2020 Hyundai Santa Fe vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

Both the Santa Fe and Highlander Hybrid 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 Highlander Hybrid’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 Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Santa Fe has a standard Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist that use rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

Compared to metal, the Santa Fe’s plastic fuel tank can withstand harder, more intrusive impacts without leaking; this decreases the possibility of fire. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid has a metal gas tank.

Both the Santa Fe and the Highlander Hybrid 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, driver alert monitors, available all wheel drive, blind spot warning systems, around view monitors 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 Toyota Highlander Hybrid:

Santa Fe

Highlander Hybrid

Driver

STARS

4 Stars

4 Stars

Neck Injury Risk

19%

47%

Neck Stress

167 lbs.

509 lbs.

Neck Compression

35 lbs.

73 lbs.

Passenger

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

244

291

Neck Stress

120 lbs.

219 lbs.

Neck Compression

48 lbs.

55 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

256/146 lbs.

387/392 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 Toyota Highlander Hybrid:

Santa Fe

Highlander Hybrid

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

49

54

Chest Movement

.6 inches

.6 inches

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

8 inches

16 inches

HIC

179

372

Hip Force

649 lbs.

829 lbs.

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

For its top level performance in IIHS driver and passenger-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, roof strength and head restraint tests, its standard front crash prevention system, and its headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Santa Fe its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2019, a rating granted to only 46 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Highlander Hybrid is only a standard “Top Pick” for 2019.

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

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

Reliability

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Santa Fe first among midsize SUVs in their 2019 Initial Quality Study. The Highlander Hybrid 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 Toyota vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Hyundai third in initial quality, above the industry average. With 19 more problems per 100 vehicles, Toyota is ranked 8th.

Fuel Economy and Range

The Santa Fe has 1.6 gallons more fuel capacity than the Highlander Hybrid (18.8 vs. 17.2 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Brakes and Stopping

The Santa Fe stops much shorter than the Highlander Hybrid:

Santa Fe

Highlander

70 to 0 MPH

176 feet

187 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

136 feet

138 feet

Consumer Reports

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

141 feet

146 feet

Consumer Reports

Suspension and Handling

The Santa Fe has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Highlander Hybrid’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 Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer a load leveling suspension.

The Santa Fe AWD handles at .81 G’s, while the Highlander Hybrid Limited pulls only .77 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

For better maneuverability, the Santa Fe’s turning circle is 1.2 feet tighter than the Highlander Hybrid’s (37.5 feet vs. 38.7 feet).

Chassis

The Hyundai Santa Fe may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 600 to 1250 pounds less than the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

The Santa Fe is 4.7 inches shorter than the Highlander Hybrid, making the Santa Fe easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

Passenger Space

The front step up height for the Santa Fe is 1.3 inches lower than the Highlander Hybrid (18” vs. 19.3”). The Santa Fe’s rear step up height is 1 inches lower than the Highlander Hybrid’s (18.5” vs. 19.5”).

Cargo Capacity

Pressing a switch automatically lowers the Santa Fe’s optional second row seats, to make changing between passengers and cargo easier. The Highlander Hybrid 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 Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its liftgate, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Servicing Ease

The Santa Fe uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Highlander Hybrid uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

Ergonomics

The Santa Fe SEL/Limited/Ultimate has a standard remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

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 Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The Santa Fe’s power parking brake sets with one touch and releases with one touch or automatically. The Highlander Hybrid’s parking brake has to released manually.

The power windows standard on both the Santa Fe and the Highlander Hybrid 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 Highlander Hybrid prevents the driver from operating the other 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 Highlander Hybrid’s cruise control switches are unlit, making them difficult to find at night and operate safely.

Model Availability

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

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, based on reliability, safety and performance.

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

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