2020 Hyundai Santa Fe vs. 2019 Subaru Forester

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

Both the Santa Fe and Forester have child safety locks to prevent children from opening the rear doors. The Santa Fe has power child safety locks, allowing the driver to activate and deactivate them from the driver's seat and to know when they're engaged. The Forester’s child locks have to be individually engaged at each rear door with a manual switch. The driver can’t know the status of the locks without opening the doors and checking them.

In the past twenty years hundreds of infants and young children have died after being left in vehicles, usually by accident. When turning the vehicle off, drivers of the Santa Fe are reminded to check the back seat if they opened the rear door before starting out. The Forester doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

The Santa Fe Limited has a standard Surround View Monitor to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Forester only offers a rear monitor.

Both the Santa Fe and the Forester have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive, blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Hyundai Santa Fe is safer than the Subaru Forester:

Santa Fe

Forester

Passenger

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

244

293

Chest Compression

.5 inches

.7 inches

Neck Stress

120 lbs.

213 lbs.

Neck Compression

48 lbs.

103 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Hyundai Santa Fe is safer than the Subaru Forester:

Santa Fe

Forester

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

49

66

Chest Movement

.6 inches

.6 inches

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

179

246

Spine Acceleration

54 G’s

56 G’s

Hip Force

648 lbs.

670 lbs.

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

8 inches

16 inches

Hip Force

649 lbs.

673 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

Warranty

The Santa Fe comes with a full 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire truck and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Forester’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 2 years and 24,000 miles sooner.

Hyundai’s powertrain warranty covers the Santa Fe 5 years and 40,000 miles longer than Subaru covers the Forester. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the Forester ends after only 5 years or 60,000 miles.

The Santa Fe’s corrosion warranty is 2 years longer than the Forester’s (7 vs. 5 years).

There are over 33 percent more Hyundai dealers than there are Subaru dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the Santa Fe’s warranty.

Reliability

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Santa Fe first among midsize SUVs in their 2019 Initial Quality Study. The Forester isn’t in the top three in its category.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Hyundai vehicles are better in initial quality than Subaru vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Hyundai third in initial quality, above the industry average. With 42 more problems per 100 vehicles, Subaru is ranked 25th, below the industry average.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Hyundai vehicles are more reliable than Subaru vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Hyundai 8th in reliability, above the industry average. With 12 more problems per 100 vehicles, Subaru is ranked 14th.

Engine

The Santa Fe’s standard 2.4 DOHC 4 cyl. produces 3 more horsepower (185 vs. 182) and 2 lbs.-ft. more torque (178 vs. 176) than the Forester’s 2.5 DOHC 4 cyl. The Santa Fe 2.0T’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 53 more horsepower (235 vs. 182) and 84 lbs.-ft. more torque (260 vs. 176) than the Forester’s 2.5 DOHC 4 cyl.

As tested in Motor Trend the Hyundai Santa Fe 2.4 4-cylinder is faster than the Subaru Forester:

Santa Fe

Forester

Zero to 60 MPH

8.9 sec

9.6 sec

Quarter Mile

16.7 sec

17.3 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

84.3 MPH

82.3 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

The Santa Fe has 2.2 gallons more fuel capacity than the Forester (18.8 vs. 16.6 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Santa Fe’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Forester:

Santa Fe

Forester Base/Premium

Forester Sport/Limited/Touring

Front Rotors

12.6 inches

11.6 inches

12.4 inches

Rear Rotors

12 inches

11.2 inches

11.2 inches

The Santa Fe stops shorter than the Forester:

Santa Fe

Forester

60 to 0 MPH

125 feet

129 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Santa Fe has larger tires than the Forester (235/65R17 vs. 225/60R17).

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Santa Fe 2.0T has standard 19-inch wheels. The Forester’s largest wheels are only 18-inches.

Suspension and Handling

The Santa Fe has a standard automatic load leveling suspension to keep ride height level with a heavy load or when towing. The Forester doesn’t offer a load leveling suspension.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Santa Fe’s wheelbase is 3.8 inches longer than on the Forester (108.9 inches vs. 105.1 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Santa Fe is 3.1 inches wider in the front and 3.2 inches wider in the rear than on the Forester.

Chassis

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the Santa Fe AWD is quieter than the Forester Touring:

Santa Fe

Forester

Full-Throttle

72 dB

81 dB

70 MPH Cruising

64 dB

76 dB

Cargo Capacity

The Santa Fe’s cargo area provides more volume than the Forester.

Santa Fe

Forester

Rear Seat Up

35.9 cubic feet

35.4 cubic feet

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, just waiting momentarily behind the back bumper can open the Santa Fe’s liftgate, leaving your hands completely free. The Forester doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its liftgate, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Ergonomics

The Santa Fe Limited has a standard heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Forester doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The Santa Fe’s power window, power lock, power mirror and cruise control switches are lit from behind, making them plainly visible and easier to operate at night. The Forester’s power lock and power mirror switches are unlit, making them difficult to find at night and operate safely.

The Santa Fe Limited’s standard wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically according to the amount of rainfall on the windshield. The Forester’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

Standard air-conditioned seats in the Santa Fe Limited keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The Forester doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Hyundai Santa Fe (except SE) offers an optional wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The Forester doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

The Santa Fe Limited has a 115-volt a/c outlet on the center console, allowing you to recharge a laptop or run small household appliances without special adapters that can break or get misplaced. The Forester doesn’t offer a house-current electrical outlet.

Model Availability

The Santa Fe is available in both front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive configurations. The Forester doesn’t offer a two-wheel drive configuration.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Santa Fe is less expensive to operate than the Forester because it costs $54 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Santa Fe than the Forester, including $158 less for a water pump, $1 less for front brake pads, $310 less for a starter, $256 less for fuel injection, $8 less for a fuel pump, $94 less for front struts and $85 less for a timing belt/chain.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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