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Amongst people shopping for two-row SUVs, the Hyundai Santa Fe and RAV4 are going to be towards the top of many lists. These vehicles, first and foremost, are quite capable. They're available with various trims and different powertrains, so they give customers plenty of options to consider. Also, they have the interior space that many are looking for.
Since the two models have a similar starting price point and have many of the same high-tech elements, it may be hard for some people to decide between the two. The intent of this overview is to provide customers with the information they need to figure out whether the Santa Fe or RAV4 would be a better fit.
For now, there are two available powertrains with the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe. The first two trims out of the six-trim lineup use 2.5-liter engines. They can generate 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque, and they can tow up to 2,000 pounds. These are all very respectable numbers, and they'll likely satisfy a lot of people.
The higher trims of the Santa Fe have even better capability. They run on 2.5-liter turbocharged engines that can make 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. Obviously, this is going to make these SUVs much more responsive. It could be pretty exciting to be in charge of an engine that has this much power. With one of these engines, the Hyundai could tow up to 3,500 pounds.
A hybrid version of the Santa Fe is coming soon, but it's not yet ready for the market. Expect this to bring some more attention to this Hyundai SUV, especially given many consumer's hopes to reduce their gas consumption.
The smaller Santa Fe engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic engine, while the larger version uses an eight-speed wet dual clutch transmission. Both have a SHIFTRONIC feature, and this allows drivers to manually shift whenever they'd like to. They also have Drive Mode Select so that people can select a more eco-friendly driving mode or a sport mode that is a bit more exciting. The default driving mode would be somewhere in between these two.
In the Toyota RAV4, the standard engine has a displacement of 2.5 liters as well. It does not have a turbocharger, but it can churn out 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It can tow 1,500 pounds, so it's not at the same level as the Santa Fe in this regard. With this engine, the SUV would have an eight-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. There is a manual override in case people wanted to exercise more control over shifting.
There is a hybrid version of the RAV4 that's fairly popular. Several trims have this hybrid option, and all of them use 2.5-liter engines along with electric motors. They have a total horsepower of 219, so they're more powerful than their traditional counterparts. They can tow up to 1,750 pounds.
A hybrid RAV4 will automatically come with all-wheel drive. There are some select trims of the RAV4 that are also only offered as all-wheel-drive models. All the rest of the RAV4, as well as all of the Santa Fe trims, come standard as front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive being optional.
Though the Santa Fe has the more powerful turbo engine available, the RAV4 could be seen as the more durable SUV. Those non-hybrid models equipped with all-wheel drive have a Multi-Terrain Select program. It comes with snow, mud and sand, and rock and dirt drive modes. This certainly indicates that the RAV4 has been designed to handle rugged terrain. Hybrid RAV4s have Trail mode, in addition to Sport, Eco, Normal, and EV mode. Some Toyota models have downhill assist control to limit speed when traveling down steep hills.
Both the Santa Fe and RAV4 have hill start assist control. This can ensure that they don't roll backwards on hills. This feature can be useful when someone has come to a stop on a slope, facing upwards. During the few seconds it takes for a driver to switch from the brake to the gas pedal, these SUVs can hold pressure on the brakes.
There are two RAV4 trims that have specifically been built for adventure-minded drivers. One is aptly named the Adventure, and the other is the TRD Off-Road. They have higher quality all-wheel drive systems called Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive, and the TRD Off-Road has a special suspension system to better handle the ups and downs of the trail.
When analyzing efficiency, it's clear that the RAV4 is going to be the winner of the matchup. That's because it has several hybrid trims, which can achieve up to 41 miles per gallon in the city and 38 miles per gallon on the highway. A non-hybrid RAV4 can still earn an estimated 27 miles per gallon in the city and 35 miles per gallon on the highway. These are actually pretty solid numbers. With the Hyundai Santa Fe, the best that it can do is 25 mile per gallon in the city and 28 miles per gallon on the highway.
For many years, Hyundai has been generous with its warranties. Its Santa Fe comes with a powertrain limited warranty of ten years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. In contrast, the warranty on the RAV4's powertrain is good for five years or 60,000 miles.
These two vehicles handle well, and they feel athletic and agile. The turbocharged Santa Fe, in particular, is fast and responsive. These SUVs aren't so large that they would give people trouble when parking, and yet, they still have a generous amount of interior space, especially when the rear seats have been folded down.
The Santa Fe is the larger model out of the two SUVs. It has a length of 188.4 inches, compared with the RAV4 that measures 180.9 inches from end to end. It's a bit wider, too, though it's slightly shorter than the RAV4 is. The RAV4 has a ground clearance of over eight inches, which some people may prefer. The Santa Fe's ground clearance is under eight inches.
Because it does have some additional length, the Santa Fe feels really spacious. It has 44.1 and 41.7 inches of leg room in its first and second rows, respectively. Behind the seats, there is a cargo area that has a volume of 36.4 cubic feet. When the rear seats are lowered, there's an impressive 72.1 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
In comparison, the RAV4 has 41.0 and 37.8 inches of leg room in each of its rows. This is still plenty of space for five people to comfortably fit in the cabin together. The rear cargo area has a volume of 37.6 cubic feet, and maximum capacity is 37.6 cubic feet.
From a multimedia perspective, these two models have a lot to offer. An eight-inch touchscreen is found on the lower trims of the Hyundai Santa Fe. Its higher trims have 10.25-inch touchscreens with integrated navigation and premium audio systems with 12 speakers. Every Hyundai trim has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth, and most have wireless charging, Blue Link Connected Car Services, and HD Radio. Something that passengers will appreciate is Rear Seat Quiet Mode. If they want to listen to something else on their personal devices or simply want a peaceful ride, the rear-seat volume can be turned down.
A seven-inch touchscreen is standard in the Toyota RAV4. It comes with smartphone compatibility, along with Amazon Alexa, Bluetooth, and SiriusXM. The standard infotainment system can be linked with Toyota connected services, which means that people can use their phones to check on their vehicles and that the SUVs can act as Wi-Fi hotspots.
Higher RAV4 trims can have eight-inch touchscreens, 11 JBL speakers, and dynamic navigation. They can also have wireless charging. A Toyota RAV4 could have up to five total USB ports. The Hyundai Santa Fe can come with four.
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Most people would be more than pleased with all the safety components that these vehicles have. On the high end of the spectrum, the Hyundai Santa Fe can have a surround view monitor, a blind spot view monitor, and a heads-up display. It's always nice to have more information when driving, and these three features can definitely give people a better idea of anything they need to be concerned about.
Another futuristic program is remote start parking assist. By simply pushing a button, people can direct their Santa Fes to park themselves. The driver doesn't even need to be in the vehicle at the time.
Every model of the Santa Fe has forward collision-avoidance assist, and this program can detect the presence of other vehicles pedestrians, and cyclists. Every trim also has driver attention warning, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. Most trims have the addition of blind spot and rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance. These features are going to help drivers stay out of harm's way even when they might not be able to see others around them.
Some similar things are found in the Toyota RAV4. Its higher models, too, can have 360-degree camera systems. While it doesn't have a remote parking system, it does have parking assist with automatic braking to take some of the guesswork out of parking when there's not much room.
Standard in the Toyota RAV4 are many driver-assist technologies. They include pre-collision braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, and automatic high beams.
Each model has adaptive cruise control as well as the ability to "read" road signs. With road sign assist, they can remind drivers if they need to slow down, prepare for a stop sign, or anything else. This information is displayed on the dashboard, and it makes up for the fact that the RAV4 doesn't have a head-up display, which would be projected onto the windshield. Most trims have blind spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring.
Which Has the Best Value?
When looking at prices, the RAV4 has a more competitive starting price. It's LE model, which is the entry-level trim, costs $26,150. (A hybrid version would be about $2,500 more expensive.) The lineup of the Santa Fe starts out with the SE, and it's priced at $27,000.
There are 11 total trims of the RAV4, so there's a lot to keep track of. There are sporty models like the XSE, rugged SUVs like the TRD Off-Road, and refined options like the Limited. The most expensive trim is the Limited Hybrid, which costs $37,180. It has all of the best technology available, along with a power moonroof, SofTex synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, and a digital rearview mirror. It can have heated rear seats and ventilation in the front seats, but this would cost extra.
With the Santa Fe, there are fewer trims. The SEL costs $28,800, and there's a pretty big jump up in price to the Limited, which is priced at $38,750. That's primarily because the Limited and the higher trims have the turbocharged engines. The Calligraphy with AWD and 19-inch wheels is the most premium trim available, and it costs $42,250. It has a panoramic moonroof, a Digital Key feature in which a smartphone can be programmed to act as a key fob, Nappa leather seats, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a 10.25-inch touchscreen, and a heated steering wheel.
Which is Better?
Just comparing the top trims, it's evident that the Hyundai Santa Fe pushes the limits more than the RAV4 does, at least in terms of sophistication. The RAV4 doesn't even have leather seats, nor does it have many other high-end amenities commonly found in luxury brands. The Santa Fe, while it's not made by a luxury brand, can definitely feel like a premium model. Remember, though, that its higher trims are attached to pretty expensive price tags.
When figuring out which model would do better from a performance standpoint, it's kind of difficult to pick a clear winner. Both SUVs have highly capable engines. The main differences are that the Santa Fe's turbo engines really turns up the excitement level and that the RAV4 has a hybrid option. That leads into the next point, which is that the RAV4 is the more efficient model. This is true even if the hybrid is taken out of the equation.
People will have to decide which model suits their needs better. The Hyundai Santa Fe can have more power, and it has more second-row leg room, a few extra technology features, and many upscale elements that make it a pleasure to drive. On the other hand, the Toyota RAV4 is practical and durable, and it's efficient, too. Plus, it's a bit cheaper than the Santa Fe is. There's really nothing wrong with either model, which is great news for potential customers.