The Inside

The Santa Fe's all-new cabin is a big improvement over its predecessor's aging design. The Limited trim level had a number of unexpected details, like dual sunglass holders, a woven headliner, thick carpeted floormats, rich bluish-purple lighting and active head restraints for the front seats that adjust forward and back as well as up and down.

That's not to say it got everything right. While the silver-colored trim pieces in Hyundai's new Veracruz three-row crossover actually look pretty good, the treatment in the Santa Fe looks a little cheap; black plastic would have been fine instead. The brown faux wood trim is unconvincing, and the turn-signal stalk has a notchy feel. That said, other trim and dashboard plastic has nice graining, and the overall fit and finish is good.

The cabin had a hint of the chemically new-car smell that's plagued a number of Hyundais we've tested, but it wasn't as bad as others, and it should fade over time. Cloth seats are standard and leather ones are optional. The leather front bucket seats have firm cushioning but offer a comfortable driving position. Even though the Santa Fe's side windows taper upward toward the rear of the cabin, overall visibility from the driver's seat is good.

The second-row seat offers just enough legroom for tall adults (my knees were touching the back of the front seat) but there's good foot room and generous headroom. As in the front of the cabin, the second row has extra details like air-conditioning vents in the B-pillars.

Reclining the 60/40-split second-row seats in our five-person Santa Fe meant lifting a handle at the top of the seat. While it works just fine, it's not as convenient as the low-mounted lever on the side of the seat cushion that some SUVs have. The optional Touring Package includes a 50/50-split third-row seat that increases the Santa Fe's seat count to seven.

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