Is the Most Popular 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Trim Actually the Best?

Do people buy the most recommended version of the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe? One trim level is more popular than all the others. Every version of the Hyundai SUV is a viable option, but some are better than the rest. Some experts say the best Santa Fe trim level is also the most popular. Is the most popular 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe trim actually the best?

A silver gray 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-In Hybrid midsize crossover SUV model parked by a cliff overlook
2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-In Hybrid | Hyundai Motor America

According to Edmunds, the SEL model is the most popular Hyundai Santa Fe trim. Starting at $30,745, the SEL is the second most affordable option in the Santa Fe lineup. This five-passenger SUV delivers a surprising number of features and tech options in its base trims. For example, the SE base model has Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, four USB ports, LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, an eight-inch infotainment screen, forward collision mitigation, lane-keeping assist, driver attention warning, and adaptive cruise control.

For under $30,000 at $28,645, the most basic Santa Fe isn’t too shabby. However, it’s obvious why the SEL trim is more popular. It’s only a few thousand dollars more expensive and adds a lot of value to that well-equipped base model. Specifically blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, rear-passenger safe exit system, keyless entry, push-button ignition, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors, a wireless smartphone charging pad, roof rails, and Hyundai’s Blue Link connected services.

The Santa Fe SEL unlocks two optional packages

A white 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe midsize SUV is driving off-road.
The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe | Hyundai

Next, another reason to get the SEL model over the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe base model is the optional packages. Starting with the SEL trim, owners have the option to get the Convenience and Premium packages. First, the Convenience package offers a hands-free power tailgate, noise-reducing front-side windows, a digital key, dual-zone climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear passenger window sunshades, a digital instrument panel, power-folding rear seats, and rear seat reminder.

Next, the Premium package adds a few essential luxuries. For example, a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, a power-adjustable front passenger seat, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen, and a lane-keeping system. Together, the Santa Fe SEL and these optional packages make the SUV much more luxurious than the affordable price suggests.

Avoid higher Santa Fe trims

A red 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe parked on a scenic mountain road.
2022 Hyundai Santa Fe | Allison Barfield, MotorBiscuit

In addition to the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe SEL being better than the SE base model, it’s also a better value pick than upper trims. For example, the next step up is the XRT off-road model. It doesn’t do much regarding value but simply upgrades the exterior with a more rugged appearance. Darker trim, unique wheels, side steps, and body-colored door handles don’t offer much in terms of actual value.

Next, the Limited and Calligraphy trims are much more costly. From the XRT trim to the Limited model, it’s more than a $6,000 jump. Additionally, the range-topping Calligraphy starts at $42,705. For reference, the SE, SEL, and XRT trim for the Hyundai Palisade is more affordable. Instead, why not put that much cash toward a more extensive, well-trimmed midsize SUV? At that price, you’re only a few thousand more away from the top trims for the Palisade as well.

What is the best 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe trim?

Finally, experts like Edmunds recommend buying the Hyundai Santa Fe SEL over every other model. “For not much more than the base SE, you get heated seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, wireless device charging, and keyless entry with push-button start. It also includes blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. If there’s a bit more money in your budget, absolutely spring for the Convenience package for its dual-zone climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror and 12.3-inch digital instrument panel.”

Alternatively, Car and Driver think another trim is a better option. It recommends the Santa Fe Limited, which is more costly than the SEL. “…our main reason for recommending the Limited is that it’s the lowest-priced model available with the optional turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder. Models equipped with the base nonturbo four-cylinder veritably crawl to a cruising speed and for driving enthusiasts like us that performance—or the lack thereof—simply will not do.”

We think the Santa Fe SEL is the trim to buy

In conclusion, we find it difficult to disagree with buyers and Edmunds. The most popular 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe trim is actually the best option in the lineup. Although experts like C/D make some excellent points, we find it hard to recommend a much more costly model based purely on engine power. If we were talking about a fun-to-drive muscle car, then maybe. However, when discussing a family SUV that needs to be safe and reliable, the underpowered engine might not be such a bad thing. Primarily when the SEL trim level provides far more value than the alternative.

RELATED: Is the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy Actually Worth $2,000 More Than the Limited Trim?