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How Well Does A Hyundai Santa Fe Drive In The Snow? (Answered)

If you’re planning on buying an American-made Hyundai Santa Fe, that’s, of course, a relevant question, especially if you live in areas where snow is widespread. Let’s start with a quick answer.

The lower trim levels lack traction, but the optional add ons do make up for it by electronically assisting the driver in keeping the wheels firm to the ground. The shorter wheelbase is definitely a negative, but its front-wheel-drive system and the optional all-wheel drive make it a good choice.

However, that doesn’t tell the whole story; it’s just the tip of the iceberg. We have all the aspects discussed in detail, and below we’ll start with a selection of curated comments from owners about the performance of Santa Fe in snowy conditions. After that, we’ll take a deep dive into the specifics of this SUV, such as tires, drive systems, and electronic support systems.

Finally, we’ll talk about the ground clearance, the weight distribution, and the wheelbase. We’ll finish with a few suggestions for optional traction devices that can provide even more grip. Read on!

Also read: How Many Miles Can A Hyundai Santa Fe Last?

Experience Of Hyundai Santa Fe Owners

yup… been driving FWD since ’87 in Montana, Indiana, and Ohio, real winters, real bad conditions… zero problems. Not a 4-wheel drive but 10 times better than a rear-wheel drive vehicle in the snow. Slow down, keep the font wheels pointed toward where you want to go ,,,,,,,,,and you’ll have no problems. Yes, the Koreans and Japanese get lots of snow and have designed vehicles in mond of that.


AWD/4WD is always best but FWD works. On icy roads, it’s mostly stopping that’s the problem and ABS is on all 4. The only exception is when you have snow tires on. I got snow tires for the first time on my AWD Santa Fe and that combination is amazing!


I started my vehicle, got rid of the snow on the windows and pushed the “lock the AWD” button. I honestly have to say, from the moment I pulled out of my spot, the Santa Fe was nothing but confident on the road. I never drove a vehicle with traction control, stability control or AWD before ( just FWD and 4WD ). I couldn’t believe how stable it was on the mushy and icy surface. I didn’t want to push my luck, but when I had the chance, I did gas it a bit and was a little aggrsive with the steering. I just wanted to feel it slip and slide a little so I would know it’s limits. It just wouldn’t. I started to think maybe the road conditions were actually not bad. That was until I started to see other vehicles slide and skid. I did see many accidents yesterday and I am sure the insurance companies are frowning.


Does Hyundai Santa Fe Have Snow Tires?

Form factory, you get the all-season tires, which can do pretty good in all types of weather for sure, but they can’t give traction when you are driving in a lot of snow. And no matter what systems you have integrated to prevent your wheels from sliding, you will suffer in winter without snow tires.

If you live in a region that sees a lot of snow, then make sure to put on nice snow tires so the wheels will remain happy with their relationship with the road. Otherwise, they will block their connection with it, and you will lose signal from the road, which will cost you big time.

Why should you go with the snow tires? Well, snow tires have the following characteristics that make them suitable in heavy snow to black ice, and everything in between that winter has to offer.

Also read: The Types Of Gas A Hyundai Santa Fe Takes (Explained)

The Tread Rubber

Extreme cold temperatures cause the tread rubber of an all-season or summer tire to stiffen and become less able to provide sufficient traction. To combat this, the tread rubber compounds of winter tires are composed such that they remain flexible, allowing the tire to grip the road better.

Tread Depth and Patterns

Unique to snow tires are deeper tread depths and unique tread patterns. Deeper tread depths reduce snow buildup and thus provide better traction on the snow. The tread patterns, too, are designed to channel snow and slush and expel water.

Biting Edges

Snow tires have many biting edges and high densities of small slits in their treads that increase the tread surface area, thus increasing grip in wet, icy, and snowy conditions.

Also read: How Well Does A Hyundai Sonata Drive In the Snow?

Have Snow Tires Equipped As Soon As Possible

If you want to buy snow tires, we advise you to use Tirerack. They have a great tool that allows you to find the perfect fit for your exact model, so you won’t have to worry about fitment issues. Furthermore, they also offer free shipping on most of their orders. Check out their store here!

From the owners manual

Snow tires should be equivalent in size and type to the vehicle’s standard tires. Otherwise, the safety and handling of your vehicle may be adversely affected.

Install tire chains only in pairs and on the front tires. It should be noted that installing tire chains on the tires will provide a greater driving force but not prevent side skids. Do not install studded tires without first checking local and municipal regulations for possible restrictions against their use.

The chains on the front part are for those variants that are FWD, but if you have the AWD variant, then you would have to put these chains on all four wheels.

What Drive System Does A Hyundai Santa Fe Have?

Santa Fe comes with an FWD as standard, but we also get an AWD drive system as an available option for all of the trim levels, starting from the SE and going all the way up to XRT. Each of these drive systems has its own pros and cons. Although AWD is the preferred drive system, the FWD is not a bad option either.

With a set of good snow tires on all four wheels, you will get great traction and stability on snow, and by adding snow chains, the traction will increase even further.

In AWD, the power is transferred to all four tires based on the weight distribution of each wheel. This results in greater stability and substantially improves car handling. Note that AWD is not the same as a 4-wheel drive (4WD), in which the engine transfers equal power to all four wheels and is preferred for trucks and SUVs.

Because Santa Fe is a COMPACT SUV, it’s not really necessary to have a 4WD. Its AWD drive system is excellent, and the FWD shouldn’t be a problem. But, we have plenty of more aspects to look into before we give the final statement on its drivability on snow.

Also read: How Well Does A Hyundai Tucson Drive In The Snow?

What Electronics System Help The Hyundai Santa Fe In The Snow?

Auto Hold If Equipped

This feature helps keep your Santa Fe standstill on a slope even when the brakes are not applied. Once the vehicle is at rest, you can push the auto hold button, and the Hyundai Santa Fe will keep its tires firm on the road.


The Anti-lock Braking System is now a standard feature in all modern-day vehicles. Why is ABS so important? This system would ensure that the wheels won’t lock when you slam the brakes, in an emergency, or even in a normal situation. This feature will prevent your tires from sliding, thus increasing traction several notches.

Had it not been for the ABS, hard braking would have locked the wheels while turning and steering at the same time, and if the wheels do get locked and you happen to be turning, then that situation is a recipe for disaster.

You should never disable ABS in any condition. If someone tells you that turning off ABS will help you in the snow, they lie. Without ABS, things will always go sideways. 


ECS stands for Electronic Stability Control. This is one of the most important features that help you maneuver your vehicle in snow. This is the system that saves lives, especially when you are traveling in extreme weather conditions. Keep in mind that cruise control will be disabled when the ECS is in action.

This system is ever needed because so much stuff is being automated, and you are hardly connected with the road.

One way or another, everything has been integrated with electronics, and you won’t be able to tell if the wheels are losing traction. So when the rear end even thinks of going sideways, the ECS kicks in, and the system will maneuver the vehicle in the direction according to the steering input.

In other words, if your steering is tilted to the right, but you are sliding to the left side (understeer), the ECS will make corrections by reducing the speed and adjusting power so that the vehicle can easily go to the right side, just as you originally intended.

Disabling ECS Will Help You In Snow? You should never disable the ESC by any means. There are only two instances where you can turn off the ECS.

  1. If you want to perform the rocking maneuver, where you rock the vehicle back and forth in case you are stuck in snow.
  2. If you want to have an accident.

Other than these two instances, you should never turn it off.


Another system that comes integrated into the ECS is Vehicle Stability Management (VCM). It helps ensure the vehicle stays stable during sudden braking or hard acceleration, whether on slippery mud or very slippery snow. 

HAC Hill-Start Assist

This is one of the best features that help the driver maintain traction even when going up a slippery slope, which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible to climb. The older models have outdated tech, which won’t perform well. However, the latest models have amazing bells and whistles that make the Sonata drive extremely well, even on the snow.

This hill-start assist would automatically apply brakes for approximately 2 seconds and release the brake after 5 seconds or when you give it gas.

Some minor problems are going to be dealt with in this article in detail. Make sure you carry out all the necessary improvements. And after you have made all of those improvements, you will be good to go in the snow.

DBC Downhill Brake Control

Normally when you are going downhill, you would have to focus on braking and steering simultaneously, but with this amazing system, you would only have to focus on steering, and the system will do the braking for you. This system will not work if the engine is turned off. There will be a button on the center console that will picture your SUV going downhill.

Also read: Hyundai Santa Fe Transmission: Overview, Problems, Fluids

Ground Clearance (in):8.2

This is one of those important factors that decide whether you will get traction on snow or not. The sweet spot of ground clearance comes at 8 inches and above. But if you live in an area that sees only a few inches of snow, less than 3-4 inches, then this 5 inches is not bad at all.

Here in the case of Santa Fe, we have an amazing 8.2 inches of ground clearance. You will experience issues only when the snow is 10+ inches deep on a powder day. But with good snow tires, you can overcome that snow.

Vehicles do get stuck on those piles left by the plows on the sides, so make sure to steer clear from those. Drive on the tire marks left by other vehicles after the plow, and you will be all good.

Wheelbase (in): 108.9

The wheelbase is the distance between the centers of the front and the rear tires. The wheelbase dimensions affect the vehicle’s weight distribution and are a key spec in determining the balance and steering. Having a longer wheelbase means that the vehicle would be more stable at higher speeds.

On the other hand, vehicles with short wheelbase can usually corner faster but are less aerodynamic. In other words, a longer wheelbase translates into more stability because in vehicles with a longer wheelbase, the onset of sliding is delayed, thus giving the driver more time to make adjustments.

Hyundai Santa Fe has a wheelbase of 108.9 inches. Now the question is, is it any good? To answer this question, we will look at the gigantic Ford-150 that has a wheelbase between 122 – 163 inches depending on the specific model you have, which is the sweet spot for the wheelbase.

When we compare the wheelbase of the Santa Fe with other vehicles, then it comes out to be rather short, even though it’s an SUV, but the thing to be noted is that it’s a COMPACT cross-over, which by the way, are supposed to be shorter, how much shorter? Even shorter than the Sonata. So this wheelbase is going to be a negative for the Santa Fe. 

What Traction Device You Can Use On The Hyundai Santa Fe?

If you live in an area where a lot of snow tends to still be on the road when you’re about to drive, then you can, of course, buy snow chains to provide the car with more grip. In the owner’s manual of the most recent Santa Fe, Hyundai gives a few suggestions for these ‘snow traction devices,’ as they like to call them.

From owners manual

Wrong size or improperly installed chains can damage your vehicle’s brake lines, suspension, body, and wheels.

  • Use SAE “S” class or wire chains.
  • If you hear noise caused by chains contacting the body, retighten the chain to prevent contact with the vehicle body.
  • To prevent body damage, retighten the chains after driving 0.3~0.6 miles (0.5~1.0 km).
  • Do not use tire chains on vehicles equipped with aluminum wheels. If unavoidable, use a wire type chain.
  • Use wire chains less than 0.47 in. (12mm) thick to prevent damage to the chain’s connection.

So when you are searching for your new set of snow chains, you would have to search a lot to ensure which snow chain will fit your wheels. We have made that easy for you and have provided their links to amazon. If you have an 18 inch or 19-inch wheel that comes stock, you should go for the SZ429.

But if you have the 20-inch wheel package that comes from the factory, you should put the SZ435 on your tires. 

Happy driving.