'Grown up' Santa Fe helps fuel Hyundai's surge as its best-selling SUV

By Paul Borden
MotorwayAmerica.com

(March 6, 2019) The Santa Fe no doubt has had a prominent role in the resurgence Hyundai has experienced in the U.S. over the last two decades with sales of over 1.6 million since the South Korean automaker introduced the crossover SUV in 2000 as a 2001 model.


As it goes into its fourth generation as a 2019 model, the Santa Fe has become the company's best-selling SUV in America, ranking No. 10 in SUV sales in the U.S. for 2018 despite an overall drop of 12.1 percent from the previous year.

The Santa Fe has “grown up” considerably with a more mainstream exterior appearance than the funkiness of the first-general models. Even those shopping in the luxury midsize segment might want to give the fourth-generation Santa Fe more than a cursory glance.

It really is that good.

The 2019 Santa Fe has a slightly wider stance than its predecessor and at 187.8 inches is longer by 2.8 inches, giving it a bolder, more aggressive profile that is accented by cat-like LED daytime running lights positioned above the LED headlights.

With the extra length, front legroom is expanded to 44.1 inches from 39.6 and second-row legroom to 40.9 from 39.1. Overall passenger compartment volume is 110.7 cubic feet compared to 108.0 in the 2018 Santa Fe, though cargo capacity remains the same (35.4 cubic feet behind the second row, 71.5 with the second-row seats folded.



Hyundai has simplified the nomenclature for 2019 with the two-row “Santa Fe” model replacing the previous “Santa Fe Sport” and three-row models now called “Santa Fe XL.” It helps eliminate confusion over which model is which.

Including the engine choices, the Santa Fe comes in seven trim levels starting with the base SE followed by the SEL, SEL Plus, Limited, Ultimate, Limited 2
.0T, and Ultimate 2.0T. The latter two models get a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that pumps out 235 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 260 pound-feet of torque from 1450 to 3500 rpm.

The base engine in the other trims is a 2.4-liter 4-banger with 185 hp and 178 lb.-ft. of torque.

The engine is mated to a new 8-speed automatic transmission.

My vehicle for the week was the Ultimate 2.0T edition with the optional all-wheel drive system, and for that I am thankful. The extra power gave the Santa Fe a nice, lively performance while delivering fuel economy of 19 miles-per-gallon city, 24 highway, and 21 combined.

When set in Sport mode, the performance was reminiscent of the 3.5-liter V6 Santa Fe I once owned.

The Ultimate also comes with a long list of standard features that really add to the cabin’s ambiance. Among them are 4-way power lumbar support for the front seats, heated and ventilated front and heated rear seats with leather seating surfaces and contrasting stitching, proximity key and push-button start, navigation with an 8-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, lane-keeping assist, panoramic sunroof, hands-free liftgate, surround-view camera, and forward collision avoidance with pedestrian warning.

No need for for extras to inflate the $39,905 MSRP (including $125 for carpeted floor mats and $980 destination and delivery).

That does put the new Santa Fe into a whole new pricing range from the early days, but SE models start in the mid-$20K range.

What I liked about the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T: The cabin is quiet, roomy, and comfortable, and controls are placed in a logical manner. Many functions (turning off the stop/start system, selecting drive mode, setting the parking brake, etc.) are operated with buttons on the center console. A long laundry list of standard equipment eliminates the need for options. Legroom in the second row is a generous 40.9 inches.

What I didn’t like about the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T: Frankly, I couldn’t find much of anything negative about this version of the Santa Fe. That said, it would be nice if the settings mentioned above (driving mode, stop/start function) would remain as you set them instead of reverting back to normal when you restart.

Would I buy the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T? Definitely. You aren’t going to find many SUVs with this many quality features with an under-$40,000 MSRP.