By on March 1, 2019

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe front quarter

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T AWD

2.0-liter turbocharged I4 (235 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 260 lb-ft @ 1,450 rpm)

Eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive

19 city / 24 highway / 21 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

12.3 city / 9.8 highway / 11.2 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

22.9 (observed mileage, MPG)

Base Price: $39,780 US / $45,002 CAD

As Tested: $39,905 / $45,232 CAD

Prices include $980 destination charge in the United States and $2,032 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

Ah, the mainstream compact crossover. Quickly overtaking the traditional midsize sedan as the new family vehicle of choice, every manufacturer has to have one or more with which to fill the lot. The formula is simple — usually two rows with five seats, a reasonably powerful four-cylinder, benign handling, and striking-but-instantly-forgettable styling. No need to trawl manufacturer websites or dealer lots, either. Five minutes of searching for an open space at the grocery on a busy Saturday will allow you to closely inspect every possible contender in this hot class.

Hyundai’s been playing in this market with a pair of similar models for a few years — the Santa Fe with three rows, and the shorter Santa Fe Sport, with two rows. No longer (or shorter). The old embiggened three-row soldiers on as the Santa Fe XL, while the two-row model is now simply this 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe. Now that we’ve sorted the names, does this Santa Fe satisfy?

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe profile

Bossman Tim took a look at this redesigned Santa Fe last summer, but I wanted more time with this family vehicle to properly test it with a family.

I’m digging the styling of the new Santa Fe. Certainly, Hyundai isn’t the first to use the “squinty eyes” look of the shallow upper headlamps, but here it’s done well. I particularly like the horizontal line that leads from the rear of those headlamps, continuing to the taillamps. The deep crease below that line is unusually striking for a mainstream crossover.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe front

As you can see by my frustratingly snow-filled photos, I got the chance to test the all-wheel traction of the Santa Fe. Even shod with all-season tires rather than snows, the crossover handled the weather without drama.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe rear

Indeed, driving the Santa Fe was an unremarkable experience. On dry, wet, or frozen roads alike, road and wind noise were minimal. Oddly, however, the engine noise from the 2.0-liter turbo does get a bit coarse under acceleration — it sounds a bit lumpy, like an old GM 3100 V6. In steady-state cruising, it’s basically silent. Handling was benign, other than the occasional dull thump from Ohio’s marvelous potholes being amplified by the low-profile tires on the 19-inch alloy wheels.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe front seats

Interior comfort was quite good, with plenty of second row space for the pair of kids and a friend. Legroom was such that I never felt tiny knees in my back. Heated and cooled front seats paired with heated rear seats ensured a minimum of complaints on cold mornings.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe interior

I love that the interior is trimmed in something other than the usual black or tan leathers one typically finds. Hyundai calls this color “Espresso,” though I can confirm that the color exactly matches a spilled double-double from Tim Hortons.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe rear seats

I did have one infuriating experience with the Santa Fe. Note this photo (taken and cropped from Hyundai’s media site because my camera hated me) of the window and mirror controls on the driver’s door. Looks normal, right? Look more closely at the bottom button, which in most cars activates a window lock.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Window and Door Controls

There’s another pictogram on that button next to the window lock. It looks like a child, right? It doesn’t just lock the windows; it activates the child locks. And it’s all too easy to inadvertently bump. Most child lock mechanisms tend to be on the door, hidden while closed. Not here.

Let me paint the scenario: a family grocery run. Eldest daughter was finishing a conversation with her boyfriend, so she stayed in the car for a minute while the rest of us trekked inside, intending to lock the car on her way in.

But she was trapped by the child lock. She called me to come rescue her.

Of course, as a dad of girls, I’m hoping this was enough of a traumatic experience that she stops talking to boys for several years, though I doubt it.

It’s an annoyance, not a deal breaker. I’m sure that with time, I’d learn to avoid the button. Hyundai tells me that the change to an electronic lock is part of their Safe Exit system, which employs blind spot monitoring to ensure a kid doesn’t open a door into traffic — which makes sense. This video explains it more, though I’m baffled that they had to make a short film specifically for me, what with the blonde teenage soccer player in the rear lining up neatly with my above scenario. They didn’t get an overweight bearded dad for the driver in the vid, however.

The price is a reach for me. While the new Santa Fe is a perfectly capable family-sized crossover, I’m struggling to picture spending nearly forty thousand dollars on it. The Ultimate trim is indeed plush, and the turbo four-cylinder is only available on this Ultimate package and the Limited, for about $2,900 less. I’m sure the 2.4 liter non-turbo in lesser models is acceptable, but two tons is plenty to haul. I’d be happiest were Hyundai to offer a hot-rod trim, something like the SEL but with the turbo. Give me power to the tires, cloth seats, and lose the panoramic sunroof, and I’d be a happy man.

The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is not a bad car, by any means. It’s reasonably quiet, drives nicely on the highway, and has plenty of room for families and their stuff. Hyundai’s reliability is on par with most other manufacturers, and with the ten-year, 100k warranty, I’d have no worries about living with the Santa Fe for a decade or more. I just doubt that this Ultimate trim is the ultimate value.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe rear quarter

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn; window switch photo (cropped) courtesy Hyundai.]

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33 Comments on “2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T AWD Review – A Perfectly Cromulent Crossover...”


  • avatar
    Heino

    Of course, as a dad of girls, I’m hoping this was enough of a traumatic experience that she stops talking to boys for several years, though I doubt it.

    As a dad of boys, I strongly disagree….

    • 0 avatar
      ACCvsBig10

      Seems like a failure the of rear alert system

      “hey you left your daughter in the back while she talking to a boy” beep beep beep “come get her immediately” beep beep

      now that sante fe is the size of the last gen sorento why dont they stick use their v6 to deal with all that weight probably net the same fuel mileage

  • avatar
    jatz

    Mmmm.. me likee in that color. Surprisingly handsome for a Hyundai.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    “I’m digging the styling of the new Santa Fe. Certainly, Hyundai isn’t the first to use the “squinty eyes” look of the shallow upper headlamps, but here it’s done well.”

    I thought those were daytime running lights and the headlights are in that cluster further down like the previous Cherokee?

  • avatar
    gasser

    I would like to hear more on the 2.0 turbo engine. Other comments have been that its very sluggish coming away from a stop, as well as the above noted coarseness.
    “I’m sure the 2.4 liter non-turbo…is acceptable”.. Others who have driven this DO NOT share your opinion.
    Since I am looking at the Santa Fe for 3 months hence when current lease is up, this is a big consideration. I would like the turbo, but fear that neither mill will be acceptable (for different reasons), On local pothole streets, I prefer 17” wheels to the 19” ones on the upscale trims, but no 2.0 turbo in SEL trims.
    I sure would have liked to get a TTAC review wherein the 2.4 NA was tested.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Have you tried the Sorento? Pretty similar vehicle, with the same EPA rating, but Kia offers the V6 on lower trims.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’m puzzled this gets V6 fuel economy but isn’t offered in a V6 yet you’re saying KIA does offer it?

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          This is correct. The Sorento V6 gets the same EPA fuel economy ratings as the Santa Fe 2.0T in both AWD and FWD trims. Looking at published road tests, the Sorento V6 is also a few ticks quicker.

          Under the same roof, the “Santa Fe XL” starts at $28K (less than the Santa Fe 2.0T trims) and comes with the V6 standard. It is homely looking, 5 inches longer, and loses 1MPG though.

          The Palisade with its standard 3.8L V6 is set to replace the SFXL later this year. Maybe after that Hyundai will move the 3.3L to the 2-row Santa Fe?

          • 0 avatar
            Derrick Gunter

            “The Palisade with its standard 3.8L V6 is set to replace the SFXL later this year. Maybe after that Hyundai will move the 3.3L to the 2-row Santa Fe?”

            Not what I’ve heard. They’re building a new expansion of the engine plant in Montgomery that will make a new Theta III engine, a 2.5L GDI and a turbo 2.5L. These two will reportedly replace all current offerings in both the Santa Fe and Sorento.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      “Others who have driven this DO NOT share your opinion.”

      Base engines are not intended to get universal praise. They are intended to be good enough for the average buyer, and this one is.

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      We test drove a Hyundai Tucson with the 2.4 and a Kia Sportage with the 2.o turbo – built off the same platform and drawing from the same parts bin. The Hyundai was a slug, while the Kia was a great drive.

      We seriously considered the Sportage, completely discard the Tucson. Nuff said.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Would look at the Sorento w/ the V6 until Hyundai puts the new 2.5L and 2.5T into the Santa Fe (basically, the biggest upgrade that is needed for the SF).

      The Tucson and Sportage will also benefit from the Teta III engines as well.

      The new Optima, reportedly, will be offered w/ AWD and around 286 hp w/ the 2.5T.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    I drove one last summer, and as you said it’s perfectly adequate. It doesn’t really do anything better than any of the rest except it does offer a lot of features for the price.

    I’m not talking MSRP of $38/$39k loaded but what they actually sell for which is $31/$32k.

    I’ll most likely end up with a Telluride or Palisade but not until I can get it for at least $6k under MSRP.

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    The Santa Fe is indeed nice looking, less boring to look at than most trucks its size and less garish inside than others. Given the turbo 4’s MPG matches the Kia Sorrento’s V6, why not just place the six into the Ultimate and make it even quieter?

    Also, auto manufacturers must be designing these cars with the help of body shops. This recent trend of locating essential and expensive lighting units low and on the bumper corners is worrisome. Who wants to file a multi-thousand dollar claim for getting their bumper tapped in a parking lot because a headlight/taillight is out of commission?

    • 0 avatar
      Halftruth

      More to that, many newer cars have directional headlamps. Friend’s late model Sonata has them and he was pegged in a parking lot. Price? 2400 just for the headlamp assy itself. Ouch. Add bumper cover and all of the other repair items and a 5-600 dollar “tap” is now over 3 grand.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    “I’d be happiest were Hyundai to offer a hot-rod trim, something like the SEL but with the turbo.”

    Santa Fe N! Suck on that EDGE ST!

    (Actually after watching a few reviews of the new Veloceter N, I really want a Sonata N. Keep the 6-speed manual only.)

  • avatar
    NiceCar

    I’ve really liked these ever since they were released. Handsome inside and out. Base engine is fine, but nothing to write home about. In the end, though, it may be too much vehicle for me. A Tuscon or equivalent would be plenty big.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB2

    Thank you TTAC for using the word ‘cromulent’ in the title. I have been using this regularly for over 20 years in an attempt to have it more widely used in the English language. Using it has certainly embiggened my life.

  • avatar
    Gedrven

    Excellent review. Not superfluous on the verbiage, you went into impressions and details beyond the banal, and talked about things like ride and noise levels that can’t be gleaned from a spec sheet. Best of all, you mentioned weight in its appropriate context, though it’s still missing from the boilerplate specs.

    Two tons, really? Sure enough, it’s at 4063lb. That plus the AWD might explain the somewhat high fuel consumption for a 235hp 4-cylinder.

    I agree it’s one of the better-looking mainstream crossovers… which isn’t saying much.

    What were interior materials like? Photos give the impression they’re trying to see how many different colors and textures they can get out of the same plastic.

  • avatar
    don1967

    All the references to the “adequate” nature of this vehicle have got me wondering. Which affordable compact CUVs stand head-and-shoulders above the competition?

    Simple answer: None of them. This class represents the pinnacle of cost-efficient focus-group engineering. It has evolved into a singularity from which light cannot escape, and only fanboys have strong opinions one way or the other.

    If you want something that stands out in 2019, buy a truck or motorcycle.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I drove base model of this – cheap stuff. Reminds Outback by sitting position.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    I like that mom quite a bit, which is embarrassing to admit in polite company.

  • avatar
    darex

    I sat in this and the Palisade at the car show. The Palisade seemed on a whole other level of “luxury” compared to the Santa Fe.

  • avatar
    Terry

    Thanks, but I’ll take my ’19 Mazda CX-5 Signature over this Hyundai.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    One of my favorite CUV’s but that isn’t saying much. I would like Hyundai to package this better and for 40K this should have dual rear exhaust and more than 235 HP on tap. I mean this same basic engine made 278 back in 2013 so why is it so de-tuned now and still not very efficient?

    I agree with the author that the 2.0T should be offered at least on the SEL Plus with 17 or 18″ rubber and cloth interior so as not to force buyers into the highest most costly trim levels. Chevy and GMC offer the more powerful 2.0T in their Equinox and Terrain hitched to a 9 speed and in the case of the Chevy get better MPG too. You also can get a 2.0T in the lower LT trim level on the Nox for around 34-35K with cloth seats and 18″ rubber. Ford also offers it’s 2.0EB in SE trimmed Escape for low to mid 30’s.

    I think Hyundai has some work to do with reducing weight from their vehicles and getting more efficiency from there 4 cylinder engines. Otherwise this is a nice overall package and I love that interior color combo.

  • avatar

    No Kimchi for me

  • avatar
    Davey

    We bought one 2 weeks ago; I’m bumping and not impartial.

    I’m struggling to understand the value concern. I see the reporting of front heated/cooled and rear heated, but not heated steering wheel, heads-up display, a picture of the panoramic roof, wireless charging, the rear 115V and USB outlets, seat/mirror memory, the passenger powered seat, and phone-operated remote-start/etc. We really wanted to prefer the Hybrid RAV4 for MPG but it had nowhere near the toys (with the exception of the fancy mirror rear-view-mirror camera) and was cramped.

    The off-idle pedal response and fuel economy is poor. I felt more comfortable with a hybrid that I’d never driven. If Hyundai puts an efficient hybrid in these they should sell a zillion.

    My dad’s had Accords for 30 years and we’ve had 10 positive years from an Odyssey. We really wanted to prefer the CR-V but the beltline limited visibility, there was no comfortable elbow rest for book-like long-distance driving, and we just didn’t feel like it had special toys like the Santa Fe.

    If the RAV4 was 2 inches bigger in most dimensions it’d be in the garage. I was very impressed with how it drove, just wish my head wasn’t several inches from the ceiling and I could stretch out in the back seat. I’m assuming that the aggressive rear-glass rake improves airflow but it was hard to imagine boxy cargo fitting. It was also 20% too much anime-character styling.

    I didn’t drive the Mazdas but the wife said the 3 was too small and the 5 too big. Perhaps we’re the perfect size for this tweener.

    P.S.: Hyundai, you can’t sell Genesai from the same dealership. Yes, there’s banners separating the two, but I feel for sales sitting down with those seeking $150/month on an Accent while a $60k car is 10 feet away.

    PPS: Please bring the Grandeur for my next car


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