Like the New Mexico city from which it borrows its name, the Hyundai Santa Fe is hot.

The mid-size crossover, which has been produced over four distinct generations since its launch at the turn of the millennium, helped solidify Hyundai’s standing in the U.S. market. So far, the current fourth generation of the vehicle, launched for the 2019 model year, has been every bit as much a hit as its forebears.

New for 2021: The new generation Hyundai Santa Fe has only been in the market for a year and Hyundai has already given it a comprehensive makeover for the 2021 model year. Barring the new grinning face the changes to the exterior are relatively subtle. The main changes are to the engine lineup and the interior. The new standard engine on the Santa Fe will be the 2.5-liter inline-four from the Sonata and make 191 hp and 282 lb-ft of torque and come with an 8-speed automatic. The other engine will be the 2.5-liter turbocharged engine making 277 hp and 311 lb-ft. of torque and will come with an eight-speed DCT. 

Hyundai will also introduce a hybrid version in the first quarter of 2021 while the gasoline ones will arrive by the end of this year. Inside, Hyundai has rid the Santa Fe of the traditional shifter which has been replaced by buttons. New Calligraphy trim is the top dog in the lineup and brings a touch of luxury to Santa Fe with leather uphostery and soft-feel plastic. More good news is that the base infotainment system will now measure eight-inches and the higher trims will come with the 10.25-inch unit. 

Bucking the trend of vehicles growing ever more spacious as the years pass, the new fourth-generation Hyundai Santa Fe’s wheelbase is actually shorter than that of its direct predecessor, although admittedly, it’s more a replacement for the smaller Santa Fe Sport. Hyundai has done away with the long-wheelbase, three-row “Santa Fe XL” – the vehicle formerly known simply as “Santa Fe” – altogether, replacing that model with an all-new vehicle named “Palisade.” Yeah, it’s confusing. But in most other respects, the Santa Fe carries on in the same vane as past iterations, serving as a flagship crossover of sorts for the Korean automaker in the U.S. market.

Aesthetically, the fourth-generation Hyundai Santa Fe has been molded in much the same style as the new Kona subcompact utility vehicle, with more hard creases and dramatic lines than the outgoing version. The interior very much follows current industry trends in making the infotainment screen an upright “floating” unit mounted atop the center of the dash, and in separating out the HVAC controls. Like any good flagship model, the Santa Fe is loaded with high-tech features, including standard frontal collision prevention, lane-keeping assist, and even adaptive cruise control with stop & go, all fitted as standard.

The new fourth-generation Hyundai Santa Fe made its debut at the 2018 New York International Auto Show. For that market, assembly takes place in Montgomery, Alabama.

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Hyundai Santa Fe Fuel Economy

Fuel economy for the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe ranges from 21 mpg combined (city and highway) on the low end, for AWD models equipped with the 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder, to 25 combined at best, for FWD models with the naturally-aspirated 2.4L four-cylinder under the hood. Those figures aren’t terrible, but neither are they quite as high as we’d have hoped; the 2019 Nissan Murano AWD is rated at 23 mpg combined, with a plucky, charming 260-horsepower V6 driving the wheels. Similarly, the 2019 Ford Edge AWD is rated at 23 mpg with a 2.0L turbo four.

Even the 2019 Ford Edge ST, with its potent 335-horsepower twin-turbocharged 2.7L V6, matches the Santa Fe AWD 2.0T for combined fuel economy.

Then again, the new fourth-generation Hyundai Santa Fe manages to outperform the 2018 Santa Fe Sport in EPA testing, although only just. Baby steps.

Hyundai Santa Fe Safety Rating

The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS, has selected the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe as a Top Safety Pick Plus – its highest honor. The mid-size crossover from Korea earns this distinction as a result of its Good rating in all crashworthiness testing categories – including the tricky small overlap crash tests – and its Superior-rated frontal crash prevention system and Good-rated available headlights. In other words, the Santa Fe is virtually unimpeachable when it comes to on-road safety.

Hyundai’s frontal collision prevention system is standard across all trim levels in the new fourth-generation model, and it comes equipped with pedestrian detection. Using a windshield-mounted camera, the system can identify and monitor pedestrians, helping to mitigate the risk not only of a vehicle-on-vehicle crash, but of vehicle-on-pedestrian carnage as well. Additional standard active safety equipment includes a lane-keeping system, automatic high beams, and driver alertness monitoring.

Hyundai Santa Fe Features

Where Hyundai has long excelled is in offering outstanding features content (and fit and finish) in a given segment, at a relatively low price point so as not to alienate customers on a budget. To that end, the fourth-generation Hyundai Santa Fe makes available an impressive suite of advanced technologies, even at the base trim level.

As stated, the entry-level SE trim is fitted with standard frontal collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, high-beam assist, driver alertness monitoring, and distance-pacing cruise control with stop & go. But even beyond that, the Santa Fe SE gets the same 7-inch floating touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as the mid-level SEL, as well as the same electronic parking brake with automatic vehicle hold.

At higher trims, naturally, even more content is available. There are too many optional features to list, but some of the highlights include blind spot collision and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance systems, a 360-degree parking monitor, Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system, heated and ventilated front seats, and our favorite, a feature called “Safe Exit Assist.” That system uses radar to detect vehicles approaching from behind while the Santa Fe is parked, preventing back-row passengers, who are often children, from opening the door and exiting the vehicle unless it is safe to do so.

Hyundai Santa Fe Pricing

The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe has a starting MSRP of $25,750 in the United States, before destination. That’s a bit more pricey than the Santa Fe Sport it replaces, but deservedly so; it’s a nicer, more spacious vehicle with (slightly) better fuel economy. It’s also significantly less expensive than many other players in the mid-size crossover segment, including both two- and three-row options.

Granted, the new fourth-generation Hyundai Santa Fe can get pricey should one tick all the right boxes. A top-of-the-line Santa Fe Limited AWD 2.0T starts at just a sliver under $40,000 before destination, although that model includes just about everything except for the tack-on extras: roof-rack crossbars, trailer hitch, cargo net, etc.

Hyundai Santa Fe Competitors

The Hyundai Santa Fe competes in the two-row mid-size SUV category, its chief rivals being vehicles such as the Ford Edge, Honda Passport, Nissan Murano, and Subaru Outback. It manages to undercut all of them in terms of starting price without coming up short in terms of standard features. Granted, the Outback has a base MSRP within spitting distance of the Santa Fe’s.

Moreover, while the fourth-generation Santa Fe is generally competitive with the other entrants in its class with regard to fuel economy, the Subaru Outback squeezes significantly more miles out of each gallon of gas, achieving up to 29 mpg combined to the Santa Fe’s max of 25. That model is also even newer, having just debuted for the 2020 model year, and it ships with Subaru’s symmetrical AWD system as standard.

If any of these two-row mid-size crossovers can mount a credible threat to the Santa Fe’s value proposition, it’s the Subaru.

Read More Subaru Outback Review
Read More Nissan Murano Review
Read More Honda Passport Review

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Review

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Review

By Lesley Wimbush | Aug 27, 2018

KANANASKIS, Alberta – The smoke casts an eerie pall through which the sun glows with the dim muster of a 60-watt bulb. The fallout from more than 500 out-of-control B.C. wildfires, the noxious haze has virtually obliterated the horizon – the Kananaskis mountains reduced to a faint outline above the apocalyptic landscape.

If there’s one thing that remains perfectly clear, however, it’s that the vehicle we’re driving is very good. Sleeker, more luxurious, and boasting a substantial roster of safety technology, the all-new, fourth-generation Hyundai Santa Fe arrives for 2019 as a five-seat model replacing the former Santa Fe Sport. The larger seven-seat Santa Fe XL will be phased out and replaced with an entirely new crossover by 2020 (it’s rumored to be called the Palisade).

Hyundai considers the Santa Fe to be the flagship of its rapidly growing crossover lineup; a vehicle that handily straddles the line between compact and mid-size, and with equal measures of practicality and comfort. Re-imagining a bread-and-butter vehicle with such a wide and profitable demographic is no easy task; while it’s important to improve and elevate a badge so that it attracts new buyers, making it too aspirational runs the risk of alienating the very core that’s responsible for its success.

An Upscale New Look

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At first glance, the Santa Fe’s new styling isn’t a huge departure from the previous model’s. Based on the new Kona crossover’s design language, it features deeply sculpted side character lines, large, muscular wheel arches, lower and wider rear fascia, and the new familial “3D Honeycomb Cascading” grille. Hood meets grille in a brushed metal chrome bar, flanked by Jeep Cherokee-like gun-slit LED daytime running lights. They’re stacked on top of standard projector beam headlights (LED in top trim levels) that feature channels to increase airflow. Overall aerodynamic improvements result in a coefficient of drag of 0.337.

The Santa Fe is underpinned by the Kia Sorento platform, with a 108.9-inch (2,765-mm) wheelbase that’s 2.4 inches (65 mm) longer than the one it replaces. Constructed of 67% high-strength steel, the lighter platform increases torsional rigidity by 15% for better safety, and a more secure, planted ride.

Airy, Swanky Cabin

The outgoing Santa Fe’s cabin impressed buyers with its comfort and long list of extra features. But its chrome-embellished design was looking dated.

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The first thing that impressed us with the new cabin is how open and airy it appears. If the last iteration was criticized for rear visibility, the new Santa Fe has a good view from every angle. Larger rear side windows and a huge panoramic sunroof help increase open up the rear passenger compartment and add light. Forward visibility is very good too, thanks to A-pillars that have been angled to present their narrowest side to the driver, and side mirrors that are mounted on the door instead of creating a large blind spot.

The cabin’s design is also lighter and less fussy. Swooping lines give way to stacked shapes in contrasting colors, and soft-touch materials are finished in a variety of textures and augmented with brushed metal trim. Even plastic surfaces are given a more premium look; for example, the door panels are upholstered with a perforated vinyl that’s finished in a wavy, shirred pattern.

The center stack has been simplified and is now topped with a seven or eight-inch, floating display screen. Only the upper trim levels equipped with the eight-inch screen receive navigation, other trims have to make do with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Switchgear is blessedly simple compared with the complexity of some competitors interfaces.

New Safety Tech

There’s a host of active and passive safety technology available within Hyundai’s “Smart Sense” driver assist package. These include Head-up Display, an industry-first “Safety Exit Assist” that works for up to 10 minutes after the car is shut off, by locking doors and prevent passengers from exiting if an approaching vehicle is sensed. Rear occupant alert lets the driver know if there is someone still in the rear seat when exiting; and Rear Cross Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist sounds an alert and applies the brakes when backing up if another vehicle is approaching. Available five-year complimentary BlueLink Telematics allows remote diagnostics, remote care, access, remote start with climate control, and Find My Car.

New Engines, Better Driving Dynamics

There are two engine choices for now: the returning 2.4L four-cylinder with 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque, and an updated 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder producing 235 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque @ 1,450-3,500 rpm. A diesel option is slated to arrive later. Both choices come with a brand-new eight-speed automatic transmission, and all but the base model come with HTRAC variable torque control all-wheel-drive.

Over the winding roads of the Kananaskis foothills, the Santa Fe’s chassis improvements and upgraded sound deadening are immediately apparent. This is a very quiet and solid performer. The engine is fairly quiet even when pushed hard, and the transmission, for the most part, displays quick clean shifts – there are no paddle shifters for those who’d rather do it themselves. There’s a bit of hesitation moving off from stop lights, particularly with the turbocharged engine, but it’s fine at highway speeds.

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Formerly light and a bit wobbly, the steering been upgraded with increased gear ratios and stiffer torsion bar and is now more responsive and just the right heft. The chassis stayed composed over washboard pavement and the suspension comfortably soaked up the worst of it without permitting any body roll.  The torque distribution system helped keep the corners flat and stable even on loose gravel. There are three selectable drive modes: Eco, Comfort, and Sport, which alter shift, throttle and steering responsiveness; and power distribution for the all-wheel-drive system. In Sport Mode, the Santa Fe is quick and responsive with a little added heft to its steering and the majority of the torque coming from the rear wheels.

The Verdict: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Review

It’s really hard to find fault with the new 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe. It’s not really an exciting vehicle, but it’s agile, handles very well, falls about mid-pack for cargo space, and offers more features than most of its competitors. It might win some new fans with its upscale new style and interior design, as well as a rich lineup of safety tech and driver assistants.

Detailed Specs

Engine / 2.4L 4-cyl / 2.0L turbo 4-cyl
Horsepower / 185 / 235
Torque / 178 lb-ft / 260 lb-ft
Transmission / 8-speed automatic
Drivetrain / Front-wheel-drive / All-wheel-drive

Our Final Verdict

The Hyundai Santa Fe is a strong entrant in the two-row mid-size SUV segment, especially given the low cost of entry. It’s hard to knock it; while not the most fun or exciting thing to drive, neither are any of the vehicles the Santa Fe is going up against. Inside and out, the styling is as handsome as it is practical and livable, and as always, Hyundai has managed to pack in a very compelling roster of standard and available features that today’s discerning buyer is sure to appreciate.

That said, if there’s one area where we might have wished for more from the new fourth-generation Hyundai Santa Fe, it’s fuel economy; despite having an extra two forward gears, it’s virtually no better than the outgoing Santa Fe Sport. And while it manages to compete with most of the other entrants in its segment for fuel economy, the one exception is the Subaru Outback, which handily defeated the Santa Fe in EPA testing.

Still, if you’re looking for a stylish, comfortable, competent all-around family commuter, the Hyundai Santa Fe warrants a look.