Hyundai has been rolling out a flurry of innovative and smartly designed CUVs lately, so it’s not surprising to see another pop up on our latest Wards 10 Best list. The new Hyundai Santa Fe took Wards 10 Best UX honors last fall, and the Kona EV and fuel-cell-powered Nexo earned spots on Wards 10 Best Engines and Propulsion Systems list in January.
When our testing turned inward again for Wards 10 Best Interiors, the Santa Fe caught our attention again, this time for its high-quality materials, attention to detail and overall value.
The Santa Fe’s headliner and speaker grilles are examples of Hyundai designers’ uncommon attention to detail. Aside from ultra-luxury vehicles, these materials and surfaces typically go unnoticed, yet they immediately caught our eye.
Instead of anonymous fabric or ugly “mouse fur,” the Santa Fe headliner is a nicely textured blend of gray and ivory threads that remind us of a tweed blazer (pictured below). The audio system speaker grilles are raised and patterned to become design elements that add character to normally bland door panels.
“A door panel says a lot about a vehicle interior and how much attention to detail was paid by the design team,” says editor Tom Murphy. “The two-tone, mauve/brown panels, accented by metallic trim, is beautifully integrated on the Santa Fe door.”
Editors also pointed out the layered shapes of the instrument panel, artfully designed to be functional and appealing.
Beyond that, our top-line Ultimate AWD version featured high-quality matte-wood finishes, contrast stitching on the seats and brushed aluminum sill plates that are a cut above what we typically see in mainstream CUVs that max out at about $40,000.
For 10 Best Interiors testing we do not devote as much testing time to user-experience design and advanced driver-assist systems, but we don’t ignore them. And once again we tip our hats to Hyundai’s UX and ADAS design teams and suppliers.
The Santa Fe scores high marks for the excellent ergonomics for all its controls. As we said last year during our UX testing, the Interior layout gushes with great UX design. There are big, easy-to-use volume and climate-control knobs and large buttons slightly angled to driver, and all displays arranged according to cognitive workload.
Information the driver must see frequently is placed in front, at eye level, in the HUD and central instrument cluster. Less critical infotainment functions are in the center stack display, again at eye level.
“All of this comes in a roomy, comfortable vehicle with great utility and tons of standard safety technology you sometimes can’t get standard in 6-figure luxury vehicles,” sums up editor Christie Schweinsberg.