushings when it was 12 years old…”
Over at Edmunds, this SUV owner shared his experience with the longevity of their 2006 Santa Fe:
“Driven 100,000 plus miles on it already and planning to drive another 100,000 on it for another 5 years. It drives good in Michigan roads in winter on virgin snow of up to 4 inches.”
Consumer Scores For Best Hyundai Santa Fe Years
Below is a table that presents all the consumer ratings of the best Hyundai Santa Fe model years from reputable vehicle websites:
|Model Year||Edmunds’ Consumer Rating||Kelley Blue Book’s Consumer Rating||JD Power’s Consumer Rating|
|2022 Hyundai Santa Fe||4.1 / 5.0||4.6 / 5.0||81 / 100|
|2021 Hyundai Santa Fe||4.2 / 5.0||4.6 / 5.0||81 / 100|
|2020 Hyundai Santa Fe||4.5 / 5.0||4.6 / 5.0||83 / 100|
|2019 Hyundai Santa Fe||4.4 / 5.0||4.6 / 5.0||84 / 100|
|2018 Hyundai Santa Fe||4.7 / 5.0||NA||81 / 100|
|2016 Hyundai Santa Fe||4.0 / 5.0||NA||83 / 100|
|2015 Hyundai Santa Fe||4.4 / 5.0||NA||83 / 100|
|2011 Hyundai Santa Fe||4.1 / 5.0||NA||79 / 100|
|2010 Hyundai Santa Fe||4.2 / 5.0||NA||76 / 100|
|2006 Hyundai Santa Fe||4.6 / 5.0||4.6 / 5.0||NA|
What Are The Worst Years For The Hyundai Santa Fe?
The Hyundai Santa Fe has also been subject to criticism due to its fair share of problems and issues.
The models listed below are the versions of the vehicle that you have to steer clear of.
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe
The 2017 Santa Fe had quite a peculiar problem that started relatively early (1,000 miles on average) – vehicle hesitation. This is caused by an imbalance in the fuel-air mix, leading to inefficient combustion and the early demise of certain engine components.
The 2017 Santa Fe had a total of 17 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 717 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.
The main problems of the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe are the following:
- Loss of power during acceleration
- Not accelerating properly while turning
- Engine problems
2013 and 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe
The 2013 and 2014 Santa Fe models had a bevy of engine-related problems such as a blown engine, engine stalling, engine failure, and engine cooling problems.
All of these were reported to happen before the 100,000-mile mark, which is definitely not a good sign – most modern engines should last over 200,000 miles.
The 2013 Santa Fe had a total of 117 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 749 problems at CarProblemZoo.com. The 2014 Santa Fe had a total of 71 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 595 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.
The main problems of the 2013 and 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe are the following:
- Engine failure
- Violent jerking trying to accelerate
- Engine blown
- Steering problems
2007, 2008, and 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe
The years 2007 – 2009 were objectively the most problematic years for the Santa Fe, amassing hundreds of complaints and reported issues.
Most of the problems revolved around the fuel gauge/meter. Although relatively inexpensive in terms of repair costs ($300 – $500) this issue was widespread.
The 2007, 2008, and 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe models had combined total complaints of 396 according to CarComplaints.com and 2,034 problems according to CarProblemZoo.com.
The main problems of the 2007, 2008, and 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe models are the following:
- Fuel gauge not reading correctly, check engine light on
- Fuel level sensor failed
- Paint coming off
2003 and 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe
The 2003 and 2004 model years arguably had the scariest problems as they were felt by both the driver and the passengers. Shakes and stalls, airbag warning light was on, and sporadic loss of power were recurring problems that manifested in several of the models produced in these years.
The 2003 Santa Fe had a total of 21 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 380 problems at CarProblemZoo.com. The 2004 Santa Fe had a total of 49 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 379 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.
The main problems of the 2003 and 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe are the following:
- Shakes and stalls
- Connecting rod failure
- Paint is wearing off
What Years Have The Most Complaints?
There are a handful of new and old Hyundai Santa Fe models that have received numerous complaints through the years. Listed below are complaints and problems listed for each model year:
|Model Year||Complaints (CarComplaints.com)||Problems (CarProblemZoo.com)|
|2022 Hyundai Santa Fe||11||32|
|2021 Hyundai Santa Fe||9||78|
|2020 Hyundai Santa Fe||20||60|
|2019 Hyundai Santa Fe||3||118|
|2018 Hyundai Santa Fe||66||177|
|2017 Hyundai Santa Fe||17||717|
|2016 Hyundai Santa Fe||17||145|
|2015 Hyundai Santa Fe||27||239|
|2014 Hyundai Santa Fe||71||595|
|2013 Hyundai Santa Fe||117||749|
|2012 Hyundai Santa Fe||99||420|
|2011 Hyundai Santa Fe||60||240|
|2010 Hyundai Santa Fe||51||287|
|2009 Hyundai Santa Fe||139||453|
|2008 Hyundai Santa Fe||103||656|
|2007 Hyundai Santa Fe||154||925|
|2006 Hyundai Santa Fe||19||132|
|2005 Hyundai Santa Fe||37||288|
|2004 Hyundai Santa Fe||49||379|
|2003 Hyundai Santa Fe||21||380|
|2002 Hyundai Santa Fe||21||212|
|2001 Hyundai Santa Fe||12||284|
What Problems Do Hyundai Santa Fes Have?
Based on the information we have gathered online, here are the most common issues that you may encounter with a Hyundai Santa Fe:
- Engine failure
- Engine blown
- Fuel gauge not reading correctly
- Paint coming off
- Violent jerking trying to accelerate
What Are The Best Alternatives To The Hyundai Santa Fe?
The Hyundai Santa Fe is one of the best options in the midsize SUV segment, ranking fifth overall, scoring the same as the Honda Pilot, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Chevrolet Traverse. However, there are also a lot of great alternatives. Take a look at some of the interesting models to check out if you want to explore other options:
|Make & Model||Score||MSRP||Fuel Economy (MPG)|
|Hyundai Santa Fe||8.3||$27,200 – $43,110||City: 21 – 25 / Highway: 25 – 28|
|Kia Telluride||8.6||$33,390 – $45,190||City: 19 – 20 /Highway: 24 – 26|
|Hyundai Palisade||8.6||$33,600 – $48,990||City: NA / Highway: NA|
|Honda Passport||8.4||$37,870 – $45,430||City: 19 – 20 /Highway: 24 – 25|
|Mazda CX-9||8.4||$35,280 – $47,210||City: 20 / Highway: 26|
|Chevrolet Traverse||8.3||$33,700 – $53,400||City: 17 – 18 / Highway: 25 – 27|
|Honda Pilot||8.3||$38,080 – $51,870||City: 19 – 20 /Highway: 26 – 27|
|Jeep Grand Cherokee||8.3||$39,000 – $61,675||City: 14 – 19 /Highway: 22 – 26|
|Buick Enclave||8.1||$42,800 – $57,100||City: 17 – 18 /Highway: 25 -26|
|Dodge Durango||8.0||$36,995 – $68,195||City: 13 – 19 /Highway: 19 – 26|
|Volkswagen Atlas||8.0||$33,635 – $51,505||City: 17 – 21 /Highway: 23 – 25|
|Subaru Ascent||8.0||$32,295 – $45,445||City: 20 – 21 /Highway: 26 – 27|
|Kia Sorento||8.0||$29,590 – $43,190||City: 21 – 24 /Highway: 25 – 29|
|Toyota Highlander||7.9||$35,405 – $49,510||City: 20 – 21 /Highway: 27 – 29|
|Ford Explorer||7.7||$33,745 – $55,995||City: 16 – 27 /Highway: 23 – 28|
|Nissan Murano||7.7||$33,310 – $46,560||City: 20Highway: 28|
|GMC Acadia||7.5||$34,800 – $48,600||City: 19 – 22 /Highway: 26 – 29|
|Chevrolet Blazer||7.3||$33,400 – $44,000||City: 19 – 22 /Highway: 26 – 29|
|Toyota 4Runner||7.1||$37,605 – $52,420||City: 16 / Highway: 19|
|Ford Edge||NA||$36,145 – $44,945||City: 19 – 21 /Highway: 25 – 28|
|Jeep Grand Cherokee L||NA||$40,325 – $62,300||City: 18 – 19 /Highway: 25 – 26|
|Nissan Pathfinder||NA||$34,640 – $49,040||City: 20 – 21 /Highway: 25 – 27|