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2019 Hyundai Santa Fe vs. 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: What's the Difference?

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author photo by Eric Brandt November 2018
  • The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe replaces the outgoing Santa Fe Sport as Hyundai's 5-seat midsize SUV.

  • The old 7-seat Santa Fe continues for 2019 as the Santa Fe XL.

  • A fresh face and new technology keep the new fourth-generation Santa Fe competitive.

Hyundai has made things a little confusing with the naming scheme of its midsize crossover SUVs. For the 2018 model year, Hyundai had the 5-seat Santa Fe Sport and the 7-seat Santa Fe. For 2019, the Santa Fe Sport has been replaced by an all-new 2019 Santa Fe, which is a 5-seater. The long-wheelbase model that used to be called the Santa Fe is now the Santa Fe XL and it's unchanged for the 2019 model year, other than the new name.

What we're comparing here is the all-new 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe against the now-discontinued 2018 Santa Fe Sport, both of which have five seats, a similar wheelbase and similar pricing. We're expecting a thorough update for the Santa Fe XL sometime in 2019 for the 2020 model year and the 2019 Santa Fe gives us a good idea of what to expect when its 7-seat sibling is updated next year.

Let's take a look at what's different and what's similar between the 2018 Santa Fe Sport and the 2019 Santa Fe.

Exterior

The first thing you'll notice about the all-new Santa Fe is its exterior, which has been completely redesigned for 2019. It displays Hyundai's new corporate face with a bold and premium-looking front grille flanked by narrow horizontal daytime running lights with bigger headlights and high-beams underneath. Bold lines continue throughout the body making the new Santa Fe a standout.

The previous-generation Santa Fe's styling was a little awkward. It was styled almost like a small minivan but without all of the family-friendly exterior functionality of an actual minivan, like sliding doors. The 2018 model doesn't look terrible, but we think the 2019 Santa Fe is a big improvement. The new Santa Fe is a little boxier making it shaped more like a traditional SUV, while simultaneously having a much more modern appearance.

The height and width of the 2018 Santa Fe Sport and the 2019 Santa Fe are identical. However, the 2019 model is three inches longer overall, which means it will take up a little more room in your garage, but that extra size pays off on the inside.

Interior

The interior is another good example of the outgoing model not being bad, but the new one being a big improvement. The 2018 Santa Fe Sport had an interior that was perfectly functional, but a bit plain with nothing particularly special about it. The 2019 model has a significantly more modern interior with a well-placed touchscreen, a tech-forward instrument cluster and a premium design that makes you feel like you're in a more expensive SUV.

The new, boxy shape and extra length of the 2019 Santa Fe gives it more room on the inside than the 2018 Santa Fe Sport. Both occupants in the front and back are treated to a little more space thanks to more overall passenger volume, making it a family-friendly hauler. Cargo space is almost identical between the two and about average for this class.

Mechanicals

The Santa Fe underwent a radical change for the new fourth-generation model, but the engine options remain the same. However, there are a few small variances between the two Santa Fes.

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Engines

  • 2.4-liter inline four; 185 horsepower, 178 lb-ft of torque; 21 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in combined driving

  • 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four; 240 hp, 260 lb-ft of torque; 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Engines

  • 2.4-liter inline four; 185 hp, 178 lb-ft of torque; 22 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined

  • 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four; 235 hp, 260 lb-ft of torque; 20 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined

The base engine is slightly more efficient in the 2019 model and the turbocharged engine is slightly less efficient. Compared to competitors, performance and fuel economy are pretty middling for the 2019 Santa Fe.

Both models come standard with front-wheel drive and are available with all-wheel drive. Upgrading to AWD improves traction, and it's nice to have in snowy climates, but it also hurts fuel economy a little.

There aren't a lot of similarities between the 2018 Santa Fe Sport and the 2019 Santa Fe, but the new model is very familiar under the hood.

Technology

What the 2019 Santa Fe lacks in mechanical improvements, it makes up for in technological improvements. Every one of the new Santa Fe's trims come with a very generous host of safety tech features as standard, which includes automatic and reverse emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, smart cruise control with stop/start, automatic high beams, a driver-attention monitor and a new feature called Safe Exit Assist. Safe Exit Assist keeps an eye out for oncoming traffic, including bicycles, before you open your door after parking. If it detects oncoming traffic, it locks your door to prevent the door or the occupant from getting hit while exiting the car. None of the aforementioned technology comes standard on the 2018 Santa Fe Sport, but some of it is optional on the higher trims.

Another thing that is standard on every 2019 Santa Fe and optional on the 2018 model is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The base infotainment system for the 2018 model is a 5-in unit, which is upgradable to seven inches or eight inches. In the 2019 Santa Fe, you start with a 7-in infotainment screen that can up upgraded to an 8-in unit.

With more standard safety features and connectivity features, the 2019 Santa Fe blows its predecessor away in terms of technology.

Pricing

Along with its slew of updates, the Hyundai Santa Fe gets a slight price increase over the 2018 Santa Fe Sport. The 2018 model has a starting MSRP of $24,950 while the 2019 Santa Fe starts at $25,500. Upgrading to AWD has also gotten a little pricier, as it's a $1,550 upgrade on the 2018 model and an extra $1,700 for 2019.

On the high end, both models get into the mid-to-high $30,000 range. There are seven different trims available for the 2019 Santa Fe and the 2018 Santa Fe Sport only has three available trims. That means it's easier to find a crossover that perfectly suits your specific needs and your budget with the 2019 model, albeit at a higher price.

Conclusion

The small price increase for the 2019 Santa Fe is well worth it over the 2018 Santa Fe Sport. With a fully revamped look inside and out, much more technology and more space on the inside, the Santa Fe got a huge upgrade for 2019.

While the Santa Fe Sport blends in with the crowd, the new model manages to stand out in a crowded and very competitive field of midsize crossovers. We wish we could get more excited about its performance and fuel economy, but despite its few shortcomings, the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is a fantastic value proposition.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2019 Hyundai Santa Fe vs. 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: What's the Difference? - Autotrader