2020 Hyundai Santa Fe vs. 2019 Subaru Outback

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

Both the Santa Fe and Outback 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 Outback’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 Outback 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 Outback only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

The Santa Fe’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Outback doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Santa Fe and the Outback 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 Outback:

Santa Fe

Outback

Passenger

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Chest Compression

.5 inches

.6 inches

Neck Stress

120 lbs.

153 lbs.

Neck Compression

48 lbs.

88 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

256/146 lbs.

202/266 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 Outback:

Santa Fe

Outback

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

49

69

Abdominal Force

141 G’s

192 G’s

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

179

223

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

8 inches

17 inches

HIC

179

211

Hip Force

649 lbs.

736 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 Outback’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 Outback. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the Outback ends after only 5 years or 60,000 miles.

The Santa Fe’s corrosion warranty is 2 years longer than the Outback’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 Outback isn’t in the top three.

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 10 more horsepower (185 vs. 175) and 4 lbs.-ft. more torque (178 vs. 174) than the Outback 2.5i’s standard 2.5 DOHC 4 cyl. The Santa Fe 2.0T’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 13 lbs.-ft. more torque (260 vs. 247) than the Outback 3.6R’s standard 3.6 DOHC 6 cyl.

As tested in Motor Trend the Hyundai Santa Fe 2.4 4-cylinder is faster than the Outback 2.5i:

Santa Fe

Outback

Zero to 60 MPH

8.9 sec

9.5 sec

Quarter Mile

16.7 sec

17.4 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

84.3 MPH

82.1 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Santa Fe’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Outback doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

Brakes and Stopping

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

Santa Fe

Outback

Front Rotors

12.6 inches

12.4 inches

Rear Rotors

12 inches

11.8 inches

The Santa Fe stops shorter than the Outback:

Santa Fe

Outback

70 to 0 MPH

176 feet

180 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

125 feet

129 feet

Motor Trend

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

141 feet

147 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

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

The Santa Fe 2.0T’s tires provide better handling because they have a lower 55 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Outback Limited/Touring’s 60 series tires.

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

Suspension and Handling

The Santa Fe has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Outback’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

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

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Santa Fe is 2.9 inches wider in the front and 2.8 inches wider in the rear than on the Outback.

The Santa Fe AWD handles at .81 G’s, while the Outback 3.6R Limited pulls only .79 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

Chassis

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the Santa Fe AWD is quieter than the Outback 3.6R Limited:

Santa Fe

Outback

At idle

37 dB

42 dB

Full-Throttle

72 dB

73 dB

70 MPH Cruising

64 dB

69 dB

Passenger Space

The Santa Fe has 2.6 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Outback (110.7 vs. 108.1).

Cargo Capacity

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

Santa Fe

Outback

Rear Seat Up

35.9 cubic feet

35.5 cubic feet

The Santa Fe’s cargo area is larger than the Outback’s in almost every dimension:

Santa Fe

Outback

Length to seat (2nd/1st)

42.4”/77.4”

41.8”/77.7”

Max Width

53.7”

50.5”

Min Width

42.3”

42”

Height

31.5”

33”

Pressing a switch automatically lowers the Santa Fe’s optional second row seats, to make changing between passengers and cargo easier. The Outback doesn’t offer automatic folding seats.

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 Outback 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 Outback doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The power windows standard on both the Santa Fe and the Outback have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Santa Fe is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The Outback prevents the driver from operating the rear windows just as it does the other passengers.

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 Outback’s passenger power window 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 Outback’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 Outback doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

Both the Santa Fe and the Outback offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the Santa Fe has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The Outback Base/Premium doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

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 Outback 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 Outback 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 Outback 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 Outback because it costs $218 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost less on the Santa Fe than the Outback, including $68 less for a water pump, $1 less for front brake pads, $156 less for a starter, $94 less for front struts and $76 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Subaru Outback, based on reliability, safety and performance.

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

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