A Victory & Reseda review of the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
The SUV has dominated the market in this country. That is no longer news. In fact, it has become the primary business model for most of the automotive industry in North America.
The proliferation of the SUV has forced several automakers to either cancel or consider eliminating sedan, coupe, and hatchback models. Customers have been sold on the space, comfort, utility, and capability of the SUV and crossover above a mere car. And, now, there are several classes of SUV to choose from. Some groups of SUVs are even more distinct of a segment than the next one.
Hyundai has already eliminated a sedan from their lineup. Remember the Azera? The same customer for the Azera has seen how the last generation of Santa Fes would satisfy everything they want and need – with an additional step up into the cabin and a higher seating position for a greater field of vision. The last-generation Santa Fe Sport and XL have welcomed these customers with open arms.
When it came time for a new generation of the Santa Fe, Hyundai had an idea. First, they would secure the name for only one model – not two. Secondly, they concentrated on the two-row SUV that we see here to compete in a growth segment where customers could choose not to have a three-row mid-sized model without the bulk, gaining improved fuel economy, without sacrificing capability.
This is how we arrived at the new 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe. My take on this new edition of Hyundai's original SUV (in the USA, that is)…
It is a very handsome vehicle. The silhouette alone is welcoming – and right-sized. It is not too small nor big. It is simply just right. That also includes the wide-opening doors, superb cargo access, and the creases that frame the new Santa Fe.
Recently, there had been discussion of the front end. This is another iteration of Hyundai's new SUV face – the large grille flanked by a set of "lower" headlamp units, upper LED driving lamps/turn signals, and fog lamps on the lower edge of the fascia. As much as many people are not fans of this type of front-end design, I found it to be nicely done and as equally handsome as the rest of the Santa Fe.
Everything else is tastefully done. The chrome details, as well as the 19-inch alloy wheels, make the Ultimate tester pop out some more.
Inside the Santa Fe is a welcoming space for drivers and passengers. The instrument binnacle is flanked by two analog sets of gauges – the tachometer on the left, the fuel and temperature gauges on the right. In the middle is a TFT screen that includes the speedometer and other information screens. In all, it is a great set-up with a step forward for Hyundai models to come. You do have a series of switches and controls that are of high quality – just as you expect from a Hyundai. That includes the climate controls which offer both heated and cooled seats, along with a heated steering wheel.
I found the front seats to be comfortable and supportive. They are perfect for all sorts of tasks from the grocery run to a vacation far, far away. I just love the adjustments to fine tune your driving position and how it responds to the rest of the vehicle – and your body. Rear seat room is excellent and can fit two adults and a child – or three children – with superb leg room and excellent door access. The cargo space is tremendous – 35.9 cubic feet with the rear seat up, expanding to 71.3 cubic feet with it down.
Infinity provided 12 speakers to emit sound from the tablet-like infotainment screen. The playback and information options are tremendous, ranging from Apple CarPlay/Android Auto to SiriusXM, a vast array of pre-sets, and its onboard navigation system found on the Ultimate model. That also includes the BlueLink telematics system that works to keep tabs on your Santa Fe – especially when it is stolen or involved in a major accident. By the way, the sound from the Infinity system sounds absolutely lovely.
Powering the new Santa Fe are two engines. Most models get the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 185 horsepower, connected to a new 8-speed automatic transmission. Limited and Ultimate models have a choice to upgrade to the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with 235 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This engine is also mated to the new 8-speed automatic transmission. All models can be equipped with Hyundai’s HTrac all-wheel drive system, just as I had in my tester.
Let me say this: The turbo is perfect for the Santa Fe! It is very responsive off the line with absolutely no turbo lag. Lane changes and on-ramps are accomplished with ease. The transmission is smooth and quiet, while the all-wheel drive system provided necessary grip through snow and ice.
One important thing to report is fuel economy. Even with Minnesota's winter present in the air, the Santa Fe 2.0T with all-wheel drive averaged 23.1 MPG in my care – over 2 MPG more than the average reported on the sticker.
Ride quality is superb. The suspension system does a great job absorbing road imperfections and uneven icy/snow surfaces. It takes corners quite well, without much lean or roll. In fact, The overall handling package feels more like a Sonata than a mid-sized, two-row SUV.
The steering system offered a tight turning radius and solid response from the wheel. The on-center feel is a bit soft – nothing a press of the Sport mode button can't fix. Braking is also good with great pedal feel and response. The Santa Fe offered solid stops in normal, panic, and winter situations. In all, the newest member of Hyundai's SUV family is highly maneuverable and well-behaved.
Pricing for the Santa Fe lineup starts at $24,750 for an SE with front-wheel drive. My Ultimate tester with the turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive, and a long list of standard features came to $39,905.
Before I get into my conclusion on the Santa Fe, let me address what could possibly be some confusion about the Santa Fe lineup. To reiterate, this model replaces what used to be the Santa Fe Sport – the two-row SUV that slows between the Tucson and what is now called the Santa Fe XL. If you are looking for a three-row mid-sized SUV, there is still the XL. However, sometime after the first of the year, that vehicle will be replaced by the 2020 Palisade. I have a feeling, you're going to like this new Hyundai offering when it arrives in showrooms.
When the Palisade arrives, there will be only one Santa Fe – and that's a good thing. Because, this Santa Fe is excellent. It has all the right things that I can tick off for the kind of SUV I want and what I feel will be right for its intended audiences. The driving manners are superb, the cabin has the right space, comfort, and control for everyone. Plus, the design will not only grow on you – I bet you'll love it, too!
If you have to choose a SUV – preferably one with two rows of seats and solid performance – the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is simply it.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Hyundai Motor America
All Photos by Randy Stern