2022 Hyundai Santa Fe XRT 2.5 Is a Slow Faux Off-Roader

Like Honda, with its new TrailSport badge, and Subaru, with its budding Wilderness line, Hyundai has spotted a growing market for mainstream SUVs cosplaying as serious off-roaders. This prompted the introduction of the rugged-looking XRT trim across Hyundai’s SUV lineup, starting with the 2022 Santa Fe. But while the Honda and Subaru entries receive at least some equipment upgrades—like chunkier tires or a slight suspension lift—the Santa Fe XRT is simply gussied up with bulkier bumpers and tough styling cues to cultivate a trail-ready persona. Underneath, it remains mechanically identical to other Santa Fe models. Look past the bolder appearance and the XRT changes little about the Santa Fe’s driving experience, with the solid steering and handling undercut by the only available engine, a lackluster 2.5-liter inline-four.

The XRT’s brawn comes via chunkier plastic cladding, revised bumpers, and a redesigned grille. Sidesteps and crossbars for the roof rails are standard. The XRT-exclusive black 18-inch wheels wear street-oriented tires, and the XRT’s claim to off-road credibility is further undermined by the fact that in base form, it’s front-wheel drive. Our test car was equipped with all-wheel drive, a $1700 add-on to the $34,045 starting price.

This was our first chance to sample the Santa Fe’s base powertrain, a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder. With just 191 horsepower, the 2.5-liter lags far behind the optional 277-hp turbocharged engine and the 226-hp hybrid setup. And the XRT was among the slowest 2022 cars we’ve tested. It plodded to 60 mph in 9.6 seconds, while a turbocharged 2021 Santa Fe hit 60 mph in a brisk 6.0 seconds.

The real drag is that reaching 70 mph takes an additional 2.7 seconds, making highway merging a white-knuckle experience. Passing on two-lane roads also requires advanced planning, with the 30-to-50-mph jump lasting 4.6 seconds and the 50-to-70-mph run taking 6.2 seconds. While that is glacially slow by modern standards, the Santa Fe doesn’t feel as lethargic in city driving, where the 2.5-liter is peppy enough to keep up with traffic.

Despite the lack of engine gusto, the Santa Fe delivers solid, if not especially exciting, driving dynamics. The steering is accurate and feels weighty for a mainstream crossover, and the Santa Fe handles curvy roads impressively for a vehicle of its size, minimizing body roll well. On the skidpad, we recorded 0.85 g of grip, a fairly good showing just shy of the sporty Chevy Blazer RS’s 0.87 g.

The eight-speed automatic gearbox generally shifts smoothly, but when you mat the throttle in Comfort mode, the transmission occasionally hunts for gears or gets flustered. Sport mode, meanwhile, holds revs for as long as possible, emphasizing the engine’s unrefined groan yet failing to make the Santa Fe feel more athletic. The brake pedal, by contrast, provides a progressive, predictable feel, making it easy to slow the SUV smoothly. We measured a 178-foot stop from 70 mph, which betters the Honda Passport TrailSport’s 184 feet but is well behind the Blazer’s short 165-foot stop.

While the Santa Fe handles competently, the ride could be improved. For the most part, the Hyundai is a comfortable commuter but was jittery over the rougher patches of pavement that dot Michigan’s roads. While the steering wheel remains isolated from these bumps, bigger jolts are felt very clearly through the seat. The street-oriented tires may dilute the XRT’s all-terrain image, but beefier off-road rubber would have worsened the handling and increased tire noise on the highway.

The options list for the XRT is quite short, with our test car tacking on $400 for Calypso Red paint and $195 for carpeted floor mats. The XRT is based on the Santa Fe SEL with the convenience package, and its amenities include a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, a wireless charging pad, and two USB ports for the front passengers. The XRT comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, but we never found ourselves wishing for the bigger display that other trims offer. The infotainment system also supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and rear passengers are treated to two USB ports and a pair of A/C vents.

While some hard plastics can be found among the interior, there are soft materials in most of the places that matter, and build quality feels strong. The cabin isn’t the most eye-catching, but the buttons are organized well, and the design is functional. We found the eight-way power-adjustable cloth driver’s seat fairly comfortable, if a bit flat. Without the panoramic sunroof that comes on upper trims, headroom is decent in the front and rear, and passengers in the back enjoy plenty of legroom as well. The XRT’s sidesteps complicate climbing aboard—the model has no increase in ride height, so the steps aren’t necessary, and unless you want to take any extra step to exit the vehicle, you need to swing your legs uncomfortably far to clear them.

Because the XRT package doesn’t bring mechanical upgrades, its value is dubious. Some may find the more adventurous styling appealing, but they’d have to put up with the slothful acceleration of the 2.5-liter engine. We’d pick either of the other available powertrains and a different Santa Fe trim.

Specifications

Specifications

2022 Hyundai Santa Fe XRT AWD
Vehicle Type: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon

PRICE

Base/As Tested: $35,745/$36,340
Options: Calypso Red paint, $400; carpeted floor mats, $195

ENGINE

DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 152 in3, 2497 cm3
Power: 191 hp @ 6100 rpm
Torque: 181 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm

TRANSMISSION

8-speed automatic

CHASSIS

Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 13.6-in vented disc/12.0-in disc
Tires: Kumho Crugen Premium
235/60R-18 103H M+S

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase: 108.9 in
Length: 188.4 in
Width: 74.8 in
Height: 67.3 in
Passenger Volume: 112 ft3
Cargo Volume: 36 ft3
Curb Weight: 3858 lb

C/D TEST RESULTS

60 mph: 9.6 sec
1/4-Mile: 17.2 sec @ 82 mph
100 mph: 26.9 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 9.7 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 4.6 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 6.2 sec
Top Speed (mfr’s claim): 115 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 178 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.85 g

C/D FUEL ECONOMY

Observed: 21 mpg
75-mph Highway Driving: 29 mpg
75-mph Highway Range: 540 mi

EPA FUEL ECONOMY

Combined/City/Highway: 24/22/25 mpg

C/D TESTING EXPLAINED

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