The Santa Fe XRT may look rugged, but its cosmetic changes can't hide a letdown of an engine.
Hyundai is the latest manufacturer to come out with an off-road appearance package for its SUVs , and the 2022 Santa Fe is the first model to receive the new XRT treatment. While the Santa Fe remains a great SUV and the XRT bits do give it a fairly cool look, this new model doesn't add enough substance and has some major shortcomings.
Instead of being a package that you can add to different trim levels, the XRT is its own standalone trim that builds off the Santa Fe SEL with Convenience package. The XRT has different fasciae with faux skid plates finished in dark silver, additional black plastic moldings on the lower bumpers and doors, fairly useless side steps, black mirrors, a matte black grille with a new pattern, adjustable roof rails and black 18-inch wheels. The differences are more apparent on a brighter color; this XRT's Portofino Gray paint masks most of the changes.
Upper trim levels of the Santa Fe get an excellent turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and the SUV's hybrid and plug-in-hybrid models are offered in the midrange SEL trim, but the XRT is only available with the base naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-4. Front-wheel drive is standard, a strange choice for an SUV with aspirationally rugged looks, but my XRT test car has the $1,700 optional all-wheel-drive system. An eight-speed automatic is also standard across the lineup.
With only 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque, the Santa Fe XRT's base engine feels too damn slow for modern roads. It's all right around town, but the XRT is sluggish when entering on-ramps and passing at highway speeds, requiring me to regularly put my foot to the floor to keep up with traffic. The engine is loud and coarse, too, with plenty of noise and vibrations entering the cabin under acceleration. Fuel economy isn't great either. The Santa Fe XRT is rated at just 22 mpg in the city, and I find that its 25-mpg highway rating is difficult to match.
On the other hand, ride quality is excellent thanks to the XRT's thick tire sidewalls, and the Santa Fe's handling is generally composed and not foo floaty. But the 235/60R18 Kumho Crugen all-season tires don't even pretend to be all-terrains, so they don't add any actual capability, and they're the same tires used on other Santa Fe variants.
The Santa Fe's interior remains one of the best in the segment. The XRT doesn't add any unique cabin features, using the same cloth upholstery and dark trim pieces as other Santa Fe models. I really like how the cloth seats look and feel, and the interior as a whole still has a fresh design, even if the all-black look is pretty boring. The XRT uses the Santa Fe's base 8-inch touchscreen setup -- the larger 10.3-inch screen isn't available -- but the system is well laid out and easy to use, and it includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There's tons of space inside for both people and cargo, and the second-row seats easily slide and recline.
The XRT comes with everything from the SEL trim's $1,700 Convenience package, like a hands-free power tailgate, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear sunshades, Hyundai's digital key, an auto-dimming rear view mirror and exterior puddle lamps. Other standard features include heated front seats, a power driver's seat, a wireless phone charger, auto up/down front windows and keyless start, all of which the SEL also gets.
Sadly, the Santa Fe XRT isn't available with the SEL's $4,060 Premium package, which includes leather seats, a power passenger seat, panoramic sunroof, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, LED taillights and Hyundai's great Highway Driving Assist system. But every Santa Fe comes standard with loads of safety systems, including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, lane-centering assist, safe exit assist, ultrasonic rear occupant alert and automated emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection.
The Santa Fe XRT starts at $33,995 including a $1,245 destination charge, with my test car coming in at $35,890 after adding AWD and $195 carpeted floor mats. That's a $1,795 upcharge over an AWD Santa FE SEL with the Convenience package, and $4,765 cheaper than a front-drive Santa Fe Limited, which is the least expensive way to get the turbo engine. And the entry-level Santa Fe Hybrid Blue, which has standard AWD and a turbocharged powertrain with much better fuel economy, is $345 cheaper than this XRT. Hyundai's Santa Fe deserves to be near the top of your midsize-crossover shopping list, but for as cool as the XRT trim may look, it's just not worth the money.