In almost any head-to-head comparison, many of the main attributes, features, and options tend to overlap, and some even cancel each other out — at least from an objective view on the surface. For instance, when it comes to evaluating the safety of the 2022 GMC Acadia vs 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe, both basically compiled nearly identical solid safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Although that’s wonderful news for both brands, it’s not going to help sway many potential buyers sizing-up both models; one must carry on and keep juggling info to find advantages that meet your own personal criteria and lifestyle. Let’s sort through the muck to see if a case can be made in favor of the slightly more expensive 2022 GMC Acadia vs the slightly higher-rated 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe.
Feel-Good Numbers and Reviews
Let’s face it: we all like to read reviews that wax positively about a make and model we’re considering, but we have more to ponder when said vehicle — according to critics — comes up a bit short in various categories (when compared to segment front-runners). That’s the scenario in this match-up between midsize crossovers, with the Hyundai Santa Fe holding a little leverage in certain categories against class rival GMC Acadia. But, considering many rubrics used for ranking have minimal score variations, you have to decide how much weight that carries for your personal wants, needs, and must-haves. For example, the difference between #1 and #5 in J.D. Power’s overall rankings for this segment is only 4 points, with all five qualifying as “Great.” While that may be enough to change a mind here and there, it’s not likely to impact the decision of a buyer who covets a certain brand for various features or proven quality. Let’s scope both models and see how they really match up.
Mano A Mano
There’s no denying the Hyundai Santa Fe has a broader range of model pricing — with the low-end SE and SEL entries starting at a very reasonable $27,200 and $29,000, respectively. However, when considering the tag on Hyundai’s upper-tier Limited ($38,960) and Calligraphy ($40,960) models, the trumpeted value angle of Hyundai’s cheaper models suddenly becomes arguably a bit of a wash vs the Acadia line when it comes to price. The starting tag for the GMC Acadia FWD SLE model is $34,800. The AT4 comes in at $41,400, with the posh Denali topping the list at $46,600.
Hyundai deserves props for offering an impressive stable of available engines choices — including regular and plugin hybrid versions. However, the standard engine across all Santa Fe models is a non-turbo, 2.5L, inline four-cylinder (I-4) with a less-than-exhilarating 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque — and a class-average 26 mpg combined fuel economy. The GMC base motor is a 2.0L turbocharged I-4 with considerably more punch at 228 hp, 258 lb-ft of torque, and a thumbs-up 25 mpg combined.
For those who want some added muscle, the Acadia offers a 3.6L DOHC V6 with 310 hp, 277 lb-ft of torque, and a very decent 22 mpg combined. The Santa Fe does offer a more impassioned six-cylinder of its own with 311 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque, but only on its top-two models — which again takes the price near $40,000. Not only does the GMC Acadia have a performance edge, but it also tops the Santa Fe with an approximate 15% towing capacity advantage.
While both interiors get a nod for spaciousness, only the GMC Acadia has a standard and foldable (for more cargo space) 3rd-row seat. Granted, the third seat is a bit compact, but the GMC Acadia can easily and comfortably transport four adults and two children, officially making it a family-friendly midsize crossover. Both the Acadia and Santa Fe have folding options for the rear seat, which provides ample room for cargo such as luggage. There’s not much to separate either model in overall cubic feet of available cargo storage, but the 3rd-row can be a handy feature for many shopping in this segment.
As stated earlier, both the GMC Acadia and Hyundai Santa Fe have impressive safety ratings across the board. With that in mind, there’s simply not much to use as a gauge when trying to determine which may be better. That leaves technology such as driver-assist applications and other automated programs to consider. Again, both automakers have this covered with standard tech such as automated emergency braking, automatic high-beam headlamps, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear park assist, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. To pick a winner here is, well, purely subjective.
You can’t go wrong with either infotainment choice as they both provide abundant options such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Santa Fe offers two touchscreen sizes and a high-wattage, multi-speaker sound system. The GMC comes standard with a slightly more user-friendly touchscreen, with available built-in navigation and sound featuring the renowned quality of Bose-engineered speakers.
This is the fork in the road where the case tips in favor of strongly moving toward purchasing the Acadia over the Santa Fe. The no-frills, 8-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission utilized in the Hyundai models is a capable performer but not as suave as the 9-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission offered in the Acadia. The end result is a pleasingly smooth ride that also lends a hand in better fuel economy and performance. Edge: Acadia.
When considering traction on less-than-stellar road surfaces (for both our comparison crossovers), let’s forget about rock-climbing at the local off-road park and concentrate on more realistic scenarios like traveling on unrefined roads — such as gravel or dirt littered with gaping potholes and erosion. If you own a place at the lake, maybe a cabin in the mountains — or simply have an adventurous side that frequently takes you along uncommon thoroughfares, the GMC offers more potential to repeatedly take on those challenges and still be standing down the road.
In the spirit of the guy who spent too much for a raspy muffler and some cheap decals for his sled — hoping it at least looks and sounds faster (even though sadly, it doesn’t), the Santa Fe offers a daring XRT option package that helps give the appearance of an off-road intestinal fortitude, but, (shhh)… only in a superficial sense. The XRT facade may look the part, but the combination of front-wheel drive and a 191 hp 2.5L engine can’t hold with the Acadia AT4. The Santa Fe definitely has a better fighting chance with the optional 3.5L V6 under the hood, but remember — that only comes in models edging past the now familiar $40,000 line-in-the-sand.
By contrast, the Acadia AT4 model actually is a capable off-road performer that not only looks the part but has the kahunas to back it up! The AT4 comes standard with 300-plus horses and ample torque, a Traction Select System with convenient Off-Road Mode, an Active Torque Control all-wheel drive system, 17-inch aluminum wheels with knobby sport terrain tires, and a brash-but-stylish noir grill — along with black-chrome highlights — exclusive to the AT4 model! All in all, the AT4 makes a bold statement and adds an element of diversity for prospective GMC Acadia buyers.
Time to wrap it up, but not before we close with this synopsis: If you’re willing to make the financial commitment for a loaded model of either brand — and you’ve done your homework, you’ll likely get a midsize crossover SUV that serves all your needs. Hyundai smartly uses a bevy of options, standard tech features, and a longer powertrain warranty as major selling points, but is that really enough to tip the scale for you?
The bottom line is this: if you want to roll in a rugged American SUV that cruises like an upscale car fitted with a comfortably indulgent interior — and also happens to be nicely equipped with the latest tech and safety features — you have to take a very long look at the GMC Acadia over the Hyundai Santa Fe. This is especially true if you’re considering the top-shelf models. When side-by-side in a head-on view (not to take anything away from the aesthetics of the Santa Fe), the classically familiar, red-blooded, and stylish look of the GMC front-end and grill, along with a bolder overall posture, may just be enough to seal-the-deal.