The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe has a familiar name, one that’s been applied to a brace of Hyundai crossovers. This is now the South Korean company’s mid-size, five-passenger SUV, flanked by the bigger Palisade and the smaller Tucson.
The five-passenger Santa Fe is larger, taller, bolder â€“ more SUV-like than its predecessor. Specifically, its wheelbase (the distance between front and rear wheels) has grown by 2.6 inches and overall length has grown by 2.8 inches.
In addition to crisp new sheetmetal, the 2019 Santa Fe boasts a new 8-speed automatic and better ride comfort.
In its new form, the Santa Fe comes in SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Limited, and Ultimate trim levels.
The base engine is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that develops 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. Optional is a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that cranks out 235 horsepower and 260 pound-feet. Only Limited and Ultimate models can be equipped with the turbo-4 engine, for about $1,600 extra.
Each trim level comes standard with front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is available for $1,700 more.
Standard active safety features for all trim levels include forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The 2019 Santa Fe earned top “Good” ratings from the IIHS; when equipped with LED headlights, it earned the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award. Crash-testing by the NHTSA resulted in a five-star score overall.
Prices do not include $1,045 destination charge.
SE 2.4 ($25,750 with FWD, $27,450 with AWD) holds the 2.4-liter engine and comes with cloth upholstery, 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, cloth upholstery, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
SEL 2.4 ($27,600 with FWD, $29,300 with AWD) adds a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, 7.0-inch gauge cluster, keyless ignition, and heated mirrors.
SEL Plus 2.4 ($29,800 with FWD, $31,500 with AWD) includes parking sensors, 18-inch wheels, a hands-free liftgate, dual-zone automatic temperature control, and 12-speaker Infinity audio.
Limited 2.4 ($32,600 with FWD, $34,300 with AWD) adds leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, a power passenger’s seat, and LED headlights/taillights.
Limited 2.0T ($34,200 with FWD, $35,900 with AWD) substitutes the 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine.
Ultimate 2.4 ($35,450 with FWD, $37,150 with AWD) is equipped with leather upholstery, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, a surround-view camera system, wireless smartphone charging, a head-up display, and 19-inch wheels.
Ultimate 2.0T ($37,100 with FWD, $38,800 with AWD) substitutes the turbo-4.
In its new form, the Santa Fe has greater road presence. In the robust front end, stacked lighting elements, swept-back and narrow, complement a larger, bolder grille. At the rear, the upright tailgate is more vertical than the one used in the previous Santa Fe Sport.
More square in profile than before, the body flaunts more assertive styling details. The forcefully upright shape reaches up into the squarer roofline. Rounded corners strive to conceal the crossover’s sizeâ€”it’s a good bit larger than before.
Unlike its practical “Sport” predecessor, with its relatively plain interior, the 2019 Santa Fe’s cabin is quite stylish. Handsome even at base level, the spacious cabin gets even more appealing in upper trims.
Headliners in top versions, for instance, are soft and light-colored, imparting a sense of lightness. Each Santa Fe features a broad, two-tier dashboard, sculpted to separate driver and passenger portions. Decent dashboard materials include real stitching at every trim level. Most trim elements feel like high-quality.
Unlike some crossovers that suffer from snug back seats, the Santa Fe easily seats five. Front seats have gained improved bolstering, promising greater comfort. Each dimension has grown in this iteration, except for shoulder space. Back-seat occupants can expect comfortable, supportive seating, with more than 40 inches of leg room.
Straightforward and easy to use, Hyundai’s BlueLink infotainment ranks with the best.
With seatbacks upright, Santa Fe holds nearly 36 cubic feet of cargo, which is about average. Volume tops 71 cubic feet with rear seatbacks folded. Loading is helped by a wide, relatively low rear hatch opening.
A refined, surprisingly smooth ride highlights the current Santa Fe’s strong points. Passengers can expect a quiet demeanor on the road.
Rear shock absorbers are more upright than before, lengthening their travel and improving ride quality. Limited and Ultimate editions provide an even calmer ride.
Performance is adequate with the base 2.4-liter engine. The 2.0-liter turbo is more capable when it’s time to pass. Not only do turbo models accelerate quickly, benefitting from greater torque at lower engine speeds, but the transmission is more willing to downshift.
Hyundai’s all-wheel-drive system is tuned to be more predictive than reactive, altering operation according to speed, gear, and steering angle, among other factors.
Fuel economy ranks about average. With the 2.4-liter base engine and front-drive, the Santa Fe is EPA-rated at 22/29 mpg City/Highway, or 25 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive drops the estimate to 21/27/23 mpg.
Turbo power with front-wheel drive is EPA-rated at 20/25 mpg City/Highway, or 22 mpg Combined. With all-wheel drive, the rating dips to 19/24/21 mpg.
In addition to sharpened design, an abundance of desirable features helps the 2019 Santa Fe stand apart from rivals. Most versions offer good value, though the most expensive Limited and Ultimate editions are the most satisfying choices. Hyundai’s impressive warranty is among the most comprehensive of any automaker, too.
Driving impressions by Aaron Cole, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.