Produced by the Korean company Hyundai, their first entry into the sports utility vehicle market was Santa Fe which began production in 2000 and saw release in 2001.
This sports utility vehicle led to an immediate boost with its American popularity as the United States loved the car. The name is based after the city of Santa Fe in New Mexico and is now in its 4th generation with over 20 years’ worth of models, trims, and versions.
It started as a compact CUV but switched to a mid-sized crossover SUV in its second generation, which it has retained since, with later versions also being available in extended long-wheelbase versions.
The various models raise the question of which ones are the best and worst years for Hyundai Santa Fe, and I will be ranking the models and giving my reasoning on them.
Best Years for Hyundai Santa Fe:
Worst Years for Hyundai Santa Fe:
Now that you know where each model ranks, I should tell you why this is so.
List Of The Best Years For The Hyundai Santa Fe: What Years To Buy
The best years for the Hyundai Santa Fe offer many great quality cars with little to no problems.
#1 Best Year: 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe
Due to having the least amount of problems, outstanding performance, lots of safety features, and a third row that allows for seven passengers inside the car, the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe ranks at the top of my list, and rightfully so.
Coming in at four different trims, the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe had a V6 engine as standard, offering power and performance that rivaled competitors such as Ford and Honda.
This model suffered from the few problems among the latest and recent models released over the years and even beat the earlier models by a landslide.
Since it is a fairly recent model, it has many high-tech features and technology that separate it from the earlier vintage models. Overall it is a solid vehicle that features a good amount of comfortability and power and is the best in the lineup.
#2 Best Year: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
The reason why the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe ranks below the 2018 Santa Fe is likely because it made its debut with a bit more problems than it and reduced the overall seats to 5, knocking it down to number 2 in my list.
These problems, however, were not enough to stop the 2019 Santa Fe from being simply spectacular, laying proper emphasis on comfort and passenger occupancy, despite having fewer seats than the previous model.
It made slight improvements to the Turbo engine, which made it more smooth and improved ride comfortability. Overall, this model also had improved value, giving it a solid second place.
#3 Best Year: 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe
Following the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe trend and having many fewer problems that we know of, the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe is still in its early stages and has few known problems that could easily change, which is why it was best to give this 3rd place.
The 2020 model continues the idea of having a less number of seats but being more comfortable. This model also features improvements to the engine, making the car more comfortable to ride in and more smooth to drive.
The car is available in 5 different trims, offering features such as blind-spot camera systems to help you navigate better.
#4 Best Year: 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe
Taking a step back in time, the first model of the Hyundai Santa Fe was met with cautious optimism.
While it wasn’t anything too fancy, the 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe was a great starting model of the series, had very few problems, and was overall a reliable vehicle which is why it takes 4th place on my list.
The model offered exceptional handling for the time, with a decent turning radius and large cargo area with five-passenger occupancy.
It also came with great protection plans, with the standard warranty being five years/60,000 miles, bumper to bumper, and ten years or 100,000 miles on the powertrain, which is the best in the industry.
#5 Best Year: 2006 Hyundai Santa Fe
Releasing with three different trims and very few problems, the 2006 Hyundai Santa Fe easily takes 6th place due to the quality handling, visibility, and passenger space it offers.
The model was fresh off several design refinements, which were much appreciated by customers, ranking as one of the easiest SUVs on the market to drive.
The car handles admirably and performs proficiently, all while being a very spacious SUV that runs quietly and smoothly.
The car featured a much stronger 3.5-liter V6 engine, which unfortunately did not have the performance many people expected, yet another reason it ranks so low on this list.
#6 Best Year: 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe
Taking another step back to the extremely earlier models, we get the 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe, which ranks at 6th place on the list due to having slightly more problems than the 2001 and 2006 models and its laughably bad exterior, which many people did not like.
The car is available in 3 different trims. Like its predecessor, it is a five-seater SUV featuring good storage space and offers a decent amount of comfortability.
While the steering was pretty good, it felt slightly light and was less responsive than the models above it, which hurt its position.
#7 Best Year: 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe
As the years increased from the first model of the lineup, the problems started to increase, so the 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe ranks at 7th place below the 2001 model. It slightly has more problems that hurt its position.
This five-seater SUV was also available in 3 different trims and offered a complete bargain of a price because compared to the $30K+ SUVs on the market, being able to buy one for around $17K brand new is a steal!
This did not mean that the company cut corners to reduce the price, as the 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe had a lot of power under the hood and offered great mileage and exceptional warranty.
#8 Best Year: 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe
Moving back to the modern era, the 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe ranks at last position on my list because despite featuring redesign, the car was only released with two different trims and had relatively poor mileage, on top of having a couple more problems than the models above it which forced me to place this otherwise great model at last place.
The redesign was not limited to the exterior but also featured a stylish interior with seven seats, meaning more cargo space and passenger occupancy.
For people who did not want the 3-row model, you could also purchase the five-seater model, which was also just as good but had less cargo storage.
List Of The Worst Years For The Hyundai Santa Fe: What Years To Avoid
The worst years for the Hyundai Santa Fe provide users with frustrating experiences riddled with problems and recalls.
Here are the models you should avoid below:
#1 Worst Year: 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe
While the competition was close, the reason why the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe takes first place as the worst model on this list is simply that the vehicle suffered from so many problems that it was impossible for it not to take this position.
Being the victim of 9 different recalls and various problems spanning from the fuel system to the interior to the engine, the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe had a habit of ignition coil misfire and engine failure and leaking gaskets, and check engine light turning on.
The model was fitted with a defective sun visor that would break easily, and the fuel gauge was defective and did not show proper readings.
The vehicle also had chances of stop lamps not turning on, sometimes disabling cruise control, increasing the chances of a crash. This issue led to a massive recall.
#2 Worst Year: 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe
Moving forward a couple of years, the 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe takes second place on my list.
This is because it had more widespread problems than the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe but suffered from 6 fewer recalls. The most common problem of the car was the engine stalling and eventually dying.
This issue was reported by various is a huge downside of the car. Other issues include the paint of the car peeling off, which was yet another common complaint.
The fuel level sensors would eventually stop working, which led to another problem where the fuel gauge would not show the proper fuel level.
#3 Worst Year: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe
The reason why the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe takes 3rd place on this list is due to the various amount of complaints sent out by customers and the NHTSA regarding the vehicle’s engine.
Suffering from 2 recalls, engine failure was the most common complaint people had against the car, and for a good reason, it would require the complete replacement of the engine to fix.
Steering problems were also observed in the car, drifting to certain sides. This was yet another annoyance the people had to deal with, along with the problematic interior of the car, which was riddled with different problems.
#4 Worst Year: 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe
The 2008 model had many fewer problems than the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe but still had a long way to be completely problem-free as it still suffered from 6 recalls. These are the main reasons it was placed below the 2007 model at 4th place.
The fuel issues that plagued the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe were still present in this model, which were about the fuel level sensors being defective.
The engine had its share of motor stalling and leaky gaskets on the alternator. This, in turn, made the fuel gauge display the wrong value to the driver as well.
#5 Worst Year: 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe
The 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe took a turn for the worse as it had a lot more problems than its predecessor but not enough to earn it a higher position on this list which is why it takes 5th place.
The 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe’s engine was prone to engine failure and stalling. It would randomly shut down while driving and lag when starting.
Damage to the engine could also start a fire and further increase stalling, which would increase the chances of a crash. Suffering from only a single recall, this issue would be the main reason why the model would receive such poor reception.
#6 Worst Year: 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe
Only suffering from 2 recalls and having the most problems localized in its engine, the 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe used these two features to avoid earlier spots on this list and instead ranked 6th.
The recall was related to the secondary hood latch, which would bind itself instead of latching, opening up while driving and leading to a crash.
The engine, much like its predecessors, followed the common trend of stalling and stopping while driving, eventually to the point where it would fail and need to be replaced.
The interior did not fare as well either as the fuel gauge was still faulty, or the blind spot detection system was malfunctioning.
#7 Worst Year: 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe
The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe is ranked at 7th place due to the five recalls and various complaints from customers and the NHTSA regarding its transmission, steering, and engine.
The engine received the brunt of the NHTSA complaints where the engine would lose power while driving. The steering would drift to one side while the transmission would show poor shifting in cruise control and hesitate often.
Engine failure was still common at this point which is just sad.
#8 Worst Year: 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe
The 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe takes the last place because it has the least amount of problems among the entire batch, but there are still enough to call it a bad model.
Only suffering from 3 recalls and many engine problems, the 2011 model would be fairly decent were it not for the frequent stalling, seizing, and clunking sound, which made it difficult to drive and annoying to deal with.
What Are The Most Common Problems With The Hyundai Santa Fe?
The Hyundai Santa Fe undoubtedly had some great models over the years.
However, no car is without its flaws. Sometimes these flaws can easily persist from one model to another due to bad manufacturing or lack of care given to the products. This results in widespread problems across multiple years.
Here are a few common problems which Hyundai Santa Fe suffered from below:
1. Interior Issues
Various models of the Hyundai Santa Fe have suffered from different interior problems over the years.
The first of these problems is most common in early models and is related to the airbags. Drivers reported that their airbag light would illuminate irregularly, which required the car to be serviced to be fixed.
This eventually led to a recall. Another problem was related to the car’s speakers, which would stop working around the 50,000-mile mark. Luckily this had an easy fix and needed a reset to be resolved.
2. Engine And Fuel Problems
The engine is the most important and problem-prone component of any car. The Hyundai Santa Fe, the model, released around 2012, would suffer from engine failure around 80,000 miles.
This would end with the entire replacement of the engine, which is no doubt very costly. Engine stalling & stopping were common while driving and could easily lead to a bad situation. This eventually led to a recall of the affected models.
On the same note, the fuel gauge was also unreliable and gave wrong readings of fuel which was also fixed by the entire replacement. This problem was common in the 2007 & 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe.
3. Bad Exterior
Another common and annoying issue with the Hyundai Santa Fe is the paint problem that affects the car’s body.
Drivers reported excessive paint peeling at the worst and slight chipping and flaking at best, both of which destroy the car’s beauty and are not cheap to fix.
While this is no safety risk and poses no danger, it can easily ruin the aesthetic of your car and is quite common among various Hyundai Santa Fe models.
Related: Why Won’t My Hyundai Santa Fe Start?
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What Is The Life Expectancy Of A Hyundai Santa Fe?
Hyundai is a dedicated vehicle manufacturing company that puts out long-lasting for its customers. The Hyundai Santa Fe is no different and can easily last 200,000 miles without major breakdowns or maintenance.
If you put in the proper maintenance and make sure to drive within the car’s limits, you can easily bump this number an extra 100,000, as with the proper care of your vehicle, you can easily boost its life and reduce the need for repairs.
Related: How Long Do Hyundai Santa Fe Last?
Q2. Are Hyundai Santa Fe Expensive To Fix?
Since the Santa Fe series has been around for well over two decades, you can bet that it should be relatively easy to fix. This is because of the easy availability of spare parts, which can come very cheap.
Apart from this, reports show that the Hyundai Santa Fe has an average repair cost of 8,056 in its first ten years which is $824 less than the industry average.
While maintenance and repair costs will increase over time, they still should be relevantly cheaper than most other cars.
Q3. What Is The Resale Value Of A Hyundai Santa Fe?
Having readily available spare parts and a durable body was not enough to save the Hyundai Santa Fe from having a mediocre resale value.
While the car can hold up in terms of value quite nicely, it is still not enough compared to other models in its category, with the Hyundai Santa Fe losing one-third of its value every three years and dropping to half its price after five years of release.
You should consider the 2019 Santa Fe, which has its value at 66% price as new for resale value.
Q4. Which Is Better Hyundai Santa Fe Or RAV4?
The Hyundai Santa Fe and the RAV4 both have the same amount of passenger occupancy space and roughly the same cargo space, and the same amount of fuel efficiency.
While being a bit more expensive than the RAV4, the Hyundai Santa Fe is better than its competitor due to having much higher torque and sending the engine’s horsepower to the wheels.
Performance-wise the Hyundai Santa Fe also has a leg up, having more towing capacity overall. This easily proves that the Hyundai Santa Fe is better than the RAV4.
Q5. Is There A Recall On Hyundai Santa Fe Engines?
Hyundai Santa Fe models ranging from 2012 to 2014 suffered from manufacturing defects related to the engine, which led to them being recalled by the company.
This led to the engine eventually becoming inoperable, which caused major backlash to the company, which resulted in them issuing a recall on the affected vehicles.
This was done in coordination with the NHTSA, which complained about the Hyundai Santa Fe’s repeated engine failure and engine fires along with engine knocking, stalling, and stopping entirely.
When talking about the best and worst years for Hyundai Santa Fe, you have to consider many different approaches and features to understand where the particular model lies.
The 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe had many problems, which is why it was considered the worst model while it was the opposite for the 2018 model, which had little to no issues and is a solid model in all categories.
Hopefully, this article helped you understand why I ranked each model as I did, and you use this information to your advantage.
Hi there! I am Tahir Azam, and this is my blog. WVDOT Automotive is a website dedicated to creating high-quality content for car enthusiasts. I am also an avid car driver. I own and drive a Porsche for my daily tasks. It is the perfect vehicle for my family. I am a proud father of two boys. I spend my mornings and evenings catering to clients at my very own software hub. After getting home, I dedicate a few hours of my time to creating an article every day. Well, this is a short introduction about me and I am also a publisher on Amazon. I hope you enjoy reading through my articles, and I also hope that I may have helped you choose an upgrade for your vehicle.