2020 Hyundai Santa Fe vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

Your buying experience includes...

business_centerProfessional Staff
account_balanceSimple Financing
local_gas_stationFull Tank of Gas
local_car_washFree Car Wash

Safety

Both the Santa Fe and Highlander 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’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 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 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 has a metal gas tank.

Both the Santa Fe and the Highlander have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front wheel drive, 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:

Santa Fe

Highlander

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:

Santa Fe

Highlander

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 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’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. 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 ends after only 5 years or 60,000 miles.

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

Reliability

To reliably start during all conditions and help handle large electrical loads, the Santa Fe has a standard 800-amp battery. The Highlander’s 604-amp battery isn’t as powerful.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Santa Fe first among midsize SUVs in their 2019 Initial Quality Study. The Highlander 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.

Engine

The Santa Fe 2.0T’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 50 more horsepower (235 vs. 185) and 76 lbs.-ft. more torque (260 vs. 184) than the Highlander’s standard 2.7 DOHC 4 cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Santa Fe FWD with its standard engine gets better fuel mileage than the Highlander FWD 4 cyl. (22 city/29 hwy vs. 20 city/24 hwy).

Regardless of its engine, the Santa Fe’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) Toyota only offers an automatic engine start/stop system on the Highlander LE Plus/XLE/Limited/Platinum.

Environmental Friendliness

In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Hyundai Santa Fe higher (5 to 7 out of 10) than the Toyota Highlander (3 to 5). This means the Santa Fe produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Highlander every 15,000 miles.

Brakes and Stopping

The Santa Fe stops much shorter than the Highlander:

Santa Fe

Highlander

70 to 0 MPH

176 feet

186 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

125 feet

131 feet

Motor Trend

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’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 doesn’t offer a load leveling suspension.

The Santa Fe AWD handles at .81 G’s, while the Highlander AWD pulls only .80 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’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 300 to 550 pounds less than the Toyota Highlander.

The Santa Fe is 4.7 inches shorter than the Highlander, 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 (18” vs. 19.3”). The Santa Fe’s rear step up height is 1 inches lower than the Highlander’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 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 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 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 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 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’s parking brake has to released manually.

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

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the Santa Fe owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the Santa Fe with a number “5” insurance rate while the Highlander is rated higher at a number “8” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Santa Fe is less expensive to operate than the Highlander because typical repairs cost much less on the Santa Fe than the Highlander, including $218 less for a starter, $170 less for fuel injection, $128 less for a fuel pump and $1230 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

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

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

How much is your car worth?

Get the best value for your car from an Asbury dealership.

Featured Videos