The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is totally new at just the right time to soak up all the sweet, sweet crossover love out there now. We get bolder styling on the outside with Hyundai’s new cascading grille, and a classier interior with vastly updated technology to boot. Two different Santa Fes are on the market for 2019 — one is the new, normal Santa Fe (this one) and the other is the Santa Fe XL. Hyundai will be discontinuing the three-row XL after the 2019 model year, as it’s still based off the old version of the Santa Fe. The Palisade will fill the role of three-row crossover in Hyundai’s lineup in the future.
We have the top Ultimate trim level with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive. It produces 235 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque and sends that power through an eight-speed automatic transmission. As it’s the top trim level, the only option on our tester is carpeted floor mats for $125. Hyundai managed to keep it just a hair under the $40k mark with a $39,905 MSRP. For that price you get a long list of standard features: Full LED headlights and taillights, heated mirrors, panoramic sunroof, heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, 8-inch touchscreen, navigation, Infinity premium audio system, 360-degree camera, 7-inch instrument cluster screen, a head-up display and wireless smartphone charging. Every Santa Fe comes standard with Hyundai’s driver assistance systems including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic assist.
Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: The Santa Fe is handsome and a solid value. Our tester was loaded up, but for about $40,000 it’s still very reasonable. Inside and out, it’s smart-looking. Hyundai is taking risks, and while some things — like the grille — seem a bit over the top, they’re really going for it. The turbo four is spunky and gives this good-sized crossover an unexpected vibe. It rides well, has a nicely laid out interior and is a solid execution all-around. Hyundai is offering something compelling in this crowded segment.
West Coast Editor James Riswick: Let’s talk about cabin space. Every Santa Fe’s 60/40-split back seat folds and generously reclines, but starting with the SEL Plus, it also slides to increase cargo volume or bring kids a bit closer to mom and dad up front. Although common in three-row SUVs, a sliding back seat is rare in two-row models. That you can get the Santa Fe with three rows in other markets explains why it’s the exception to the two-row rule.
It also explains the giant space behind that back seat and under the cargo floor. Although you can use it as one jumbo bin (pictured within gallery above), Hyundai has placed a three-part foam divider in it to keep things from rattling about. When you’re on a big family road trip, finding such bonus spaces can be the difference between bringing everything along and leaving something at home or needing to affix a roof box.
As for cargo space in general, the Santa Fe has about the same capacity (35.9 cubic feet with seats raised, 71.2 lowered) as larger “compact” models like the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester. That’s typical for the midsize segment — its various entries just aren’t as space-efficient. As a tradeoff, however, the Santa Fe at least puts a greater emphasis on style than those big compacts that tend to be more utilitarian in use and appearance.
Indeed, I think the new Santa Fe looks excellent inside and out. The interior in particular is handsome, and although its various materials may ultimately look better than they feel (especially the surprisingly convincing “wood” trim), it does a far better impersonation of a luxury car than the Chevy Blazer Premier … and that costs $12,000 more when comparably equipped.
Assistant Editor Zac Palmer: Hyundai knows the target market for a vehicle like the Santa Fe, and this crossover does a good job of hitting near the center of the dart board. The power from the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder might even punch a bit above what’s necessary, but I like that it’s available. You’ll notice it straight away when driving a Santa Fe with this engine, but the sound is not exactly pleasant. There’s a low, gravelly, almost agricultural type of sound that makes its way into the cabin. Other than this quiet bumbling, the Santa Fe is quite agreeable to drive. Corners aren’t met with any enthusiasm from the chassis, but bumps get soaked up. Just don’t expect anything above average from the Santa Fe’s driving experience. It’s a crossover to head to soccer practice in, and that’s fine.
Our Santa Fe might have cost $40,000, but a lot of that probably went into making the interior as pleasant as it is. The leather seats were comfortable, and the fake leather stitching on the dash set it off nicely. I’m a huge fan of the black patterned wood. It might not pop the best in photos, but the Santa Fe’s interior experience went up several notches of class in my book with this stuff. Combine it with brown leather and you have an interior that punches well above its weight in price. The exterior design is less convincing to my eye.
Brown leather and black grain wood on the 2019 Santa Fe. Hyundai put together a lovely interior. Tons of space and super intuitive to use. I’m actually into the big grille in this spec, too. @therealautoblog pic.twitter.com/RyXqgzUxVD
— Zac Palmer (@zacpalmerr) February 11, 2019
I’m not entirely convinced about Hyundai’s recent strategy of moving the headlight elements further down the front bumper for a super-thin DRL at hood height. They seem a bit clunky down there, but I’m impressed with the new face. It’s big grille season, and this is one of the few “big grille” designs I can get behind. Pictures don’t really do justice to the look in-person.
For the average car shopper looking for a crossover, the new Santa Fe is checking all the boxes. I still wouldn’t include it on your shopping list if you’re looking to have fun behind the wheel, though. The new Mazda CX-5 offers a 2.5-liter turbo engine along with better handling, and even the Chevrolet Equinox in 2.0-liter turbo form is more fun to drive.