2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Smart Tech
In 2016 we got a new car to replace our old Ford Escape Hybrid. The car was getting tired and needed to be replaced, especially the electronics. The navigation system would sometimes reset itself in the middle of a trip, and it cost hundreds of dollars to upgrade the CD to a two-year old map.
We had long wanted to get a car with Apple CarPlay, so when the 2017 Ford Escape launched, we were one of the first in our area to get one. The car has been great and in addition to the CarPlay, we got all kinds of advanced driver assistance system features that we weren’t expecting, but have come to rely on, like Ford’s Adaptive Cruise Control.
Our other car was a 2009 Audi A4, a wonderful car, but the peak of technology at that time was the ability to plug in an iPod in the glove box. For years we have been shopping around to replace it, looking at cars from Audi, Mercedes, and even Tesla. We got pretty close to buying a Volvo but we couldn’t find the one we wanted and the dealer didn’t help. Every time, the electronics and the car infotainment system were what kept us from buying (well, outside of the Tesla, which was just too expensive).
Finally the Audi needed some work and we got serious about replacing it. Luckily Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto) is a lot more common in new cars since 2016 so that made shopping for a car easier. CarPlay was an absolute requirement, but we also wanted a car that had all the other safety and driver assistance technology available.
We looked at Lexus, Acura, Volkswagen, Subaru and Toyota models. They all had CarPlay, but they all had different implementations and all of them had their quirks. We happened to meet James Raia of the Weekly Driver podcast and he suggested we take a look at Hyundai and Kia. So on the way out from the Volkswagen dealer, we saw a Hyundai dealership and decided to try one out.
Now we are owners of a 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe and couldn’t be happier, especially with the smart tech inside.
Apple CarPlay with a Touchscreen
All the cars we drove had Apple CarPlay, but a few of them used touch pads instead of touchscreens and some used a wheel or knob to control it instead. These never felt right to us, and we constantly found ourselves trying to tap the screen without it doing anything. The manufacturers claim it’s safer, and that you get used to it after a while, and perhaps they are right, but we just didn’t like it.
In the Santa Fe, Hyundai used CarPlay as intended, and as we are used to, with a touchscreen. At 8 inches it’s not the largest screen we’ve seen, but it is easy to reach and use when you need it. Activating Siri is also easy, just touch the voice button and you can control everything with CarPlay with your voice – getting directions, making calls, reading texts, playing music or audiobooks. It is as easy as using your iPhone.
The heads-up display on the Hyundai Santa Fe makes it really easy to stay focused on the road. There is a projector inside the dash that displays key indicators like your speed, the speed limit, cars in your blind spot, and lots of other information. You can customize the heads-up display just how you like it, with as much or as little detail as you want, and you can even change the colors. We drove another car with this feature but it didn’t have nearly as much customization as the Hyundai.
While we usually use Apple Maps or Waze for navigation with CarPlay, we have also used the built-in navigation with Hyundai and it works well. It’s easy to find a location or point of interest with your voice, and it does a great job of showing you the details of an upcoming freeway exit or turn lane. Unlike CarPlay, the in-car navigation shows the next turn on the built-in heads-up display, pretty handy when you are traveling somewhere new and in heavy traffic. It’s great to have this as an option in addition to CarPlay.
Our 2017 Ford Escape also has lane keeping, to help keep you from straying out of your lane, but the Hyundai Santa Fe offers a lot of improvement in just a few years. The lane keeping not only keeps you from moving out of your lane with an audible warning, it actually keeps you centered inside the lane while you are in cruise control. Like most of these driver assistance features, you still need to pay attention – sometimes the roads aren’t that clearly marked or bad conditions make it hard for the sensor to see the lanes – but for the most part it works flawlessly.
Smart Cruise Control
We really got used to the Adaptive Cruise Control in the Ford Escape and it was a feature we knew we needed in a new car. The Escape works great, especially with slow moving traffic, but the one drawback was that when traffic comes to a complete stop, the system shuts off and you need to take over manually.
The Smart Cruise Control in the Hyundai will also bring you to a complete stop, but the cruise control stays on and all you have to do to get going again is to tap your accelerator or use the one of the buttons on the steering wheel. The car will even alert you audibly and on the dash when the cars in front of you are leaving. We have made a couple of trips from Sacramento to Los Angeles and we were able to do most of the freeway driving without touching the brakes.
By far our favorite feature of the Santa Fe is the 360-degree camera. The car has cameras and sensors mounted all the way around, so when you are backing up or parking in a tight spot you can see everything on a crystal-clear display. The screen even has yellow guidelines to show you which direction your wheels are turning so you can adjust accordingly. We are sure this will save us from backing up into polls, running up onto curbs and pulling up too far away from the drive-through window.
Eliminating Blind Spots
Whenever you put on your turn signal, the Santa Fe brings up the side cameras in the very center of the dash, sort of like a super mirror that lets you see what’s on the side. This is great for changing lanes and will be especially helpful watching for cyclists coming up behind us before a turn.
Like a lot of cars today, including our Escape, the Santa Fe also has blind-spot detection, which activates a light on the mirror, on the heads up display and gives you an audible warning, all of which can be customized. Combined with the center dash camera, it seems nearly impossible to miss something in your blind spot, although we always look anyway.
Hyundai Blue Link
Many cars in this class today come with a companion app for your phone, and the Hyundai is no exception. Since we live in a hot climate, we have loved being able to turn on our Ford Escape (and the air conditioning!) remotely so we come back to a comfortable car. The Hyundai Blue Link app also allows us to turn on the Santa Fe remotely, but it also lets you customize the settings, so you can set the duration, the temperature, and turn on the defroster and other heated features like the steering wheel. This will be great to use in summer and winter.
The app also lets you see the status of your car, so you can make sure you shut the trunk, locked the doors, and left the car in park. In addition to starting your car remotely, you can lock and unlock it, flash the lights or the horn and lights – all great features if you find yourself lost in a parking garage, or if you want to make some noise for safety reasons. You can also look up different points on the map and send it straight to your car’s navigation system. The companion Apple Watch app also includes several of these features, and notifies you when your car has started or stopped remotely.
Blue Link also includes enhanced roadside assistance, emergency assistance and vehicle diagnostics. Our new Santa Fe comes with a three year subscription that includes all these features, which was pretty comparable to the other cars we looked at. One thing we like about the Hyundai is that all the services are bundled together under the same subscription, unlike some of the other manufacturers who sell them separately and offer different free trials.
We are enjoying our new Hyundai Santa Fe and getting adjusted to all the new technology. We look forward to many years of driving and can’t imagine what kind of tech will be in our next new car – perhaps it will be fully autonomous.