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The Hyundai Santa Fe was named Edmunds.com’s Most Popular Midsize Crossover SUV of 2014. Here is why…

It’s hard out there for a midsize crossover SUV. Merely being good isn’t good enough; it takes a true winner to stand out among today’s galaxy of honest-to-goodness stars. And the 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe is exactly that. Redesigned and markedly improved just last year, the Santa Fe offers everything shoppers have come to expect from Hyundai in recent years — outstanding value, attractive styling and a wealth of feature content — and effectively brings it to the three-row crossover segment.

Even discerning crossover SUV shoppers will be awed by the Santa Fe’s list of attributes. With three rows of seating, up to seven passengers can come along for the ride, and leg- and headroom in the first two rows is generous enough to seat even taller adults in comfort. The cabin is more than just roomy; it’s also wonderful to look at and interact with, thanks to attractive, modern design and well-placed, easy-to-find controls. An eager V6 engine gets you there in a hurry, and the Santa Fe’s myriad standard and optional features represent outstanding value for the price. Topping it all off is a graceful and attractive exterior design that makes this Hyundai one of the more eye-catching models in its class.

The 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe is a six- or seven-passenger midsize crossover SUV that is available in GLS and Limited trim levels. (The smaller Santa Fe Sport seats five and is reviewed separately.)

Standard features on the GLS include 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a rear spoiler, windshield wiper de-icers, cruise control, a trip computer, full power accessories, air-conditioning (with second- and third-row rear vents and controls), a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an eight-way power driver seat (with four-way power lumbar), heated front seats, a 40/20/40-split sliding and reclining second-row seat and a 50/50-split-folding third-row seat. Also standard are a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system, and a six-speaker audio system with CD player, satellite radio, HD radio, USB/iPod integration and a 4.3-inch touchscreen display.

The optional Premium Package for the GLS adds a power liftgate, keyless ignition/entry, a blind spot detection system, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control, an upgraded gauge cluster, leather upholstery, a four-way power front passenger seat and manual rear window shades.

The Santa Fe Limited includes the contents of the Premium package and further adds second-row captain’s chairs.

Both trims can be optioned with the Technology package that gets you 19-inch wheels, a navigation system, 8-inch touchscreen, rear parking sensors, a panoramic sunroof, a 115-volt outlet, ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, driver memory settings and a heated steering wheel. Limited models with this package also receive xenon headlights, LED taillights and a premium sound system (a 10-speaker Dimension system for the GLS or a 12-speaker Infinity surround-sound system for the Limited).

Powering the Santa Fe is a 3.3-liter V6 engine that produces 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a standard six-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive is optional. EPA estimates are 21 mpg combined (18 mpg city/25 mpg highway) on front-wheel-drive models and 20 mpg combined (18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway) with AWD. In Edmunds testing, an AWD Santa Fe Limited went from zero to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds, which is quick compared with others in its class.  Properly equipped, the Santa Fe can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Standard safety features for all 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe models include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and front-seat active head restraints. Also standard are a rearview camera and Blue Link, Hyundai’s emergency telematics system that provides services such as remote access, emergency assistance, theft recovery and geo-fencing. Options include rear parking sensors and a blind spot monitoring system.

In crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Santa Fe earned a top “Good” rating in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. Its seat/head restraint design was also rated “Good” for whiplash protection in rear impacts.  In Edmunds brake testing, a Santa Fe Limited stopped in 125 feet, an average performance for this segment.

Among the numerous competing crossover SUVs in its class, the 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe has one of the nicer cabins of the bunch. This is thanks in no small part to its exceptional materials quality, the thoughtful placement of its controls and its overall spaciousness. As we’ve come to expect from Hyundai, the Santa Fe’s cockpit could serve as a benchmark for elegant simplicity in the segment. Switchgear is well-organized and legible, while the touchscreen menus and functions are as intuitive as it gets.

The front seats are pretty comfortable for longer drives, with enough adjustments to accommodate drivers of all sizes. Second-row passengers will also find the quarters to their liking, with a wide range of recline angle and plenty of head- and legroom, even with the optional panoramic sunroof. The third-row seat is easy to get to and acceptably sized for kids or teens. Adults will be OK in a pinch as well, though some other three-row crossovers offer better comfort and third-row headroom.

In terms of cargo and luggage space, the Santa Fe can hold up to 41 cubic feet of cargo behind the second row of seats. With the second row folded, the Santa Fe can hold up to 80 cubic feet, but if all the seats are in use, you only have 13.5 cubic feet behind the third row. This is similar to what the Durango or Pathfinder offer, but bigger vehicles like the Mazda CX-9 easily best these figures.

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