With its big grille and slim headlights, you might think the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe looks like a few other high-end luxury cars that have similar design cues. But with its mellow driving dynamics and clean cabin, the Hyundai Santa Fe might actually meet your expectations if you mistook it for something more premium.
Engine: 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder
Output:235 hp, 260 lb-ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
US Fuel Economy (MPG): 19 city, 24 highway, 21 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 12.3 city, 9.8 highway, 11.2 combined
As Tested Price (USD): $39,845
As Tested Price (CAD): $47,104
Formerly known as the Santa Fe Sport, Hyundai has dropped the Sport in 2019, letting the mid-size crossover flourish in more ways. First off, you’ll notice the size of the Santa Fe Sport sits in that “just-right” territory. The vehicle’s passenger volume can keep up with the likes of the Subaru Forester and VW Tiguan, but there is more head and legroom for both front and rear passengers. Cargo space is also generous, reaching 35.9 cubic feet of storage space with the rear seats up and 71.3 cubic feet when the seats are folded.
See Also: 2019 Subaru Forester vs VW Tiguan
The spaciousness of the Santa Fe is obvious and the cabin is pleasantly comfortable. In addition, Hyundai should be commended for the excellent materials in the Santa Fe, especially with the Ultimate trim. The seats, in particular, are very accommodating, featuring a good combination of support and plushness. They also feature contrast stitching and a swanky furniture-like material along the headliner.
The features and technology are also impressive. The Santa Fe Ultimate has power front seats that are heated and ventilated, along with a heated steering wheel. The rear seats are also heated and there is wireless charging in the center of the dash. This model also has dual automatic climate control and the upgraded infotainment system with the 8-inch touchscreen and Android Auto, as well as Apple CarPlay compatibility. The Santa Fe tops it off with an available head-up display, which is a feature that’s rare in the compact and midsize segment.
The head-up display is handy and even shows what’s happening with the Santa Fe’s driver assistance and safety features. For example, you can see the status of the blind spot indicators, lane-keep markings, or the adaptive cruise control system in action. It also shows the speed limit and navigation instructions. The Santa Fe has plenty of features, but it’s easy to keep them in check and understand what each is doing.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 235 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. A smooth and fairly refined engine, I found the car to be less exciting to drive than those numbers would suggest. It provided limited acceleration and felt lacking in power, never feeling spritely or agile. The eight-speed automatic also felt average, providing gear changes when needed, but sometimes feeling a bit hesitant to drop down a gear. There’s also a few drive modes to switch between. I preferred the Smart setting, which prioritizes fuel economy but also changes certain characteristics modes depending on your mannerisms behind the wheel. Have a heavy foot on the gas and brake pedals, and the vehicle will temporarily switch into the sports mode, to empower your driving style. I liked this, and prefer it over having to switch modes all the time.
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Our tester is fitted with Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel drive, which is a complex and always-on all-wheel-drive system. It takes info from 50 vehicle sensors and signals and processes them 100 times a second in order to accurately measure the amount of power to send to the front and rear axles. It attempts to be a proactive system, and with reaction times as good as it claims, it’s sure to be a helpful hand when driving in inclement weather. Fuel economy is just average, earning a combined 21 MPG.
But on the road, the car feels somewhat average. This isn’t a bad thing — cars with too much personality can end up being a headache (see anything from Fiat or Alfa Romeo) or compromised. The steering is numb, but well weighted, with good balance and response. The suspension doesn’t provide a ton of feedback, making the car feel smooth and better suited for highway sprints. I wouldn’t call it fun to drive, but it was easy to get used to and visibility was good as well.
See Also: 2019 Nissan Murano Review
Combine that fact with its practicality and features, and the Santa Fe is a pretty good choice in the mid-size crossover world. As priced in this AWD Ultimate trim, you can expect to pay $39,845, which is a far cry from the $26,545 price of the base front-wheel drive, 2.4-liter model, but its worth pointing out that the fully loaded model costs less than the maxed out Nissan Murano or Ford Edge, which both ask over $40,000 with all-wheel drive. The Santa Fe provides a more premium experience than the Edge, (which is feeling less special as the days pass) and feels on par with the Murano, but with a decidedly different look and feel.
The Verdict: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Review
This premium feel may be hard to convey on a vehicle with a Hyundai badge and with the less-than-premium history of past Santa Fes, but its priority on technology and mild driving manners remind me of what old luxury cars used to be like before Lexus and BMW doubled down on sporty characteristics and aggressive design cues. It’s a new move for the nameplate, and it works.
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