2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV: Corded Compliance Counter-Point Review

2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV: Corded Compliance Counter-Point Review
2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV

While the newest fifth-generation has evolved into a “Let’s Make a Deal” prize box to afford more space, the previous series 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV elevated the model from volume value compact to a sleek premium mid size SUV.

This review focuses on the charming 2023 Santa Fe PHEV.  Sharing its broad grin grille bling with menacing James Bond-film villain Jaws, it belies an high level of poshness and worthy parsimony in a sleek plug-in hybrid two-row crossover SUV. It makes for far from an unpleasant family road trek to New Mexico’s eponymous high-altitude capitol.

2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV J1772 charging port
2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV: 3.7 kW SAE J1772 AC battery charging port

Taking its name from the United States' oldest continuously inhabited state capital, the fourth generation Hyundai to host the Santa Fe name has grown since its early 2002 debut.  The original compact model, with its curious body contours and asymmetrical rear-lift handle, was a popular budget car that is currently exceeded by the lower rank Tucson compact SUV. The 2023 Santa Fe Limited PHEV simply dwarfs the Mk.1 .  Laden with an array of baubles previously exclusive to prestige vehicles, the tested Limited model’s price strikes a $49,000 bell.

Inheriting most swag from the top turbocharged petrol Calligraphy trim, the 2023 Santa Fe Limited PHEV model importantly differs with its 13.8 kWh lithium ion battery provided 30-mile all-electric range capability. The 3.7 kW onboard charger will accept up to 12 amps from a 120V AC wall outlet using the supplied adapter. Thusly charging a fully depleted battery needs more than eight hours. 

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ART OF WRITTEN DETAILS: An age of digital has fostered a new, less esoteric meaning of signature. Many school systems across the United States are either adopting or proposing curricula devoid of instruction in cursive. Hearkening to an where the art of refined handwriting was appreciated Korean carmaker Hyundai is

PHEV ratings, derived from ideal ambient and battery state conditions, can differ from real world EV range.  Thus, during the cold winter testing, not even flailing at the center console HEV, Auto and Hybrid switches could overcome the need for internal combustion. Only after 20 minutes of petrol engine heating the cabin and the battery would the electric motor be available exclusively. In mostly urban testing the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV returned 44 miles per gallon. That result handily beat the EPA's 33 mpg estimate, which matches the fuel economy rating for the 250 pound lighter Santa Fe HEV, albeit at a $6000 heftier price. Who said CARB compliance comes cheap.  

The good news is the 1.6-liter turbocharged, 178-hp four-cylinder Smartstream engine and 90-hp (69 kW) electric motor produce a combined 261 horsepower.  That’s raises the ante from the HEV Santa Fe by about 17%.  (Either Santa Fe hybrid is more lively and less raucous than the base 2.5-liter engine.)  Those electrified horses and the six-speed automatic are family livery peppy smooth, with a muffled note. An abundance of soft-touch interior bits and the 470 pounds extra mass (for 4500 total) render the 2023 Santa Fe PHEV an admirable imitation of a luxury vehicle.

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV has neatly fitted body panels with clean cutlines.  This sense of precision continues when you alit the driver’s seat.  The dashboard wraps into the front-door cards.  The pieces fit with jigsaw accuracy.   The jersey-knit, hemmed headliner with cloth-trimmed pillars further the effect.  Heated, leather-clad seating for four is comfortable.  Many surfaces are upholstered in upscale textures. Carbon fiber-effect panels and LED ambience lights embellish the ritzy theme. 


2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV cockpit
2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV: cockpit

Some under-the-radar cabin bits are less impressive.  There are plastic parts with obvious flashing. The complete fitting cargo rug, comes across as thin. Hyundai placed shallow cargo bins below the rear floor.

The 2023 Santa Fe PHEV's sea of operational buttons and knobs, embedded in the upward canted floating center stack, is overwhelming at first glance. Scanning from top to bottom their sequencing is orderly: infotainment followed by climate followed by drive controls. Dedicated media volume + tuning knobs, climate temperature toggles and a drive mode wheels all feature premium knurled metal texturing. Shift by wire push buttons, while, uncommon are large, and the ever important "P" position easy to find. One control oversight is with the similarly knurled steering wheel spokes' cruise control speed and trip display toggles, which lack illumination. ( The new 2024 2024 Santa Fe makes addresses that issue.)

2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV cockpit controls
2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV: busy canted center console, trimmed in simulated carbon fiber


One quirk is unavoidable and indefeatible courtesy of Hyundai’s legal team. Whenever starting this rig the infotainment screen spits out warnings, which obtain acceptance by assent or by passage of a few moments. Then the screen reverts to a menu mode rather than the previous app screen.

The drive mode always defaults to ECO.  The other choices:  Sport, Smart and Snow, are forgotten.  Seat and steering-wheel heating, if previously engaged, are deactivated. Ditto for the auto-hold brakes and automatic high beams headlamps.

Fans of varied colorized instruments should find a home in the 2023 Santa Fe PHEV cluster. By default settings, drive modes other than Sport, vary from a frosty silver to black + green twin dials, with a power meter occupying the right side. Sport mode, bathed in copper red, furnishes a tachometer. Those preferring a tachometer for all modes can choose so in the cluster settings menu.


2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV instrumentation
2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV: drive mode variable instrumentation display

In motion, the Santa Fe PHEV’s powertrain is complemented by whispering 235/55R19 Continental all-season tires. This SUV's ride quality is more pillow compliant than the competition, thus southeast Wisconsin’s pockmarked roadways yield a tint of billowing rebound.

Steering effort is moderate, however it doesn’t build when moving the tiller off center.  As a result road grip isn't usefully transmitted for exuberant transitions. Effective as the disc binders are, the pedal feel has a slight porridge consistency.

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV wends through an expressway cloverleaf with poise.  There were moments, when the front seemed as though it were on a different continental divide than the rear.  Regardless, body roll is never Dramamine excessive. 


2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV engine, electric motor
2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV: 1.6T petrol engine plus 67 kW PSM E-motor net 261 horsepower

As a carrier of larger belongings, the mid-size Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV converts utility use with a bit of effort.  There are push-button rear backrest releases. Before you lower them, you might have to remove their headrests, especially if those power front thrones are rearward.  The space between front and folded rear backrests is tight. The resulting flat surface is flush with the bay.  Overhead lighting is adequate.  The cargo floor, which is roughly flush with the rear lid’s opening, is step-stool high.  The cargo bay, when expanded, can host a Caterpillar front end loader's worth of stuff.  The approach actuated power liftgate clears most noggins.

2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV cargo bay
2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV: expansive cargo hold

Some curious things:  Hyundai’s owner’s manuals (quick and standard) don’t agree.  The short one claims the charging port is at the front fender and the emergency charger release is in the engine bay.  The port, however, is on the right rear panel.  One wishes Hyundai would illuminate the vehicle’s charging port.  It’s difficult to remove its dinky black cover and insert the plug into the SAE J1772 receiver.  The trickle charger, which has a button for charge mode, operated at 12 amps on a dedicated 20-amp service.  Quicker charging is possible from a 240-volt electrical source.

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV’s electronic gadgetry works.  Phone pairing is intuitive and the native navigation system unusually clairvoyant.  Pressing a steering wheel spoke voice button, then issuing a street address or point of interest name couldn't easily be confused. Routing into off-street parking lots was clever. Yet in diagonal road routing the long way around might be prompted. The inductive phone pocket charger is compact enough to keep devices from sliding off the target.

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV's occupant nannies complicate checking the vehicle’s position on a narrow driveway.  By default the transmission is locked in park when the driver's door is open. Buckling up, selecting reverse, will allow slow movement with the door slightly ajar. Assisted outward visibility include a 360-view camera for perimeter parking and adjacent lane view in the gauge cluster, alternating from left to right dial when a directional signal is activated. instrument panel shows forward-view cameras when you signal a turn.

2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited PHEV - Bottom Line Review
CORD- ABLE BETTER PLACE LIVABLE = Thirteen years after being admitted to the Union and adopting a design by local Daughters of the American Revolution, the State of New Mexico could finally unfurl a banner genuinely it’s own. The 47th State’s red “Zia sun” on a yellow background melds the peace

Chances are you’ll see the cubist 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe on the road by the time of publication of this review.  At its launch, the re-designed 2024 Santa Fe, with standard three-row seating, carries over only the non-plug in hybrid electric powertrain from its predecessor.

Those continuing to require a two row, blingy plug-in hybrid SUV, may consider the slightly tidier Hyundai Tucson PHEV (with a faster 7.2 kW on-board charger).

2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV exterior, grille
2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV: LED lighting, molten steel grille bling

The Mk.4 Hyundai Santa Fe pushed plush and efficiency on the glam two family SUV, but choosing PHEV over HEV implies the high cost of CARB compliance.

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LOWER IN NORTHERN HEMISPHERE LATITUDE : and hence, hotter, than Santa Fe, New Mexico, sits a Sonoran Desert settlement established for New Spain by a red headed Dubliner turned late 18th century Spanish military territorial administrator. Ultimately becoming the oldest city incorporated in the State of Arizona, Tucson is from indigenous