The midsize Santa Fe is one of Hyundai’s most popular vehicles and is known for offering a lot of value for money.
Its first hybrid variant came out in 2021 boasting an estimated 36 mpg combined, and a plug-in hybrid model with up to 31 miles of electric range followed in 2022.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the common problems and complaints owners have had with the hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Santa Fe.
1. Turn Signal Error
Some Hyundai Santa Fe PHEVs will sometimes randomly display a Check Turn Signal warning on the dash when using the turn signal.
This error normally warns you if your signal lights are out. There are also similar error messages for the headlights and brake lights on all variants of the fourth gen Santa Fe which includes non-hybrids, regular hybrids and plug-in hybrids.
So far, only Santa Fe PHEV owners have reported seeing the Check Turn Signal message even though all the lights are absolutely fine.
Since it goes away on its own after a few seconds and only occurs occasionally, dealers often have trouble replicating it for a proper diagnosis.
Here’s how a few Santa Fe PHEV owners described their experience:
“I’ve been having an intermittent issue with my 22 PHEV where it will have a check turn signal pop up when I use my turn signal. I’ve had this issue since I got the car.”
“Same issue with 2022 Santa Fe PHEV, warning chime and extremely quick flash of digital description of problem. The only time I was able to catch it was indicating left rear turn signal and I have seen one quick flash that in all likelihood was right rear turn signal.”
“I get this for headlights, turn and stop signals all the time. And there are other chimes that go away faster than you can see what’s on the display. My wife calls the car the chimer.”
Based on reports of owners who got their dealers to fix the issue, the most likely cause is a loose connection or short circuit somewhere in the wiring or with the connectors used by the signal light assembly.
2. Throttle Lag or Hesitation
Many Santa Fe Hybrid owners have noticed that the throttle will sometimes lag or hesitate for a second or two before it actually starts sending any power to the wheels.
This issue only occurs when trying to accelerate from a rolling stop or when the car is crawling at around 1 to 3 mph. It affects both the hybrid and PHEV variants of the Santa Fe.
A lot of people end up pressing down on the accelerator pedal even more to get the car to move, which causes the car to lunge forward once it does respond.
Here’s how a few owners described the issue:
“Sometimes when pulling away from a stop, the car seems very sluggish and unresponsive. Once I take my foot off the gas and then put it back on it is fine.”
“The hesitation can last 1/2 second to 2 seconds. Plenty of time to get smashed in the back. I normally keep it in ECO mode, but I have also had the same issue in SPORT mode.”
“Same with my 2021 hybrid. I sent it in last year but they said it’s only in eco mode. It’s not.”
“I get the same thing sometimes when my 2022 hybrid is in ECO mode, if I change it to sport no issues.”
Older cars like the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid have had similar hesitation issues, called the death lag, when trying to accelerate from low speed. Software updates haven’t made much of a difference for these older Hyundai hybrids. It also happens to Kia hybrids, so it’s likely just how Hyundai/Kia hybrid systems work.
Some Santa Fe Hybrid owners have said that putting the car in Smart mode not only gets rid of the hesitation but also gives them better fuel economy.
The only problem is that you have to switch to Smart mode every time you turn on the car because it always starts in Eco mode by default.
It’s also important to note that the Santa Fe Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid use a traditional 6-speed automatic, so it doesn’t suffer from DCT problems like the non-hybrid models of the Santa Fe.
3. Refill Inverter Coolant Error
Early years of the Santa Fe Hybrid have been known to display a ‘Refill Inverter Coolant” warning on the dash for no apparent reason.
Normally, this message only pops up when the inverter coolant tank gets low. But a lot of owners have reported that the message still randomly comes on even if the tank is full and everything else seems to be working fine.
Here’s how a few owners described their experience:
“My wife has a 2021 Santa Fe Hybrid Limited and the “Refill Inverter Coolant” warning came on today while she was driving home. I checked the blue coolant (inverter) and it is filled to the max line.’
“Mine started showing the message today. (2021 Santa Fe Hybrid Limited 24K miles) Fluid level is at max.”
“The issue only started when we made it into the 100+ degree AZ heat. Warning goes away when it’s cooler outside but quickly reappears when the temp hits the high 90’s. Very frustrating for a vehicle with 18k miles on it.“
These false alarms usually occur whenever it’s hot outside. Those who have taken their cars to the dealership say that replacing the original blue inverter coolant with a new formulation completely got rid of the annoying errors.
Similar problems have also been reported with the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sorento hybrids which use the same hybrid system. Similar TSBs (Technical Service Bulletin) have been released for all these cars suggesting to flush the old coolant and replace it with the new formula.
According to the TSB that Hyundai put out, the issue should only affect Santa Fe Hybrids and PHEVs made up to September 2021.
Some dealers have also suggested that a bad coolant pump or air in the coolant lines can cause the error to pop up.
For those who simply do not want to be bothered by the error anymore, turning the car on with the door open, then only closing the door when the System Check message appears usually makes the false alarms go away for the rest of the drive. Turning off the car for a few minutes then turning it back on can also help get rid of the error.
4. Noise When Accelerating
Some Santa Fe Hybrids have a tendency to make a clicking or rattling noise when accelerating around corners.
The sound can come from either the front or rear of the car, and is sometimes accompanied by a little vibration. It’s usually consistent and repeatable once it starts occurring.
Here’s how a few owners described the issue:
“I have a 2022 Santa Fe hybrid. It has the same rattling noise after turning (left or right) or even going straight between 20-30 km/hr.”
“2021 Santa Fe Hybrid AWD, 13K miles. Ours had “clicking” and vibration in the front driver’s side on acceleration when turning since about 6K miles.”
“The car sounded like a sewing machine between 15-20 miles per hour and around corners.”
“Recently the 6-month-old Santa Fe started to make odd sounds when accelerating after a corner. To describe it is like going over rumble strips but only in the rear portion of the vehicle.”
People who have had the noise checked out by the dealer say that it was caused by a faulty driveshaft. The only way to fix it is to replace the defective part which should be covered by the warranty.
However, there are some instances where the noise came back after driving with the new driveshaft for a few thousand miles. At the time of writing, Hyundai hasn’t released a TSB to address this specific issue.
5. Slow Charge Rate
The Santa Fe Plug-in Hybrid’s onboard charger is quite slow compared to other PHEVs in the market.
Its max charge rate can only go up to 3.8 kW while other PHEVs like the Tucson Plug-in Hybrid have a max rate of 7.2 kW.
Charging the battery from near empty to full usually takes 10 to 12 hours using a level 1 charger. On a level 2 charger, it can take up to 4 hours.
Here’s what two Santa Fe PHEV owners had to say:
“I did not know it would take 11 hours to fully charge a 31 miles range. I upgraded to 240v, but still take 3.5 hours. At this rate, it is impossible to charge at public station or cost more to charge because the car won’t charge above 16Amp.”
“The onboard AC to battery DC converter maxes out at 240v/16 amps (3.7kwh) so it makes charge times longer – 4 hrs or more even on 240 so it can’t use the full charging capacity of a level 2 charger.”
To make the most out of the Santa Fe Plug-in Hybrid’s efficiency, you have to make sure that you don’t really drive more than 30 miles in between charges.
Once you run out of battery power, your fuel economy will take a significant hit since PHEVs are heavier than regular hybrids because they have larger batteries.
You can’t really take advantage of DC fast chargers because the slow charging rate means it’ll take a couple of hours to fully charge the battery, which means it will cost you significantly more than charging at home.
6. Lower Than Expected MPG
Many Santa Fe Hybrid owners have reported that they don’t get anywhere near the advertised fuel economy of 36 mpg combined.
Like all cars, the Santa Fe Hybrid might have slightly worse mileage during its break-in period. Fuel economy should improve after the first 1,000 miles and as you get more used to driving a hybrid/PHEV.
The PHEV will also get slightly lower fuel economy when not running in EV mode because it’s much heavier than the regular hybrid.
Here’s how two owners described their experience:
“I have a Limited and my average mpg for over a year in warm weather is 32.6 mpg (stripper trims will do better). Drops in the cold weather (28-29) as the engine runs more.”
“2022 Santa Fe Hybrid, 8000 miles. Never seen electric motor higher than 5kw (even though display can go up to 20kw) and average MPG is around 25. City driving seems to lower the average MPG.”
Extreme temperatures can also make reaching the advertised fuel economy numbers more challenging because the Santa Fe Hybrid uses the gas engine to run the heat and A/C. If you want to keep the cabin at a comfortable temperature, the engine will be turned on constantly.
In addition, the chemical reactions in the batteries slow down when it’s cold so they’re less efficient during the winter which means you’ll be using the engine more often.
Aside from maximizing the time the car spends in electric mode, many also recommend using Smart mode instead of Eco mode to improve fuel economy.
7. 12-Volt Battery Issues
Since the Santa Fe Hybrid and PHEV depend on the 12-volt battery for most of its electronics, it might start throwing errors or appear completely dead if it goes flat.
When the 12-volt battery dies, you’ll also have trouble unlocking the doors or getting the car to turn on.
12-volt batteries can easily lose their charge if:
- You only drive for short distances
- Don’t use the car for several days
- It’s parked outside in the cold
Keeping the key fob near the car while it’s parked will also prevent it from turning off completely and drain the battery in just a few hours.
If the keyless entry system stops working and you need to manually unlock the doors, remove the rear plastic cap on the door handle and unlock the door using the emergency key hidden inside the key fob.
If you want to avoid getting stuck with a dead battery, it’s a good idea to keep a jump pack, or at least some jumper cables, in the car at all times. There’s a positive battery terminal on the fuse box under the hood, then clip the negative cable to any ground wire
8. Loud Reverse Alert
Some Santa Fe Hybrid owners have complained that the reverse alert or beeping is unnecessarily loud.
“One thing that I’m not fond of is the beeping noise it makes once in reverse. I am not referring to the proximity alert. I mean it beeps like a U-Haul or bus.”
“I have a 2022 Santa Fe Limited Hybrid. It is annoying and especially at early morning or late evening driving. I have asked several dealerships and none of them know if/how to disable or quiet the tone down.”
All hybrids, PHEVs and EVs are required by law to have an external reverse alert that pedestrians can hear because electrified vehicles are very silent when parking and running on battery power.
Some owners of other Kia EVs and hybrids have found ways to disconnect the backup speaker/module, but this requires some tinkering and may not be exactly legal.
Related: How Long Do Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrids Last? (Solved)
Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid Pros and Cons
- Lots of tech and safety features
- All-wheel drive is standard
- Good mpg for its size
- Long basic warranty
- Modern and roomy interior
- Relatively affordable
- No wireless CarPlay
- Infotainment can be a touch slow
- Limited rear visibility
What Do The Reviews Say?
“The Santa Fe Hybrid adds increased fuel efficiency to the model’s core strengths, which include a comfortable, eye-catching interior, a generous set of standard features, and a roomy cabin.”
“The Santa Fe Hybrid gets up to 34 mpg combined, 10 more mpg than the gas-only, all-wheel-drive Santa Fe.”
“The Santa Fe’s size also helps it stand out in the hybrid class. It’s larger than the compact Honda CR-V Hybrid and Ford Escape Hybrid — with more interior volume and cargo space — but not as large (or unwieldy in tight confines) as three-row SUVs like the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.”
“The hybrid-powered Toyota Venza shares similar dimensions with the Santa Fe but doesn’t offer near the cabin or cargo space. There’s also the Sorento Hybrid, from Hyundai’s sister brand, Kia, which shares similar size, power and features with the Santa Fe.”
“The Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid is available in three trim levels: Blue, SEL Premium and Limited. All three are powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine paired with a hybrid system for 226 combined horsepower. A six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive are standard across the board.”
2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid | Edmunds
What’s the Resale Value of a Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid?
Here’s a quick look at the Santa Fe Hybrid’s used car pricing on Edmunds at the time of writing. Prices quoted are for the midrange SEL trim level.
Related: 18 Best & Worst Hyundai Santa Fe Years (With Facts & Stats)