2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
The fourth-generation Santa Fe is a very important model for Hyundai. SUVs now dominate the car market in sales, and Hyundai is one of the few brands to still offer a dedicated 2-row midsize crossover, slotting in between the compact and 3-row segments. Think of it as the Goldilocks SUV; not too big and not too small. Currently the only direct competitors in this segment are the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano, unless you count some smaller wagons like the Subaru Outback, and the remaining brands only offer compact crossovers and full-size family haulers. The outgoing Santa Fe was offered in two wheelbases, with the titular model carrying three rows of seating and the Sport model offering two. The new Santa Fe is more akin to the latter, and I’m told a 3-row variant will come later.
My tester was an SEL Plus, a mid-level trim that stickered for just a hair over $30k, and to honor Hyundai’s reputation for value, it came well-equipped for that price. The 2.4L 4-cylinder engine supplied ample power, and the vehicle did not hesitate when merging into traffic, providing a confident boost that I find somewhat lacking in other vehicles in the segment. And, thankfully, there is a proper 8-speed automatic transmission, unlike some competitors that use CVTs (continuously-variable transmission) which can be slow and droning. And, speaking of speed; if you want a little more excitement, you can switch to a Sport setting that results in quicker shifts and higher revs, as well as a cool sporty gauge cluster that appears and disappears, showing only the speeds that you’ve reached. I thought it was nifty; but then I’m pretty easily amused….
Although the Santa Fe is Hyundai’s largest SUV at the moment, it doesn’t feel any bigger than a compact going down the road. The visibility is some of the best I’ve seen in a vehicle of that size, at least strictly looking out the front. And there is a full-suite of safety features, which I’ll go into later. With ample space in the cargo bay, and the option of a power lift-gate with motion sensors, the Santa Fe is a certified hauler. With the lift-gate sensor, all you have to do is walk up to the back of it with the key in your pocket and the hatch opens automatically. This in of itself isn’t new technology, but while other companies only offer a power option on the high trims and others make you wave a foot underneath (which is hard to do when your hands are full), this is the most sensible way to operate.
My tester also offered an abundance of driver assistance features, including forward collision alert, automatic braking, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and start-stop technology to help save gas. Most, if not all, of these features can be switched on and off to your liking, but I was impressed at how non-intrusive it was. The lane departure warning would beep subtly if you started to cross over a lane without a blinker and would correct itself gently if no action was taken. I say this because I’ve experienced this feature in other cars to the point of annoyance; some would beep too loudly or obsessively correct improper turns; so, kudos Hyundai.
The new Santa Fe is setting a standard that other companies should follow, providing a good midsize choice with a lot of value, that’s safe, sporty, and versatile. It is a pleasure to drive, and I think it will satisfy anyone who chooses to drive it off the lot. I’ll be looking forward to the XL version, which should hopefully arrive within the next year. Until then, I would give this one a look if you’re in the market.
I’d like to extend a special thanks to Justis Mullins at Jim Ellis Hyundai Atlanta for arranging my test drive. Definitely give them a visit if you’re in the market!