Hyundai has long campaigned two crossovers under a single nameplate, the compact, five-passenger Santa Fe Sport and the midsize, three-row Santa Fe.
This year, Hyundai hopes to reduce confusion by renaming them. For 2019, the Santa Fe Sport is rebadged Santa Fe ($22,750), while the larger Santa Fe ($30,950) morphs into the Santa Fe XL.
The XL is largely unchanged this year but the Santa Fe is completely made-over.
A ‘tweener, the Santa Fe is larger than most compact CUVs. It’s 7 inches longer than the Honda CR-V and nearly 10 inches longer than Ford’s Escape.
More room, fresh tech
This year, it grows even larger and roomier. Headroom is abundant in every seating position. Hip and shoulder room grow throughout and second-row legroom is now best-in-class.
The cargo area is as large some in the midsize segment (though it falls short of the CR-V’s).
Impressive materials quality and fresh tech offerings vault Santa Fe into the front ranks of the segment.
Cabin updates include a flowing and deeply tiered dashboard topped by a user-friendly touchscreen.
Standard tech now includes access to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Also standard are such safety features as forward-collision mitigation, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and a drowsy-driving warning system. At rest, Hyundai’s Safe Exit Assist temporarily prevents the doors from being opened when a vehicle is approaching from behind.
Redesigned front seats are well cushioned and offer plenty of lateral support. Deeply sloped front pillars are thinner this year, but can still impede the driver’s view.
Outside, Hyundai’s new wall-to-wall grille underscores the Santa Fe’s wider stance. A new headlight assembly folds the LED headlamps and daytime running lights into a single sleek unit.
Confident but not dynamic
The Santa Fe’s firm suspension settings limit body lean and other unwanted motions, while delivering a calm and settled ride. It shrugs off normal road-surface irregularities and sound reduction techniques reduce wind and road noise.
The Santa Fe corners with confidence, but is less dynamic than some of its competitors.
Santa Fe is available in five trims: SE, SEL ($27,600), SEL Plus ($29,800), Limited ($32,600) and Ultimate ($35,540). All trims are available in front- or all-wheel-drive configurations.
A 185-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is the standard powerplant. The Limited and Ultimate trims can be had with a 235-hp turbocharged four.
A smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission replaces last year’s six-speed.
Mid-pack acceleration and towing
The naturally aspirated engine delivers its power in a smooth, linear flow; the 2.0T is quicker but somewhat peaky, with turbo-lag at lower rpm giving way to a midrange push. The Santa Fe runs the 0-60 sprint in 7.8 seconds, about mid-range for the class.
Santa Fes equipped with the 2.4-liter engine are rated to tow 2,000 pounds; the turbocharged four is good for 3,500 lb.
Standard gear includes 17-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, air conditioning, LED daytime running lights, a rearview camera, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 7-inch display screen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality, four USB ports (two front and two rear) and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player.
Standard safety features include blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a drowsy-driver alert, forward collision mitigation, and adaptive cruise control.
Hyundai expects most buyers to gravitate to the SEL Plus. Highlights include keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, an Infinity audio system and the trick liftgate.
Our Ultimate 2.0T AWD tester approached near-luxury levels of equipment and finish — and, at $39,905, perilously near the $40,000 mark.
Questions or comments? Contact Don at email@example.com.
Errata: Reader Kristian Murin notes that I incorrectly stated the tow capacity of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV; the plug-in hybrid is rated to tow 1,500 pounds.
2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T AWD
Vehicle base price: $22,750
Trim level base price: $38,800
As tested: $39,905 (includes handling and destination)
Options: carpeted floor mats
Tow rating: 2,000/3,500 pounds
EPA rating: 21 city/19 highway/24 combined
Regular unleaded fuel specified