This battle between the new Hyundai Santa Fe and the new Mitsubishi Outlander is akin to David versus Goliath but in mid-sized SUV form. 

Mid-Sized SUVs with Big Differences 

mitsubishicars.com | hyundaiusa.com
mitsubishicars.com | hyundaiusa.com

Mitsubishi is working on regrowing its brand in America. Hyundai is the third-largest automaker on the planet. The two have approached the mid-size SUV market in America very differently.

Today, we’re going to break down the Outlander and the Santa Fe to find out which is better. Before crowning a winner, we’ll test specs, driving manners, interior comfort, and trims.

Specs 

2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - media.mitsubishicars.com
2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - media.mitsubishicars.com

Mitsubishi is a couple of years into this latest generation of the Outlander. For 2024 it comes with 181 horsepower, 181 lb-ft of torque, a continuously variable transmission, and the choice of front or rear-wheel drive. It gets up to 24 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway which are good numbers for this segment.

Mitsubishi also offers a plug-in hybrid version with 248 hp and full-time all-wheel drive. While the PHEV drivetrain enables 38 miles of all-electric range it’s a mixed bag once the gas engine comes on. In the city, it’ll get up to 25 mpg but on the highway, performance drops to just 27 mpg. In addition, it can tow up to 2,000 pounds.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.5L I4 - carsforsale.com
2024 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.5L I4 - carsforsale.com

Hyundai also has a pair of available engines in its mid-size SUV starting with a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 277 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. That power goes to the front or all four wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. It gets up to 20 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway. It’s also capable of towing up to 4,500 pounds.

The Santa Fe Hybrid offers a 232 hp powertrain that leverages a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and a six-speed manual transmission with all-wheel drive. According to the EPA, it’ll get up to 36 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway. Notably, it’s a traditional hybrid and not a plug-in so buyers won’t get any all-electric range.

Driving and Performance 

2024 Mitsubishi Outlander - mitsubishicars.com
2024 Mitsubishi Outlander - mitsubishicars.com

The Outlander isn’t exactly a joy to drive. In our main review, we said it’s more likely to put you to sleep than to engage you. That’s a result of the somewhat dull engines available and the heavy ponderous way that it moves through the world. The steering is numb and its CVT is especially trialsome as it reacts slowly and drones on the highway. The standard all-wheel drive on the hybrid is good overall but doesn’t add any playfulness or fun to this grocery-getter.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe - hyundaiusa.com
2024 Hyundai Santa Fe - hyundaiusa.com

The Hyundai Santa Fe is decidedly more appropriate for modern-day traffic than the Outlander. It passes on the highway better but in the bends, it still has body roll. At the same time, it’s comfortable and quiet and that’s the real goal here.

The Hybrid version is surprisingly spry at low speeds thanks to excellent power in-fill from the electric motor but once it’s weighed down with people and things the low horsepower rating starts to show up. Finally, it’s worth noting that the Santa Fe is available in XRT trim which adds a suspension lift and all-terrain tires. That’s something you can’t get with the Outlander.

Comfort and Interior 

2024 Mitsubishi Outlander - mitsubishicars.com
2024 Mitsubishi Outlander - mitsubishicars.com

Where the Outlander starts to shine is in its cabin. It’s spacious, it’s well-appointed, and it’s modern. The dash design is handsome and Mitsubishi offers nice contrasting colors for some of its soft-touch materials too. These touches help it stand out in the segment and overcome what is a somewhat small infotainment system. Upper-level trims also get diamond-stitched leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, and second-row heated seats. The third row is a kid-centric affair. Adults really can’t fit back there so keep that in mind if you’ll use the third row often.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe - hyundaiusa.com
2024 Hyundai Santa Fe - hyundaiusa.com

The Santa Fe’s cabin is as bold as its new exterior. It features a countless array of right angles from the dash to the center console to the door cards. It might not be for everyone but it’ll likely be somewhat timeless thanks to the simple but elegant approach Hyundai designers took. The materials are of equal quality to those in the Mitsubishi too. Most of the surfaces eschew plastic for a soft-touch feel. On top of that, it’s positively huge inside thanks to clever packaging. The third row isn’t perfect for adults but it’s a step above what one gets in the Outlander.

Trims and Features 

2024 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL - carsforsale.com
2024 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL - carsforsale.com

The base Outlander ES comes with 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, automatic high beams, and an 8-inch infotainment system. Those who buy the ES Hybrid also get a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. Next up is the SE which includes 20-inch wheels, a 9-inch infotainment system, and a Level 2 driving system. SE Hybrid buyers also get rain-sensing wipers.

The gas-only SE Black Edition is just like the SE but with black accents. The SEL gets LED interior lighting, tri-zone climate control, and heated seats. SEL Hybrid buyers also get DC Fast Charging. An SEL Platinum Edition is also available and it gets a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel, and a 10-speaker sound system.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe XRT - hyundainews.com
2024 Hyundai Santa Fe XRT - hyundainews.com

Hyundai offers the Santa Fe in five trims starting with the gas-only SE. It has 18-inch wheels, LED exterior lighting, automatic high beams, heated mirrors, a 12.3-inch infotainment system, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, cloth upholstery, adaptive cruise, and a power liftgate. Next, the SEL adds black roof rails, faux-leather upholstery, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and heated front seats.

The XRT is off-road focused with an extra 1.5 inches of ground clearance, 30-inch all-terrain tires, and a sunroof. The Limited trim adds a 12.3-inch gauge cluster, blind-spot monitoring, a 12-speaker sound system, leather-trimmed upholstery, and second-row heated seats. The Calligraphy trim incorporates second-row captain’s chairs, Nappa leather upholstery, quilted door panels, and a two-tone steering wheel.

The Verdict 

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe - hyundaiusa.com
2024 Hyundai Santa Fe - hyundaiusa.com

In the real story of David versus Goliath, the giant loses to David. Unfortunately for Mitsubishi, the giant Hyundai wins. The Santa Fe simply offers so much more value, modernity, driving engagement, and capability that it’s not much of a competition. The Mitsubishi Outlander isn’t a bad SUV but when it’s compared directly to some of the most advanced options in the space its shortcomings are evident. The one place that Mitsubishi wows is in the warranty department but Hyundai matches it there too.

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Stephen Rivers

Stephen Rivers is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion, extending to nearly all car cultures. After obtaining an occupational studies degree in sports medicine, Stephen turned his attention to sports cars. He was employed as an auto shop manager, spent time in auto sales, and worked as a software developer for a racing company, but Stephen began writing about cars over 10 years ago. When he's not in front of a computer screen, he's racing his own Bugeye Subaru WRX in as many autocross and rallycross competitions as he can.

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