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2019 Hyundai Santa Fe: New Car Review

The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe represents a completely redesigned model. It has a more attractive, premium appearance inside and out. Its driving experience is more refined. Its feature content has ballooned, in particular its standard accident avoidance tech. The Santa Fe is also now only available as a 2-row, 5-passenger model, aligning it with midsize models like the Honda Passport, the Ford Edge and the Nissan Murano (although bigger "compacts" like the Honda CR-V and the Subaru Forester are certainly comparable). The old 7-passenger model will live on for another year as the "Santa Fe XL" before being replaced by the new Palisade for 2020.

Really, if there is one word to describe this new Santa Fe, it’s "competent." Outstanding in few areas, but underwhelming in even fewer, it goes about its job in a well-rounded but ultimately unmemorable fashion. Its handsome styling is its most characterful attribute, which for most buyers, will be a key reason for considering it over those more utilitarian compact models. If there’s one main complaint it’s that the 2.0T turbocharged engine is restricted to the top trim levels — competitors offer similarly power engines as standard equipment or at least as options on lower trims.

In general, though, the 2019 Santa Fe should be an appealing, right-sized SUV for many with compelling value and a lengthy warranty.

What’s New for 2019?

The Hyundai Santa Fe was completely redesigned for 2019. It is exclusively a 2-row, 5-passenger model. It officially replaces the old Santa Fe Sport. Last year’s 7-passenger model has been renamed the Santa Fe XL for 2019. . See the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe models for sale near you

Read about the changes in 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe vs 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: What’s the Difference?

What We Like

Superlative safety credentials; extra-comfortable back seat; abundant and easy-to-use infotainment tech; handsome cabin; large cargo space; lengthy warranty

What We Don’t

Engine upgrade not available on lower trims; meager towing capacity; less of a solid, big-SUV feel than other midsize models

How Much?

$25,750-$38,800

Fuel Economy

The 2019 Santa Fe comes standard with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. That isn’t a lot for a midsize SUV. An 8-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard on every Santa Fe regardless of engine, while all-wheel drive is an option. Fuel economy with this engine is 22 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg in combined driving. AWD lowers those figures to 21 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined.

The Santa Fe Limited and Ultimate trim levels can be equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces a far more capable 230 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy goes down to 20 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined with FWD and 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined with AWD. This is comparable to several competitors (Chevrolet Blazer, Honda Passport), but lower than some others (Nissan Murano, Ford Edge).

Standard Features & Options

The 2019 Santa Fe is available in five trim levels: SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Limited and Ultimate. The "2.0T" versions of the top two trims indicate they have the optional turbocharged engine.

Standard equipment on the SE ($25,750) includes 17-in alloy wheels, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a driver inattention warning system, a backup camera, automatic headlights and high beam control, rear privacy glass, a height-adjustable driver seat (includes 2-way power lumbar adjustment), a 60/40-split folding and reclining back seat, cloth upholstery, a 7-in touchscreen, four USB ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The SEL ($27,600) adds fog lights, proximity entry and push-button start, an 8-way power driver seat, heated front seats, upgraded gauges, satellite and HD radios, and Blue Link emergency and remote communications services.

The SEL Plus ($29,800) adds 18-in wheels, roof rails, a handsfree power lift gate, parking sensors, dual-zone automatic climate control, sliding back seat with folding releases in the cargo area, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a 12-speaker Infinity sound system.

The Limited ($32,600 2.4; $34,200 2.0T) adds LED headlights and fog lights, a panoramic sunroof, an 8-way power passenger seat and leather upholstery.

The Ultimate ($35,450 2.4; $37,100 2.0T) adds ventilated front seats, an upgraded driver seat (power cushion extender, 4-way lumbar adjustment, memory settings), a head-up display, a surround-view parking camera system, wireless smartphone charging, an 8-in touchscreen and integrated navigation.

There are no options.

Safety

The Santa Fe comes with an unmatched amount of standard safety equipment: six airbags (front, front-side, side curtain), anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, a driver inattention warning system, and a backup camera.

In testing by the non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 2019 Santa Fe got the best-possible rating in all crashworthiness, crash prevention and headlight categories. It was named a Top Safety Pick+.

Behind the Wheel

We’ve only had the opportunity to test the turbocharged engine available on the two range-topping trims. It is a smooth, strong engine that doesn’t behave in an overtly turbo-y fashion — those accustomed to V6-powered SUVs shouldn’t mind (or even notice) the behavior difference, and if anything, should appreciate the greater low-end power and torque. The 8-speed automatic is also reasonably quick to respond (putting it into Sport mode increases transmission and throttle response further), and impressively holds gear going up an incline. The integrated automatic stop/start system is also quite impressive with little engine noise and virtually no vibration — it took a while to detect the Santa Fe even had this fuel-saving function.

All that said, we have doubts that the standard engine will be sufficient. It has less power than compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V, the Mazda CX-5 and the Toyota RAV4, but it’s bigger and heavier. Most midsize SUV competitors come standard with something similar to the Santa Fe’s upgrade.

As for the rest of the driving experience, the 2019 Santa Fe is better-sorted over bumps and undulations than the outgoing model. It’s definitely not sporty, but also clearly more competent than before and generally average for the segment. We also appreciate the standard driving modes (Normal, Sport and the aptly named Smart) that ably adjust steering effort, and throttle and transmission responses. Ride quality is good, but there’s generally less of a solid, big-SUV feel to it than other mid-size models like the Honda Passport or the Ford Edge. It feels more comparable to compact models.

Inside, the Santa Fe is attractive and its materials are decent enough for the segment. Its low dash helps visibility and makes this SUV feel a bit less cumbersome to drive. The Ultimate trim level’s brown leather and convincing "wood" trim that wraps behind the dash like a Jaguar’s elevates the cabin to a luxury level commensurate with its price — not all rivals can boast that. In typical Hyundai fashion, infotainment tech is abundant and easy to use.

In terms of space, the Santa Fe is excellent. The back seat is spacious and reclines to a generous degree, while also sliding in certain trim levels — a rare feature among two-row SUVs. Cargo space is generous at 71.3 cu ft. with the seats lowered and 35.9 cu ft. with them raised, but there’s an enormous under-floor storage bin that can be used to store even more stuff.

Other Cars to Consider

2019 Honda Passport — New for 2019, the Passport effectively lops a row of seats off the Pilot, raises the ground clearance and makes it less overtly family oriented.

2019 Kia Sorento — The Sorento is similarly sized as the Santa Fe, but offers a third-row seat and its V6 engine option is more widely available. Its value and warranty are similar.

2019 Honda CR-V — Technically in a smaller vehicle segment than the Santa Fe, but in terms of its interior space and standard engine, it should be considered.

2019 Volkswagen Tiguan — The Tiguan is similarly sized as the Santa Fe, nicely refined and Volkswagen is the only company that can better Hyundai’s basic warranty coverage.

Used Toyota Highlander — The Toyota Highlander is effectively sized in between the Santa Fe and most 3-row family crossovers. If you need a bit more space but are attracted to the Santa Fe’s price, this would be a good used car alternative.

Autotrader’s Advice

The SEL Plus is the sweet spot in terms of feature content and value. We’d start your test drive with one of these and see if think you can live with its engine. Otherwise, the Limited 2.0T would start to represent the Santa Fe at its mechanical best — you just have to pay for it. Find a Hyundai Santa Fe for sale

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