Buyers across the continent have spoken – they want crossovers and not sedans.
Hyundai’s Santa Fe has been around for a considerable amount of time now, and has sold exceptionally well to the North American crossover-buying public. This year marks the debut of the fourth-generation model, part of Hyundai’s full refresh of their crossover/SUV family. The new Kona (reviewed here) is one of the best subcompact crossovers available right now, so the excitement to try its larger sibling is very real. Contenders such as the Honda CR-V and forthcoming Toyota RAV4 will mean competition is fierce, but the Koreans have many advantages. We were invited to mountainous Alberta to try the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe for ourselves.
Let’s get some initial confusion out of the way – the new Santa Fe replaces what was previously known as the Santa Fe Sport. This is a two-row crossover between the compact and mid-size segments, slotting between Honda’s CR-V and Pilot in size, but priced closer to the former. Those needing a third row will be delegated to the three-row Santa Fe XL (on the old platform) for another year. This model will soldier on for one more year before a brand new three-row SUV debuts sometime next year.
Our media drive may have taken place in the beautiful province of Alberta, but at the time of this writing we have seen a few new Santa Fe models in very base form shuttling around the Toronto area as rental fleets have started acquiring them. No matter what trim level it’s in, this crossover is absolutely a looker. It lacks the polarizing and aggressive styling of the 2013-2018 model, but the Kona-like front end is sharp and attractive. The boxier rear end is reminiscent of the Pilot (reviewed here), but this does contribute to added headroom and more cargo space (thanks to a wheelbase that’s 65mm longer).
Powering the new Santa Fe are two engines that are effectively carried over from last year’s model. Standard is a 2.4L inline four-cylinder good for 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft. of torque, and the Santa Fe 2.0T is propelled by a 2.0L turbo-four good for 235 horsepower (at 6,000RPM) and 260 foot-pounds (between 1,450 and 3,500RPM). Both motors are coupled to an eight-speed automatic that’s an in-house Hyundai gearbox. We’ve experienced Hyundai’s own applications in models such as the Genesis G80 (reviewed here) and they are some of the best around right now.
The 2.0T is down on power from last year’s model, but it’s all for the best. It has far more low-end punch and is notably zippier at city speeds. It’s no powerhouse, but it pulls off highway-speed passes competently. There is still some turbo lag that’s significant if passing at highway speeds. The eight-speed has a manual-shift mode that will seldom be used by buyers, but when left to change gears on its own, it’s more than compliant. The 2.0T is a worthy upgrade over the 2.4L, and for those who want more premium options, will be required.
The HTRAC all-wheel-drive system can obviously manage torque between the front and rear axles, but can also alter braking between the left side and the right. The Drive Mode selection will alter the AWD system along with the transmission shift points, throttle response, and steering weight between “Comfort”, “Sport”, and “Smart” modes.
Out on the road, the first thing that stands out is the ride quality from the Santa Fe’s suspension. It’s a front strut setup and multi-link in the rear, which translates to a supremely comfortable ride regardless of the large 19” wheels on lower profile tires. The Santa Fe is very quiet, too, with minimal road noise making its way into the cabin. Steering feel is minimal and very electric feeling, but this is a trait consistent with most non-sporty Hyundai products in recent years. It’s light and effortless, which is what actual buyers want; this isn’t a vehicle that needs to be sporty.
Material quality on the new Santa Fe is above average for the Koreans and right up to par with Japanese competitors. The Mazda CX-5 and CX-9 in upper trims are a benchmark for this class, but the Hyundai is no downgrade. A seven-inch touchscreen offers Apple CarPlay and other methods of connectivity, and this screen increases to eight inches on the Ultimate. The instrument cluster gets a 3.5” display, but a seven-inch screen here is also optional.
Leg and headroom is sufficient for four adults, and the Santa Fe feels notably roomier than the CR-V and RAV4 (reviewed here) – this is one advantage to its size. Cargo capacity behind the second row is 1,016L, and with the seats folded flat this grows to 2,019L. Other markets do get an optional third row, but North American models are equipped with the two-row configuration only. Again, the Santa Fe is priced closer to the compact crossovers but size and interior volume push it into the same class as the likes of the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano (reviewed here).
Impressive standard equipment on the base 2.4L Essential trim includes the “SmartSense” Package, which means adaptive cruise control with stop and go technology, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, and driver attention warning. Heated seats and steering wheel are also standard on this model. This base model starts at just $28,999. The 2.4L Preferred AWD ($35,099) is the volume seller in Canada and adds dual-zone climate control, proximity key, blind spot monitoring, and of course, all-wheel-drive.
The 2.0L turbocharged model starts at $37,099 at the Preferred trim with standard all-wheel-drive. A mid-level Luxury model adds leather seats, a Surround View Monitor, smart power rear lift gate and a panoramic sunroof. The top level 2.0T Ultimate brings to the table a heads-up display, rain-sensing wipers, wireless charging, and an 8.0” touchscreen with navigation and Infinity speakers. The Ultimate costs $44,999, and is right in line with rivals such as the CR-V Touring (reviewed here) and CX-5 GT Technology.
Santa Fe models equipped with the 2.0T and all-wheel-drive are rated at 12.3L/100km city and 9.8L/100km on the highway, for a combined rating of 11.2L/100km. The combined rating is identical to the outgoing model. The 2.4L model with AWD is projected to achieve 11.2, 8.7, and 10.1L/100km, respectively. Naturally, the low-volume 2.4 FWD configuration will be the most efficient despite its low take rate, with a combined estimate of 9.6L/100km highway. All models are programmed to operate optimally on 87-octane regular grade fuel.
Buyers across the continent have spoken – they want crossovers and not sedans. The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is the fourth generation of a model that has been selling like hotcakes for the better part of two decades. Hyundai is now at a point where these cars are absolutely considered right on par with major Japanese competitors as opposed to value-friendly and low-quality alternatives. The outgoing Santa Fe Sport remains one of our favourites in the segment, and after our initial drive, the new model is paving a path for rivals to follow an excellent formula.