2019 Santa Fe Pros and Cons
- Interior quality
- Off-road traction
- Overall drive experience
- Prices have increased
- Third row too small for adults
- Diesel not available in the United States
There’s a fine balance between security and convenience, these days.
For instance, paying with a credit card is nice and easy if you’ve got something like Visa Paywave, but how secure is that? If someone swipes your card from your wallet, then they can go on a spending spree.
Or someone like Apple gives you a mapping service, but then they know where you’ve been and likely where you’re going.
Life is full of these balancing acts. Trying to maintain one aspect usually brings something else that’s unfortunate. Like making an SUV larger and more practical usually adds hundreds of pounds, which then slows you down.
Well, that’s what usually happens. But the 2019 Santa Fe is going against the grain in that respect.
It now has a longer and wider platform, a bigger cabin, is finished with more luxurious surfaces and has a new all-wheel-drive system. So you might expect that it would have become a bloated caricature of its former self.
In fact, not only is it a much better looking vehicle, it’s only gone up in weight by a mere eight pounds. Staggering stuff.
Though our test car came with the brilliant 2.2R diesel engine (making 197 hp and 324 lb-ft of torque), there’s also Hyundai’s excellent 235 hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder.
Both engines are paired with Hyundai’s eight-speed automatic, so either way, you’re getting a smooth drivetrain with good fuel economy.
While the diesel isn’t available in the US, it’s worth looking at if you’re in Europe or Asia because it’s punchy and very economical.
Where the Santa Fe has really come a long way it the design. It now fits into the current Hyundai family with a front end that builds on the Kona’s dual light design, however, it’s even better resolved than its little brother.
Some of the details are quite cool, too. There’s a big run of chrome across the whole front end that gives the appearance of being in one piece, but get close and you can see it’s broken into three parts. The overall effect is quite seamless, though.
Our test car was the Ultimate, which gets the biggest wheels – 19-inches in diameter – which you would think would affect the ride. However, the suspension engineers at Hyundai have done a brilliant job of delivering a ride that feels like air suspension, even though it uses a MacPherson strut front and multilink rear.
Despite its absorbency, you can enjoy a few bends. Being a seven-seat SUV, it’s never going to feel like a Lotus, but there’s a very good tradeoff between ride and handling. See? There’s that theme again.
The steering also has just enough weight, unlike the previous Santa Fe which was a bit too light in comfort mode and numb in sports mode.
Helping its dynamics is Hyundai’s new H-Trac all-wheel-drive system. This setup is quite quick in sending power to the wheels slipping and will lock wheels when necessary, allowing some proper off-road adventures.
You won’t be going too far into the bush, with a ground clearance of just 7.3-inches, but in soft sand, you’ll find a very capable crossover.
Open the doors and you’ll find an interior that is unlike any Hyundai ever made before. That’s because it’s comparable to the best of the Japanese brands and borders on feeling German.
There’s a wide dash that gets a leather-finish which both looks and feels real, and on the seats, the hide used is like Nappa leather. There’s quilted stitching and the same pattern is repeated across the door card covering the speakers.
In a little recess above the glovebox is non-slip mat where you can put your mobile phone and the glovebox is large enough to hide your iPad.
In the center, you’ll find a large 8.0-inch full-colour touch screen that includes Android Auto and Apple Car Play, while the driver gets a 7.0-inch screen as well, which looks after instrumentation. On the Ultimate model, there’s also a head up display which you can see speed and any sat-nav directions.
The whole cabin looks very high-end and will surprise people who care about the badge. The Korean company has come a long way and the Santa Fe is clear evidence of that.
There’s an inductive-charging mat for your phone up front, so you’ll never run out of battery during a drive, plus you can either use Bluetooth for the Infinity 10-speaker system or you can use USB. And there are ports in the back for everyone who wants to charge their devices as well.
And sure, the Santa Fe Ultimate is more expensive than other models, but you get a lot of inclusions such as heated and ventilated front seats, a cooled glovebox, panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control and heated seats in the second row.
Hyundai has also made it easier to get into the third row of seating, with a second row that slides back and forth, but it’s still only meant for small kids – adults are going to struggle like I did when trying to get in and out.
Of course, there’s plenty more, like a self-park function, all-round cameras, active cruise, blind spot monitoring and lane change assist, reversing traffic alert, and a lane keep assist that is quite happy to take over.
It’ll tow, too, with around 4400 lbs of braked towing capacity.
It’s more expensive than the Kia Sorento with which it shares a platform, but that’s because it’s easily the better vehicle.
It’s better looking, has more room, has higher quality and is a far nice place to sit when travelling across the country. The Toyota Highlander and Mazda CX-9 had better be worried – the Santa Fe doesn’t need tradeoffs to make it worthwhile.