There's no doubt shoppers like getting a lot for their money, and this is where the shines most.
With 290 horsepower from its V-6, the boasts more horsepower than the Toyota Highlander with 270-horse V-6 and the 250-horsepower Honda Pilot.
Plus, even the base comes standard with modern, light-emitting diode accent lights by the headlights. Neither the Highlander nor the Pilot does. Door handles and the grille on all Santa Fes are chrome-colored for a rich look, while door handles on all 2014 Highlanders are the same color as the vehicle paint and the grille is black. A leather-wrapped steering wheel is standard on the base Santa Fe, but Honda Pilot buyers can only get this on the top-of-the-line EX-L model.
Best of all, starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a base, front-wheel drive, 2014 Santa Fe GLS is $30,775. The starting retail price for an all-wheel drive, 2014 Santa Fe GLS is $32,525.
All Santa Fes are powered by a 3.3-liter, double overhead cam, direct injection V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Standard equipment on the base SUV includes heated front seats, eight-way, power-adjustable driver's seat, Shiftronic manual shift mode, air conditioning, rear air conditioning and heat controls, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, electroluminescent gauge cluster, power door locks and windows with all window buttons illuminated, automatic on/off headlights, remote keyless entry and more.
Note that the base, 2014 Santa Fe GLS has seats for seven, while the uplevel Limited model comes with second-row captain's chairs for a total passenger capacity of six.
There is another SUV with Santa Fe in its name — the 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. The Sport is not a trim level of the three-row Santa Fe, however. It is a shorter-wheelbase SUV that has seats only for five passengers, and it comes only with four-cylinder engines.
In comparison to the Santa Fe, the base, 2015 Toyota Highlander LE with a 3.5-liter V-6, six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive and three rows of seats — capable of accommodating eight passengers — has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $31,605. The 2014 Honda Pilot with 3.5-liter V-6, five-speed automatic, front-wheel drive and seats for eight has a starting retail price of $30,700.
The engine power in the Santa Fe Limited tester came on smoothly and strongly, accompanied by confident engine sounds.
Yet, the power didn't seem to penalize fuel economy. The front-wheel drive tester averaged just over 20 miles per gallon in combined city/highway travel. This was a tad below the federal government fuel economy rating of 21 mpg in city/highway combined travel.
This 21-mpg rating, by the way, is equal to that of the lower-powered Highlander and Pilot. It's also the average mpg of many other SUVs on the market, including SUVs that only offer five seats, such as the 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan with turbocharged four cylinder and the luxury, 2014 Lexus RX 350 with V-6.
On the outside, the looks less boxy than the Pilot and Highlander, and the appealing styling masks the vehicle's 16-foot-long length.
The test also drove as if it was a smaller vehicle — more like a two-rows-of-seats vehicle.
There was some weight shifting felt from side to side on twisty mountain roads, and the took up more room in parking spaces than anticipated early on in the test drive.