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2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons.

2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons: SE vs SEL, XRT vs Limited and Calligraphy
Reviewed & fact checked by
James Murdoch

What 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Trim Should You Buy? What is the Difference Between Trims?

When it comes to all-around vehicular value, no one does it quite like Hyundai (except for their corporate cousin, Kia). Their well-loved Santa Fe SUV returns this year with no real changes to speak of, but not too much has been in need of updating. The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe is a vehicle that looks and feels luxurious without the hefty price tag attached to it.

In 2021, Hyundai went above and beyond to revamp the once-basic Santa Fe, thrusting it to the forefront of the competition. A newly designed front grille made it look more chic than ever before, and the cabin was crafted to look more contemporary and upscale.

But what exactly makes this midsize SUV stand out from others in its segment? First of all, there is the optional 2.5-L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that offers ample power fit for swift acceleration. With 277 horsepower on tap, the turbo engine has no problem getting the Santa Fe from 0 to 60 miles per hour in a swift 6.6 seconds. This outpaces most other midsize SUVs and even a lot of small ones. While it tends to not feel quite as planted while rounding through turns, it offers smooth shifting, secure braking, and well-weighted steering.

What's under the hood is important, to be sure, but so is all of the included technology. All of Hyundai's advanced driver aids - which feel rather robust in number - work seamlessly to deliver a superb and secure experience. Sure, the 10.25-inch touchscreen's infotainment system could stand to be a little less laggy, but it is mostly straightforward and easy to navigate. And you always have the option of pairing your smartphone with the system so you can utilize your favorite apps.

That being said, trying to choose one of the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe's five trim levels can feel like a daunting task at first. Before you contact a dealership to inquire about a test-drive, here's our scoop on each Santa Fe trim and which one we think the average buyer in this segment will feel has the most value behind it. (Although, given Hyundai's generous warranty coverage, it is easy to say that each trim packs in a lot of value - but more on that in a minute.)

Compare the SE vs SEL Trim Levels. What is the difference?

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe's base trim is named the SE, and it is anything but basic. The standard 2.5-L four-cylinder engine provides a maximum power output of 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. This engine is paired up with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and there is standard front-wheel drive. However, all-wheel drive is an option - and that goes for all five of the Santa Fe's trim levels.

18-inch wheels set in alloy material help this midsize SUV get around town, and the durable all-season tires fitted onto them perform well without giving off too much noise. LED headlights are built into the front fascia for enhanced frontal visibility.

Inside of the SE's cabin, you will be sitting on cloth upholstery that is stain resistant. If you accidentally spill your coffee or your kid drops their chocolate bar onto the seat, you can easily wash it off. The rear bench seat has a 60/40-split fold, which allows for easy pass-through of bulky cargo items in the cargo area.

Technology feels abundant enough in the SE trim, which gives you an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display up front. Wireless smartphone app integration is available via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay for easy app pairing. There are a grand total of four USB ports in the SE - two up front and two in the back. That way, everyone can plug their phone in to charge as needed.

Hyundai equips each of their Santa Fe trim levels with a standard suite of driver aids called Hyundai Smart Sense, and these features are definitely smart. Forward collision warning will issue an alert if an upcoming frontal collision is detected and will apply the brakes to help avoid the crash. Adaptive cruise control lets you set a safe following distance between the Santa Fe and the vehicle in front of it and will adjust the Santa Fe's speed according to the traffic flow. If the Santa Fe starts to drift over the line, Lane Keep Assist will kick in and steer the vehicle back into the lane. If you become drowsy or distracted, the Driver Attention Warning will sound off to get you feeling more alert.

If that isn't enough for you, the SEL trim level is only a few thousand dollars more than the SE and packs quite a few additional features in for that cost. On the SEL tri, you get blind-spot monitoring with a rear cross-traffic alert, which lets you know if a vehicle is driving in your blind spot when you go to put the Santa Fe into reverse or try to change lanes. The rear passenger safe exit system will prevent the back doors from being opened into oncoming traffic.

Entry is made easier thanks to a push button start and keyless entry. The driver's seat gains power adjustability, and both front seats have a built-in heating function, as do the outer side mirrors. Up top, you get roof rails.

As far as tech upgrades go, you can use Hyundai's Blue Link connected services to help you out in case of an emergency with features like SOS and roadside assistance. Also, a wireless charging pad reduces cord clutter up front for charging your Qi compatible smartphone.

The SEL gains two optional packages: the Convenience package and the Premium Package. If you opt for the Convenience package, you get a rear seat reminder, which reminds you to check the rear seat for any occupants (namely, children strapped into their car seats). The rear seats gain a power folding function, and the liftgate is hands-free. A digital key lets you use your smartphone as a vehicle key. You also get a dual-zone automatic climate control system, sunshades for the rear passenger windows, a steering wheel wrapped in leather, and a digital instrumentation panel that gets swapped in for the standard analog one.

The Premium package mandates that you equip the Convenience package, but it builds well on those features. It offers you a premium 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system (which produces exemplary sound quality throughout the cabin), a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen display, a panoramic sunroof, a lane keeping system, and breathable leather upholstery for the seats.

Compare the SEL vs XRT Trims. What is the difference?

The XRT trim level adds a more rugged vibe to the exterior of the Santa Fe. The door handles are painted in the chosen body color, and there is special XRT exterior trim placed around the body. There are also special XRT side steps, 18-inch wheels, and cross rails on the roof rack. However, that is really the extent of the differences, and they are unique to this trim level.

Compare the XRT vs Limited. What is the difference?

Of course, the Limited trim level does away with all the XRT specifics, but it does add the SEL's Premium and Convenience packages as standard features, giving it a massive boost in terms of creature comforts. This trim level also nabs you the more robust 2.5-L turbo four-cylinder engine, which is good for a max power output of 281 hp and 311 - a significant boost over the base engine's output indeed.

The Limited sits on 19-inch wheels and features enhanced LED lights on the front fascia. Parking sensors will alert you if there is an object in the path in front of or behind the vehicle that is too low to see with the naked eye.

Inside, there are quite a few more upgrades worth mentioning. There are memory settings integrated into the driver's seat, and the front seats gain a ventilation function. The steering wheel is heated, as are the rear outboard seats. The windshield wipers are able to detect when it is raining and work automatically.

There are a few driver aids tacked on, too. You can provide little to no intervention while parking if you use the automated parking system. For a top-down view all around the Santa Fe, just utilize the 360-degree surround-view camera system. A blind-spot camera is also included so that you get a digitalized view of any vehicles driving in your blind spots.

Compare the Limited vs Calligraphy. What is the difference?

At the top of the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe line-up is the luxury-oriented Calligraphy trim level. It includes a head-up display that will project vehicle and driving data onto the windshield in front of your eyes so that you can keep your focus on the road ahead of you.

On the exterior, you will find some unique Calligraphy trim. And that's not to mention the larger 20-inch wheels it sits on. Inside of the vehicle, you gain quilted stitching on the premium leather seats, which gives off a real sense of luxury. A simulated suede headliner and ambient interior lighting come together to provide a deeper feeling of comfort.

Final Thoughts

All things told, the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe is a well-rounded vehicle that packs in a great deal of value. Given Hyundai's extensive warranty coverage, the price of any Santa Fe trim level feels pretty justifiable. But which trim level will appeal most to the average buyer in this segment?

We have to give that honorable distinction to the SEL. For only a few thousand dollars above the base trim's starting MSRP, you get plenty of additional features tacked on to create a more tech-forward and cozy cabin. Also, adding the Convenience package will feel like a 'must', and it isn't all that expensive to tack on. Having its dual-zone climate control system and hands-free liftgate makes life on the road a whole lot easier, especially if you are always carting other people around and running errands. The Premium package does add more to the price tag, but the upgraded Harman Kardon sound system is worth it for avid music listeners who love to crank up the volume and sing along to their favorite jams.

There is no bad selection on the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe, but we think the SEL is well-equipped enough for most buyers and leaves two great optional packages open for the taking.

Previous Year Trim Configurations:

2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Trim Levels