2019 Hyundai Santa Fe First Drive | Edmunds

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe First Drive

There May Be a New Class Leader Among Affordable Crossovers


In the world of crossover SUVs, where does compact give way to midsize? The all-new 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe makes us wonder. Although it's priced against small SUVs such as the Ford Escape, it's nearly 10 inches longer than Ford's compact entrant. In fact, it's only a fraction of an inch shorter than the midsize Ford Edge. Within the Hyundai lineup, it slots in between the compact Tucson and the three-row Santa Fe XL, just as the Edge slots between the compact Escape and the three-row Explorer.

So where does that leave the Santa Fe? In a strong competitive position. It enjoys a freshness advantage over the Edge and other two-row midsizers, while it also has a space advantage over its compact price peers. Throw in up-to-date technology and available turbocharged power, and you've got a well-rounded, affordable crossover that merits consideration from a wide range of shoppers. Just keep in mind that only the two priciest Santa Fe models can be had with the desirable turbo engine.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

What You Get and How Much It Costs
Santa Fe prices start at around $26,000 for the base SE trim. For the money, you get a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder paired with an eight-speed transmission that drives the front wheels. An impressive array of advanced safety features is also offered, such as forward collision warning with automatic braking and a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert. Also included are lane keeping assist and a safe exit assist system that prevents passengers from opening a door into the path of an approaching vehicle. On the inside, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is standard along with a 7-inch touchscreen.

For another $2,100, the SEL trim adds keyless entry and ignition, a 10-way power driver's seat, heated front seats, satellite radio, and Hyundai's Blue Link telematics with smartphone-app control. The SEL Plus trim costs another $2,200 and brings bigger 18-inch wheels, a hands-free liftgate, parking sensors, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote second-row seatback releases in the cargo area, and an Infinity audio system. You also get a rear occupant alert system that senses movement in the rear seats after the car is locked and beeps the horn, flashes the lights, and sends a text and email alert.

The Limited trim costs about $33,000 and dresses up the Santa Fe with a panoramic sunroof, LED exterior and interior lighting, leather upholstery, a power front passenger seat and heated rear seats. The Ultimate trim, which crests past the $36,000 mark, adds an 8-inch touchscreen, a surround-view camera system, ventilated front seats with extendable thigh supports, a head-up display and a wireless charging pad.

Notably, the Limited and the Ultimate are eligible for a $1,600 engine upgrade to a 235-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that also comes with 19-inch wheels. All-wheel drive can be added to any 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe model for $1,700. Otherwise, there are no factory options available.

Zooming out on the Santa Fe's broad competitive set, the base SE model is a bit more expensive than base versions of the compact Honda CR-V and Jeep Cherokee, but slightly cheaper than the midsize Subaru Outback. Stepping up to the midsize Ford Edge or Nissan Murano will cost you a few grand more. In an apples-to-apples comparison of features and trim levels, the Hyundai's advantage generally grows. Factor in industry-leading warranty coverage and the Santa Fe only looks better.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

Running the Numbers
We spent our time with the range-topping Ultimate trim with the turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive, which brings the price uncomfortably close to $40,000. Hyundai expects the volume seller to be the midgrade SEL Plus trim, which costs $10,000 less. But that model is only available with the base 2.4-liter engine that is quite a bit less powerful and responsive. If you want the turbo but don't need every available bell and whistle, note that the entry-level price for a turbocharged Limited model comes in around $35,000.

Behind the wheel, the new 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe feels solid in almost every aspect, though from a standstill, acceleration is rather weak for the first 20 feet or so. The drivetrain gets it moving with much more authority from there on out. Passing slower traffic is stress-free as the transmission quickly selects a lower gear for added punch. It's a fair bet that the base engine will require a lot more pedal and patience.

The suspension is tuned with a bias toward comfort rather than handling performance, but the Santa Fe still takes to the curves with confidence. Body roll is well-managed and the effect of midcorner bumps is minimized. Cornering ability is far greater than what most drivers will require. Likewise, the brake pedal is reassuringly firm when you need to slow down in a hurry, and it's easy to modulate for smooth stops. With the exception of the weak initial acceleration, the Santa Fe drives as well as we'd expect from a top crossover in this price range.

The same holds true for the way the advanced safety and driver assistance features work. The frontal collision warning system is optimally tuned to avoid annoying false alarms. The adaptive cruise control is also well-calibrated, maintaining the gap between the vehicle in front by slowing and speeding up with smooth actions. It can even bring you to a full stop and resume with a tap of the gas pedal or a cruise control button.

Thanks to the available all-wheel-drive option, the Santa Fe has better-than-average off-road abilities. It's not as proficient as a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, but it should keep up with a Subaru Outback when the pavement ends. Ground clearance is adequate for moderate ruts and rocks, while the lockable center differential and hill descent control should make the terrain seem a lot less challenging.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

Superior Interior
Once inside the Santa Fe, you'll notice how open and airy the cabin feels. Outward visibility is excellent, and the available panoramic sunroof gives an even greater sense of space. Actual physical space is also generous, with abundant room for taller adults in both rows. The rear seats are mounted higher than usual, affording an expansive view forward while providing welcome thigh support for long-limbed occupants. You'll notice the lack of noise, too, once you're underway as the interior remains well-insulated from wind and road noise.

The overall interior design doesn't break new ground in a fashion sense, which is just fine with us. A lot of the questionably functional gimmickry that is becoming more prevalent in the industry has been skipped in favor of physical buttons and knobs. As a result, you rarely have to take your eyes off the road for simple operations. With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard equipment, more complex functions can be executed via voice command.

For the most part, the materials quality exceeds expectations. Most of the touchpoints are adequately padded, and prominent surfaces convincingly grained. There are still some hard plastics, but they're not conspicuous enough to detract from the general impression of quality. Both the infotainment and instrument panels are quick to respond and intuitive to the point that you'd probably never have to consult the owners' manual.

The front seats feature multiple densities of foam, with more compliance for your back and posterior and firmer support on the side bolsters. Even after spending many hours on the road, fatigue was a nonissue. The inclusion of ventilation on the top trim further ensures comfort in warmer climates. In back, the seats slide fore and aft with a surprising amount of travel to give priority to either passenger or cargo space.

Speaking of cargo space, the Santa Fe can accommodate up to 35.9 cubic feet of stuff behind the rear seats, expanding to 71.3 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded down. That puts the Hyundai on the high end of the compact class and makes it competitive with some midsize models. For even greater convenience, there is a wealth of underfloor storage in the cargo area, and the hands-free tailgate is triggered by standing near it for a few seconds, rather than having to swipe a foot under the bumper awkwardly.

Santa Fe Is Hot
The redesigned 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe has far more positive aspects than drawbacks. It doesn't hurt that it looks quite handsome, too. Of our complaints, the limited availability of the turbocharged engine ranks highest. Having that option on the midgrade SEL or SEL Plus trim would make the Santa Fe even more difficult to resist.

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