Road trip to Charlottesville with the Santa Fe Limited

Road trip to Charlottesville with the Santa Fe Limited

My best friend Sara and me enjoying downtown C’ville.

Sometimes a car gal just needs to get away. Last weekend, I met up with my best friend of nearly 20 years for a girls’ getaway in Charlottesville, Virginia. I haven’t spent much time in C’ville (that’s what they call it) in my nearly 10 years as as Virginian, so I was excited to explore this quaint college town for a weekend of good food, great times, and beautiful scenery.

Did someone say “Road Trip”?

I happened to have the Hyundai Santa Fe Limited in my possession for the weekend and couldn’t wait to see how it did for a quick road trip – about a 2.5 hour drive from my home just outside of D.C.

Last summer, I spent 10 days with the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and I couldn’t have been more impressed with that car’s comfort, convenience and affordability. It was a 19 hour trek round trip from D.C. to Highlands, N.C., so I got a good feel for the car’s capabilities.

The most memorable aspect of the 2013 Hyundai ute? The fact that my back never tired on the drive. That’s a big deal for a taller person who needs the support of well-made seats with sporty bolstering.

I was pleased to see that the 2014 Santa Fe Limited also sports comfortable seats. An added bonus is that this trim level comes with heated and ventilated options for the driver and front passenger, as well as heated seats for the second and third passengers. There is a third row of seats, and while they don’t get as many luxuries, they do have good access to interior air flow, including their own controls for the A/C.

The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport served us well on a 19-hour road trip in Summer of 2013.

As with the Santa Fe Sport on last year’s big road trip to Western North Carolina, the ride in the 2014 Limited was completely smooth and relaxing. I have been really impressed by the ride. Even though the Santa Fe Limited is nearly 200 inches long (193.1″ to be exact), it doesn’t not feel bulky or boat-like to drive. It’s similar to driving a sedan in its ease to maneuver, but with better visibility. The ride was so smooth it relaxed me completely in preparation for the weekend ahead. It was quite rejuvenating actually.

The stay

We met up at a quaint carriage house apartment as part of our first AirBnB experience. The place was located in central Charlottesville with easy access to the downtown Mall, shops and restaurants. Naturally, I was the driver for the weekend (this has not changed since I got my license).

Our hosts were kind and hospitable, which made our adventure feel more like we were home away from home, reminiscent of the sleepovers of our youth. Who says you can be too old for a slumber party?

This locale is terrific but definitely requires guests to have a car. Guests have access to private parking behind the unit, which is basically a studio apartment above the owners’ two-car garage. The carriage house is situated in a great community that has been developed in arts-and-crafts style, with homes of various styles and colors, most of which come with a garage and carriage house separate from the main house. It’s really very cute.

The subdivision also is great for walking around to get some fresh air and excercise. We tried to venture down the Rivanna trail just next door, but we weren’t up for the challenge as the night before heavy rains had left the trail pretty muddy. But you should definitely do it!

Hyundai has been turning heads with its recent design perspective, particularly with flagship vehicles like the 2015 Genesis sports sedan. In a car market where it’s difficult for the average consumer to differentiate between one bulky mid-size sedan or crossover and another, Hyundai has been standing out from the crowd – and in a good way.

The 2014 Santa Fe Limited parked outside scenic Charlottesville, Va.

Exterior design and conveniences

The exterior has a swoopiness that’s not exaggerative but rather fluid. The car is not excessive in trim details but not short of them either. The paint job is high quality and gives the Limited a premium look.

My favorite features of the exterior actually had little to do with how the car looks. The graphite alloy wheels are a refreshing spin on rims that don’t look cheap and like everyone else’s (read, cheap chrome wheels).

Fob-less vehicle entry was easily my favorite exterior feature. I truly enjoyed the fact that as long as the key was in my purse or on my person I could access the car the same as if it were in my hand. Excellent work there, Hyundai!

From both the driver and passenger door, plus the rear lift gate, I could easily lock, unlock and access the vehicle without actually having to use the key fob. This is so nice when you have full hands and don’t want too fumble around with your key to press the button or to shake your leg at the backside of the car.

Also helpful was having the same entry privileges on the passenger side as the driver side. I could unlock the car from either side and quickly access something in the rear passenger seat.

Interior comforts

Two words: the sunroof. Hyundai really outdid themselves with this mega moonroof/ sunroof combination. Let the light in for all six of your passengers with this incredibly luxurious feeling feature.

The Santa Fe Limited gets a longer wheelbase than the stock version to accommodate the third row. And yes, two adults can sit fairly comfortably back there. Access is simplified with the middle row as captains chairs, which is always my preference. I’m not sure if this is standard or an option however.

One really has to get nitpicky to find the differences between this well-priced SUV and it’s luxury-brand competitors. If I could save $10,000 to $15,000 on the price of my BMW X3, I always ask myself- would I have bought this car instead?

I don’t need the third row of seats, but they easily fold down and are barely there thanks to the seating position and head rests that stay down until needed.

The fuel economy would probably make this the most compelling argument to trade in my X3, but the lack of torque when I want it cancels it out.

The Hyundai is a bit slow on the uptake but not in an underpowered way where the car feels too heavy for its Powertrain. It’s more as though Hyundai doesn’t want you to sacrifice Mpgs for getting ahead of traffic quickly.

When engaging the accelerator – going full throttle- the Santa Fe fought me a bit and with RPMS edging upward without me going much faster, I worried I was pushing it too hard.

Key specs and stats

  • MSRP: Just below $40,000 pretty much fully loaded (but FWD and not AWD)
  • Fuel economy: EPA estimated combined 21 miles per gallon
  • Real-world combined: 23.6 mpg
  • Real-world highway: 29 mpg (not using Eco active)
  • Fill-up cost: $45 for near-full tank

Who should buy the Santa Fe Limited?

The 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe is equally as great for short trips and running errands as it is for long road trips, so long as you’ve got room for your passengers and their belongings. Moms and grandparents who need to cart around four to six people on a regular basis should buy this sport utility. If carrying five passengers long distance, however, you’ll want to invest in an external luggage rack/carrier to haul all of your luggage.


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This article was written by

Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Sara at 10:38 PM

    The Santa Fe Limited was comfortable and roomy – perfect for a weekend getaway with friends. Thanks for taking me along for the ride!

  2. Melanie Batenchuk Author at 10:43 PM

    And just FYI – they fixed the lack of “upward mobility” on the passenger side in the 2015 Sonata. I thought you’d be glad to know. 😉