Engine Problems Seem to Be a Common Thing for the Hyundai Santa Fe

The Hyundai Santa Fe is one of the automaker’s most popular vehicles. Boasting affordability, value, and an impressive list of standard features, it’s an easy choice for many consumers. But the past few years have shown another side of the Santa Fe, revealing a serious issue forcing many to question its reliability.

The Hyundai Santa Fe’s engine hasn’t had a good few years

No car is perfect, but the 2018 and 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe appear to have similar problems. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows 30 official owner complaints about the 2018 Santa Fe. And a dozen of those complaints relate to the engine. The issues appear to have begun in May 2018, almost immediately after the model arrived at dealerships, and continue consistently through 2020. 

The 2019 Santa Fe has seen even more owner complaints. The NHTSA reports 55 complaints, with 16 about the engine. Most of the issues appear to have happened soon after the models were sold, with complaints starting as early as March 2019. In fact, all but four or five of these complaints were reported within a year of the 2019 model’s launch. But there are also an additional 17 “unknown or other” complaints involving the 2019 Santa Fe’s engine/electrical systems interfering with one another, causing engines to idle inappropriately, hesitate, or cut off.

The severity of the Hyundai Santa Fe’s engine problems

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CarComplaints.com gives the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe’s engine problems a “Severity Rating” of 6.4/10, or “Fairly Significant.” Owners experiencing problems with their Santa Fe SUVs say their engines make excessive noise, “suddenly shut off,” and even “sputter and die on the side of the road.” In fact, most complaining owners seem to have experienced the same problem: their engine decelerating, shutting off, and/or sputtering when operating. What makes this issue even worthier of its “Fairly Significant” rating is that 2018 Santa Fe owners are experiencing these problems early on in ownership, around 11,200 miles.

Unsurprisingly, the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe’s rating is even worse. CarComplaints.com issued that model year a Severity Rating of 10/10 — “Really Awful.” Though experiences vary per owner, some have had serious trouble with the 2019 Santa Fe. Some owners have problems with the vehicle’s tech/electrical systems interfering with the engine. Others say their engines “rattle,” shut off while idling, lose power and/or acceleration, and experience other problems. These official complaints to the NHTSA have occurred at an even lower average mileage than the 2018 model, around 7,800 miles, and have even resulted in two reported fires. 

Are the newer models any better?

According to U.S. News, the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe “has a comfortable interior, plenty of tech features, good fuel economy, and a balanced ride.” The base model starts at an affordable $26,000, while higher trims cost around $36,000. The 2020 Santa Fe features a roomy cabin and cargo area. It also comes with standard features such as a 7.0-inch touchscreen display and a rear-seat reminder.

But unfortunately, nothing changed in the 2020 model’s powertrain. U.S. News says it has an “underwhelming base engine” that “generally fails to impress.” The 2020 model features the same four-cylinder, 185-hp engine as previous years. So owner complaints might continue to mount.

However, there’s also good news. The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe boasts a brand-new powertrain. According to Hyundai, the new engine is an inline-four producing 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. And higher trims boast an inline-four turbo harnessing 277 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. We hope these new engines will finally put an end to owner complaints.