SUV Fresh Take: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai once trailed its competitors in SUV offerings, but in recent times it’s made up for things in a big way. The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is an all-new model, a two-row midsize utility vehicle with all the modern safety and technology features we want. You’ll find a pair of engine choices and an eight-speed automatic transmission for the taking.

What’s new?

Hyundai redid everything when it released the 2019 Santa Fe. This year marks the start of the fourth-generation model and that means we have an all-new utility vehicle based on a fresh platform. Prices range from $25,500 to $37,100, covering seven model lines.

Design: exterior & interior

The Santa Fe’s design is as sleek as it is sporty, and marked by an oversized trapezoidal grille offset by sleek LED headlights and huge pockets housing LED lights. Front to back creases on the hood imparts elegance. Along the sides, the Santa Fe offers a high beltline, pronounced character lines and body sculpting, and standard alloy wheels. From the rear, the liftgate is topped by a spoiler. The rear fascia features wraparound tail lamps with LED accent lights.

Available upgrades include heated side mirrors, roof side rails, and a power tilt-and-slide panoramic sunroof. Various wheel options are also available.

Inside, there’s ample room for five passengers and all their gear. There’s about 36-cubic-feet of standard storage space or 71-cubic-feet with the rear seat folded. This is average for the class.

The front seats offer generous bolstering and are very comfortable. The split-folding rear seat also offers ample support, whether wrapped in cloth or dressed in leather.

The Santa Fe’s cabin features a layered dashboard with a bolt-on display on top of the center stack. The materials used are a cut above for the segment and include soft-touch textiles, metal trim, and minimal plastic. The Santa Fe supplies a commanding view of the road ahead.

All models feature full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescopic steering column, and air conditioning. Beginning with the SEL level, you’ll find an 8-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, and keyless entry with push-button start. All models feature ample storage compartments, including a cutout area on the dashboard suitable for holding smartphones.

Technology & safety

Consumers expect advanced technologies when shopping for a new vehicle and the Hyundai Santa Fe delivers. The base SE model comes with a 7-inch color display with an MP3 audio system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility, Bluetooth connectivity, and a pair of USB ports up front.

Moving up through trim levels expands the tech offerings to include an 8-inch touchscreen display with a navigation system, satellite and HD Radio, a wireless charging pad, and connected car services. You’ll even find a 115-volt power outlet on the top trim, while some models offer a premium 12-speaker audio system. Our choice is the larger screen as it offers hands-on control of many cabin features.

Safety is now at the forefront of many consumers’ purchase decisions. Rear-view monitors are now standard, but other important driver-assist features are also expected.

Hyundai doesn’t disappoint as it offers a suite of standard safety technologies, including lane keeping assist, blind spot avoidance, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control with automatic stop and start. Typically, these features cost extra and are more commonly available with luxury makes. Importantly, Hyundai makes these features standard with the 2019 Santa Fe and does so without driving up costs substantially. Among the available upgrades include a surround view monitor and a heads-up display.

Performance

Five of the seven Santa Fe trims come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. Two of the trims, the Limited 2.0T and Ultimate 2.0T, come with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 235 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Both engines work with an eight-speed automatic transmission, which replaces the previous six-speed.

Buyers will be satisfied with the base engine as it delivers the right blend of performance and efficiency. The combined city and highway 25 mpg matches the Ford Edge and is 2 mpg better than the Nissan Murano, although the latter is powered by a V6 engine only.

Choosing the turbocharged engine brings with it an important power boost, but at the cost of at least 3 mpg. There is a slight pause in power distribution as the turbo kicks in, a lag that quickly disappears as air is forced into each cylinder. We found the performance equivalent to a small V6, which should satisfy power-hungry drivers.

The Santa Fe’s strong suit is found in its ride, which benefits from an improved suspension system this year. The top-trim models gain a self-leveling rear suspension, which improves ride quality further. You might not tackle the twisty roads with abandon with the Santa Fe, but you should know that it imbues confidence on the road.

Our recommendation

Don’t confuse the Santa Fe with the Santa Fe XL, the latter a three-row model based on the previous-generation Santa Fe. The XL will soon disappear and will be replaced by the 2020 Hyundai Palisade, a three-row SUV with room for eight.

As for the Santa Fe, you’ll find much value and ample equipment beginning with the second-level SEL trim. For an additional $1,700, you can choose all-wheel drive, bringing your total to about $30,000. That price is below the competition and rivals the price of what similarly-equipped compact models cost.

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