Subaru Forester vs. Hyundai Santa Fe: Which is Better?

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Cameron Thiessen
· 8 min read
The 2022 Subaru Forester compact SUV includes everything you love about Subaru's performance in a smaller crossover package. But the Hyundai Santa Fe offers more space and better overall value for a price that is only barely undercut by the smaller Forester.
Of course, many people might prefer the Subaru Forester for its more compact size, which allows for much better fuel economy in the city. Others might need the Santa Fe’s extra cargo space or its ability to tow up to 3,500 pounds. Others still will prefer the option of the Hyundai Santa Fe’s hybrid and plug-in hybrid models.
Okay, but which one is better? Don’t worry—
is here to answer that question with an in-depth comparison of these two well-loved SUV models. We’ll look at starting costs, long-term ownership costs, specs, performance, and more.
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Forester vs. Santa Fe: which is more expensive?

Starting MSRP
Starting MSRP
Forester Base
Santa Fe SE
Forester Premium
Santa Fe SEL
Forester Sport
Santa Fe XRT
Forester Limited
Santa Fe Blue hybrid
Forester Wilderness
Santa Fe SEL Premium hybrid
Forester Touring
Santa Fe Limited
Santa Fe SEL Convenience PHEV
Santa Fe Limited hybrid
Santa Fe SEL Calligraphy
Santa Fe Limited PHEV
If you’re looking at lower trims, the Santa Fe isn’t much more expensive than a Subaru Forester, but higher trims of the Hyundai Santa Fe can add over $10,000 to the starting price.

Ownership costs

You will certainly save some initial cash if you buy a 2022 Subaru Forester over a Hyundai Santa Fe, and you’ll also save money on lost value over five years of ownership.
Edmunds estimates that a 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe will depreciate in value by about $16,600 over five years, while a 2022 Subaru Forester will depreciate by about $11,600—that’s an extra $1,000 in the bank each year!
Sure, the Forester is also more expensive to maintain on average, but that still doesn’t make up for all that depreciated value lost if you go for the Santa Fe. Forester maintenance costs are estimated to be around $5,700 over five years—those costs are $4,400 for the Santa Fe.

Insurance costs

Edmunds expects a five-year cost of $6,457 for the Forester and $6,076 for the Santa Fe. That’s pretty close already, but you don’t have to buy a Santa Fe in order to get better insurance prices. You can just use
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Winner: Subaru Forester

There’s no denying that the Subaru Forester is the more affordable choice between these two subcompact crossover-SUVs. A slower rate of value depreciation is what really makes the difference if you plan on owning it for at least five years.
However, just because the Forester is the most affordable option, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best option compared to the Hyundai Santa Fe. Let’s investigate further!

Subaru Forester vs. Hyundai Santa Fe: In-depth comparison

Body style and size

Size is a clear distinction between these two crossover models. The Forester falls into the subcompact size classification, and it’s built on a traditional truck-like SUV platform—as opposed to many crossovers which are built on a car chassis.
The Santa Fe also looks like a more truck-ish, boxy SUV, but it falls into the compact size. It offers about the same amount of space for passengers, but offers more cargo room when all the seats are in use. Here’s how the dimensions of the 2022 Subaru Forester and Hyundai Santa Fe compare:
2022 Subaru Forester
2022 Hyundai Santa Fe
105.1 inches
108.9 inches
Passenger volume
111.6 cubic feet
111.5 cubic feet
Headroom (front/rear)
41.2/39.6 inches
41.2/39.0 inches
Legroom (front/rear)
43.3/39.4 inches
44.1/41.7 inches
Cargo volume w/seats up
28.9 cubic feet
36.4 cubic feet
Cargo volume w/seats down
74.2 cubic feet
72.1 cubic feet
Ground clearance
8.7 to 9.2 inches
8.2 inches
Base curb weight
3454 lbs
3649 lbs
Despite its compact size, the Forester manages its space more efficiently than the Santa Fe. It offers more ground clearance, increased maximum cargo volume, and lighter curb weight, all while offering just slightly less space overall for passengers. However, if you’re looking for more cargo room while all five seats are filled, the Santa Fe is the better option.
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Engine and performance

The Subaru Forester comes with only one available engine: a 2.5-liter flat-four with 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. It gets teamed up with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and a standard symmetrical all-wheel drive (AWD) system on all trims.
This engine won’t impress acceleration-wise, but if you opt for a Forester Wilderness trim, its low-end-torque-focused, retuned transmission ups the regular 1,500-lb towing capacity to 3,000 pounds.
On the other hand, the Hyundai Santa Fe gets far more powertrain options. First off, FWD is standard and AWD is optional for all models.
There are two non-hybrid engines available for the 2022 Santa Fe: a 2.5-liter inline-four with 191 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque or a turbocharged version with 277 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. With the turbocharged engine and the right towing equipment, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Next up is the Santa Fe Hybrid powertrain, which features a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-four with two electric motors that combine for 226 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. Max towing is only 2,000 pounds for the hybrid.
Finally, the Hyundai Santa Fe plug-in hybrid (PHEV) gets 260 combined horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque and has the same basic towing capacity as the regular hybrid. The Santa Fe PHEV can also drive for 31 miles on electricity only.

Fuel economy

The most fuel-efficient of all the models in question is naturally the Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV, which gets a combined fuel economy of 76 MPGe in hybrid mode. The traditional Santa Fe Hybrid gets 36 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. The most efficient non-hybrid Santa Fes are the ones equipped with the non-turbo engine and FWD. These models get 25 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
On the other hand, the Subaru Forester is much more efficient on the highway—it gets 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. However, thanks to its off-road-focused transmission settings, the Wilderness trim—the one with all that extra towing capacity—only gets 25/28 mpg (city/highway).


The 2022 Subaru Forester gets top safety ratings. Not only is it an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) 2022 Top Safety Pick+, but it also gets a perfect five-star crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe is also an IIHS 2022 Top Safety Pick+, and while the regular model doesn’t have any recent crash tests posted from the NHTSA, the Santa Fe Hybrid also gets a perfect five-star overall safety rating.
If we’re looking at safety details between them, an updated IIHS Side Crashworthiness test brought the Forester’s score in this category from a perfect “Good” to an “Acceptable” rating one tier down. In addition, the Hyundai Santa Fe suffers from headlight safety concerns on certain trims.
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Both the Subaru Forester and Hyundai Santa Fe are generously equipped when it comes to onboard technology features.
The 2022 Subaru Forester comes with the Subaru Eyesight safety feature suite, which includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency forward braking, and lane assist. These same features are included in Hyundai’s standard Smart Sense safety suite.
You’ll get an 8-inch infotainment screen with the Santa Fe vs. the Forester’s 6.5-inch screen, but both systems are easy to use with your Apple or Android devices. Both vehicles have available Harman Kardon audio system upgrades.
When you get into higher trim territory, there’s no denying that the Hyundai Santa Fe has more to offer, including Remote Smart Parking Assist, a 360-degree camera system, and ventilated and heated seats/steering wheels, to name just a few.

Interior and comfort

We’ve already talked a bit about the interior dimensions of these two SUV models, but to reiterate, the Forester takes the cake across every category except cargo space behind the rear seats.
Both of these models offer leather seats on higher trims. However, overall, the Hyundai Santa Fe feels more luxurious and comfortable on the inside. Subaru interiors tend to be a bit lacking in style, although the optional moonroof on the Forester does add a more upscale feel.

Winner: Hyundai Santa Fe

When it all comes down to it, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe has a distinct leg up in quality on the Subaru Forester, despite being so close in price. It’s simply a bigger, more capable SUV with more to offer overall, especially if you’re leaning towards spending the extra money for a hybrid or PHEV SUV.
However, if you don’t need that extra towing capacity, engine power, and storage space, the Subaru Forester puts up a strong argument against the larger, pricier Hyundai Santa Fe. It has more ground clearance for off-road situations, plus it comes standard with all-wheel drive.

How to save on Subaru insurance costs

Whether you drive a Subaru or a Hyundai, you’ll be paying less than the national average for new car insurance thanks to their fantastic safety ratings and relatively low upkeep costs. But the car insurance savings don’t end there!
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