2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T FWD Review

Hyundai levels up its bigger crossover once more


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Exterior design looks fuller and more upscale, interior refinement and ergonomics are improved, full of great standard features, improved steering
Negatives: Not great to drive in FWD configuration, could use more horsepower.
Bottom Line: The new Santa Fe might confuse with its names and sizes, but it's a great redesign for the South Korean brand. Not only does it look and feel better, the Santa Fe just seem more upscale in just about every way. The tech, space, and driving experience have all improved.
We personally drive a 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, so we have keen insight into the changes for the totally redesigned 2019 Santa Fe. The last model was nicely refreshed in 2017, but the South Korean brand saw fit to give its largest crossover a total rework, and it's significant. The competition for mid-size two- and three-row crossovers is stiff, so it's the right timing to bring a new Santa Fe. To clarify, what was the Santa Fe Sport (2-row) is now the Santa Fe. The former 3-row (Santa Fe) is now the Santa Fe XL. Got that? Good. now onto the review. Read on for the full details. $24,950 (sport 2018); $25,500 (2019)
 

Driving Experience

7

 

There's nothing revolutionary here, but the driving experience is better than the last generation. The last Santa Fe was comfortable and fairly composed but with fairly numb steering. The new one improves on things.

Ride Quality: The ride is less choppy thanks to improved strut front and multilink rear suspension.

Acceleration: 235 horsepower isn't astounding, but it's enough to move the Santa Fe to 60 mph in about seven and-a-half seconds. It's by no means blistering, but it is faster than competitors like the VW Tiguan and on par with the Ford Edge Ecoboost.

Braking: Braking is good with no numb spots and good, progressive pedal travel.

Steering: The steering feels less artificial than before, and effort is good. There's still not much feedback to speak of, though.

Handling: The Santa Fe is now lighter, stronger, and more rigid, which pays off in the handling department. It exhibits manageable body roll. The only part we didn't like was accelerating while turning in the FWD configuration, since there was a fair amount of wheelspin.

Technology

9.4

 

While other carmakers tend to fail in this department, Hyundai does some of the best in-car tech in the business, and they haven't messed with the formula much at all. Small changes make for an excellent system.

Infotainment System: The twin foci of functionality and simple style pay off big time. The new floating screen looks great, and the menus are easy to operate and understand.

Controls: The infotainment system now has flanking control buttons on each side of the screen just like the Elantra GT. They're big and easy to actuate. Likewise, the climate control knobs and buttons are excellent.

Styling

8.6

 

The Santa Fe is now more distinctive in its styling, looking like more of an original design than the Toyota RAV4-like looks of the 2018 Santa Fe Sport. The changes are significant, and there isn't s single thing on the exterior that looks like the old Santa Fe.

Front: The big cascade grille looks fetching and has good presence. The thin LED headlights and huge and big foglight housings are an odd juxtaposition, but overall the front end looks good.

Rear: We like the simple execution of the rear end with thinner, wraparound taillights that have a small cutout toward the outer edge.

Profile: The body bears similarity to the Subaru Ascent and the Toyota Highlander, but it looks better than both. We like the body and fender creases.

Cabin: We saw the biggest changes here where materials look and feel more premium than before, and the dash wraps around more elegantly than before. The steering wheel now has more sculpting and depth, which is a nice touch. The peaked speaker covers are unique and beautiful.

Comfort

8.8

 

The new Santa Fe's cabin is a truly great place to sit and pass the miles. Hyundai has improved seating, ergonomics, and space.

Front Seats: The seats have better cushioning than before, and the leather quality is very good. The bolstering is good but not overdone here.

Rear Seats: There's more legroom in back (up by 1.5 inches), and the rear outboard positions now have more thigh support. There's almost an inch and-a-half more legroom.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Santa Fe is quiet and composed with excellent build quality. We didn't hear any errant noises.

Visibility: Hyundai claims over 40% more glass area, resulting in excellent visibility all around. The seating position is also very good, allowing solid placement in tight spaces.

Climate: The Santa Fe's climate system is one of the best we've come across. It's responsive, and the airflow is strong. Heated and ventilated seats also work quickly.

Safety

9.5

 

The Santa Fe is at the top of the safety game, nailing the tests with flying colors. The 2018 got the same scores, which is a strong sign of consistency. The 2019, however, ups the safety tech in a big way.

IIHS Rating: It gets the Top Safety Pick+ and now improves on the passenger side small front overlap crash score from "acceptable" in 2018 to "good" in 2019.

NHTSA Rating: The Santa Fe hasn't been tested, but the larger Santa Fe XL attained 5 stars from the federal government.

Standard Tech: It's safety feature packed at this trim level. Our Ultimate trim came with great features, a few of which include the new Safe Exit Assist that warns exiting rear passengers when a car is approaching from behind, Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Driver Attention Warning, and the new Rear Occupant Alert.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

8

 

The Santa Fe may up the passenger space, but cargo room is largely unchanged. That being said, there's ample room for luggage and gear for trips, and storage space in the cabin has improved.

Storage Space: The large cubby beneath the center stack has plenty of space for small gear items, as do the armrest and the cupholder in the center console.

Cargo Room: Cargo room is at 35.9 cubic feet behind the second row, and 71.3 cubic feet with the seats folded flat.

Fuel Economy

6.6

 

Unfortunately, fuel economy numbers have dropped a bit, even though the Santa Fe is lighter than before, it's not as efficient.

Observed: 21.7 mpg

Distance Driven: 166 miles

Audio

8.7

 

The premium Infinity sound system is excellent. There's plenty of volume, clarity, and bass. The fact that the premium audio system comes standard is a great deal.



Final Thoughts

Just about everything about the new Santa Fe is improved. Those reluctant to buy the last one because it wasn't "nice" enough can cast those fears aside because the 2019 is more refined and stylish than ever before. Tech is superb, as are the interior ergonomics. It now eclipses the sister crossover, the Kia Sorento in terms of looks inside and out. We just wish there was about 25 more horses for the turbo mill and that AWD would come standard since FWD handcuffs the vehicle a bit.

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