Hyundai Tucson vs Santa Fe: Which Is the Better Crossover?
John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John’s focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of an academic team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of the battery thermal control designer. After earning his engineering degree, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University. For 20 years, he applied his engineering and sales talents in the worlds of semiconductor manufacturing, biopharmaceutical production, and automotive electronics supply chain. Always a writer, John has published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career and dedicated himself to chasing his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to online publications such as Car Talk, John’s work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers, and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites.
Shoppers searching for a modern, upscale two-row crossover will find Hyundai has many from which to choose. So, I tested both the Hyundai Tucson and Santa Fe to see how they line up.
The Tucson is a compact five-passenger crossover about the size of the Toyota RAV4.
The Santa Fe is also a five-passenger crossover, but it has a smidge more interior passenger room and performance than the Tucson line offers.
Table of Contents
Hyundai Tucson vs. Hyundai Santa Fe Comparison
|Number Of Seats
Behind Second, First row
|Top Trim MPG / Hybrid
Is the Hyundai Tucson Right For You?
Shoppers who may be considering a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 but want something a little more upscale and modern may find the Tucson fits the bill. I thought the Tucson has an interior that is sleeker and more modern-looking than the mainstream crossovers in this segment.
The Tucson features infotainment and controls “exempt from hard-touch buttons,” as Hyundai puts it. That means you need to use the infotainment screen to do almost everything. While the look appeals to us, in our testing, the volume knob was missed, and the HVAC controls were difficult to operate without taking eyes off the road.
The Tucson uses a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder (non-turbo) engine as its main engine, and its power and fuel economy are comparable with most of the vehicles in this class. Hyundai has moved back to a traditional geared automatic after many years of quality problems with its dual-clutch transmissions. There is also a hybrid and plug-in hybrid version of the Tucson.
In our testing of the $38,704 Tucson Limited Hybrid AWD, we found the powertrain to be one of our favorite features of the vehicle. The Eco Mode is more than powerful enough for everyday driving, and the Sport mode made the vehicle fun and responsive on mountain roads.
Is the Hyundai Santa Fe Right For You?
Although the Santa Fe is a bit larger outside, I didn’t feel as if it were much larger inside than the Tucson. In fact, according to Hyundai’s specifications, the Tucson has a larger cargo area. What the Santa Fe does add are power and features.
Our $43,430 Caligraphy trim Santa Fe 2.5T AWD tester immediately impressed us with an interior that seemed richer and more luxurious than the top-trim Tucson we had just stepped out of. Furthermore, the engine is more powerful than the smaller turbocharged hybrid engine in the Tucson Hybrid Limited. One notable added feature was the head-up display that made keeping our eyes on the road easier.
Subjectively, the Santa Fe seems to have more passenger space in front. For example, in the Tucson, we found the driver’s right knee area too close to the console for comfort. The rear passenger space of the Santa Fe also seemed subjectively larger. Hyundai has not released interior passenger space specifications, or we would know for certain if our impressions were correct.
Both vehicles drive smoothly and turn without feeling tippy. However, the Santa Fe feels a bit more substantial when underway. This is subjective, but the numbers also point to the Santa Fe having more mass.
The Tale of the Tape - Capacities
The biggest surprise for us was that Hyundai lists the Tucson as having a larger cargo volume. Inside, the Santa Fe seems a bit larger, but not dramatically so.
The Santa Fe can tow up to 3,500 pounds and the Tucson 2,000. These are decent numbers for smaller crossovers, but the RAV4 Prime can tow up to 2,500 pounds, and the Honda Passport can tow up to 5,000 pounds. This is just one example of how we felt the Tucson and Santa Fe are crossovers more than “SUVs.”
The Tucson starts at just under $27K and rises to nearly $40K in the Hybrid trim. The plug-In hybrid version’s pricing has not yet been announced and will be higher, but will also likely qualify for tax incentives and rebates in some states. As always, our prices include Hyundai’s mandatory freight charges.
The Hyundai Santa Fe starts at $29K and can rise in price to $45K. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid prices have not yet been announced. They will be a bit more, but the plug-in may come with some EV incentives depending upon your state.
Current Hyundai Tucson & Santa Fe Deals & Incentives
|Cash Incentives (up to)
|Best Avail. APR
|Cash Incentives (up to)
|Best Avail. APR
You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Hyundai deals here.
EPA Fuel Economy
The Tucson and Santa Fe models all use regular unleaded gasoline. The mileage will depend upon your choice of trim and powertrain. Both the Tucson and Santa Fe use a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine as their base engine. Both also are available as a hybrid trim, and later, a plug-in hybrid will become available.
I was unimpressed with the 2022 Tucson Limited Hybrid AWD we tested. It displayed a 29 MPG average over our week of testing. Well short of the EPA estimated 38. Our short-term test may not be indicative of the vehicle’s MPG overall, but we seldom test a vehicle that does not meet the EPA Combined estimate. Most vehicles we test exceed that estimate.
The 2022 Tucson has not yet been tested by IIHS, but the 2021 model earned a Top Safety Pick award. The current generation Hyundai Santa Fe has earned a Top Safety Pick award from IIHS.
The base SE trim of both the Tucson and Santa Fe lacks some popular active safety equipment such as Blind Spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which one is better, the Hyundai Tucson or Hyundai Santa Fe?
The Santa Fe is positioned above the Tucson in Hyundai’s lineup. Though both are similar in size, the Santa Fe has some features the Tucson does not offer.
How many rows of seating does the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe have?
Hyundai has gone back and forth with the number of rows of its Santa Fe. For 2021, the model now has just two rows. Hyundai’s new Palisade is its three-row crossover SUV.
Which one is bigger, the Hyundai Tucson or Hyundai Santa Fe?
Externally, the Hyundai Santa Fe is a bit bigger than the Tucson. However, inside both are similar in size. Interestingly, Hyundai says the Tucson has a bit more cargo volume.
Which one has a higher towing capacity, the Hyundai Tucson or Hyundai Santa Fe?
The Hyundai Santa Fe has a higher towing capacity (up to 3,500 pounds) than the Hyundai Tucson (up to 2,000 pounds).