By on May 29, 2019

In all the years we’ve been presenting this series, Ace of Base has never focused on what was Hyundai’s first stepping stone into the world of crossovers and SUVs: the Santa Fe. Let’s correct that oversight with this new-for-2019 model.

To be clear, this is the two-row model, not the three-row which currently has an “XL” suffix appended to its name. That machine will vanish when the new Palisade appears later this year. Whatever it’s called, Hyundai sells a lot of ‘em; there must be a reason for that, right?

There is indeed. As is the Koreans’ wont, value-for-money is high on the Santa Fe’s checklist, even in this fourth-gen model that’s been pushed upscale ever so slightly. Hyundai has ladled on the trim levels lately, to which the new Santa Fe is no exception. The base model is called the SE and starts at a reasonable $25,750.

Under the hood is a 185 horsepower 2.4-liter four banger hooked to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s front-drive at this price; sending power to all four wheels will cost an extra $1,700. Its capable of hauling 2,000 lbs, enough to allow a small utility trailer laden with a lightweight ATV. Those 17-inch alloys riding on 235/65R17 tires aren’t the smallest things in the world, so be sure to budget for rubber replacement or winter tire fittings.

Driving nannies? There’s a full load of them, even on this base model. Lane keeping is kind of expected these days, but the big H goes ahead and bakes in the likes of collision avoidance assists and pedestrian detection systems for good measure. This was S-Class stuff not too long ago, let alone something to be found on a $25,000 Hyundai.

LED lights pepper the exterior, though the base SE announces your tightwad ways by omitting fog lights from the equation. At least the side mirrors are body color, and there’s all manner of chrome accents on the front grille. No fewer than nine shades of paint are on offer, each causing various interior colors to vanish and reappear. My choice is the craftily-named Stormy Sea paired with black chairs.

Speaking of seats, they’re of the unheated manual variety in this base trim. There is power lumbar support. You’ll also have to dig a key out of your pocket and twist it in the ignition to set the 2.4L alight. Beyond those oversights, however, the SE treats its occupants to a raft of USB ports, A/C, smart cruise control, and Apple CarPlay.

The small items missing from the SE are found in the SEL, costing an extra two grand. I’d choose the cheap seats and pocket the difference.

[Images: Hyundai]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments and feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and priced in American Dollars. Your dealer may sell for less.

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41 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe SE...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I like Santa Fes, but with the only engine option being a 185hp 4-banger, I’d never get one :(

    • 0 avatar
      MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

      Even the goofy looking first gen Santa Fe offered a V6 upgrade.
      These days at least offer us a Turbo 4 upgrade…..

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      The Santa Fe can be equipped with a more powerful 2.0L turbocharged engine (235 hp / 260 ft-lbs @ 1,450rpm), although you do have to go a few trim levels up to configure that engine.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I thought that engine was only available in the larger “XL” 3-row configuration

        • 0 avatar
          quaquaqua

          Huh? No, the XL has a V6. This is still available with a turbo. Though why you’d want it, I have no idea, real-world performance is barely any better than the standard engine and this is far thirstier. Hyundai/Kia just don’t do turbos great in their mainstream vehicles, and I say that as a huge fan of both companies.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I had a Santa Fe as a rental last year. I assume it had the base engine, and I found it adequate for hauling three adults across the Nevada desert. Honestly, why buy a CUV if you want a hot rod? The whole package was pretty decent. Not great, but there wasn’t anything I disliked about it, and I don’t always say that about rentals.

      • 0 avatar
        SaulTigh

        I had a 2018 AWD Santa Fe as a rental last week, and I thought it was a gutless turd with a herky jerky tranny and absolutely 0 driving enjoyment. Would never, ever buy one for those reasons. Still, it was spacious, seemed to be well put together, and the interior ergonomics were not bad. Given the warranty, I think $25k is a fair price. I still wouldn’t buy one for myself.

        This has single mom with two kids and a $40k a year job written all over it.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I had a Santa Fe Sport 2 years ago with the base 4 banger, entirely inoffensive and adequate for flat midwestern interstate cruising, got about 27mpg. Thought it was a decent car all around.

        • 0 avatar
          Russycle

          @SaulTigh: Huh, I’ve had rental Hyundais with terrible trannies before, but didn’t have an issue with the Santa Fe.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The Santa Fe should be getting a power bump when it gets its facelift.

      The base engine being the new 2.5L Theta III and the top-level engine being the turbo version of said engine (around 280-285 HP for the new Optima, so likely will give up some HP for more torque in CUV-application, so probably 260-265 HP).

      The corporate cousin to the Santa Fe, the Kia Sorento, is available w/ a V6 in upper trims – tho, I suspect for the new Sorento, that the V6 will also be replaced by the new 2.5T.

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    Uh huh.

    But HOW DOES IT DRIVE?????????????

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      It drives like a CUV of course. Buyers of such vehicles have more pressing concerns like… Can I listen to music off my iPhone? Do the kids fit back there? Or in the case on my parents (who have a Ford Escape) will the map take us to that new restaurant mentioned in the condo newsletter?

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Problem with it, it sits you “higher than usual” but lower than SUV. At least, when you drive it, you don’t have total SUV experience. And that was first thing my wife noticet. Everything went downhill from there.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    Speaking of the Santa Fe, I am scratching my head on the 2.0T EPA mileage. It’s 20/25 for the FWD model. Is this the “old” 2.0T from the previous gen? Is a new engine and/or transmission coming soon?

    The 3.5L Honda Odyssey is heavier and more powerful, but achieves 19/28.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      Turbo 4 bangers always drink more than we would think. As such, I question their wide proliferation across the automotive universe. The Tri-Power turbo 2.7 four cylinder in the new GM peecups uses as much fuel as an NA V6. They simply don’t make sense to me.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        What you say only holds true if you discount how regular people drive. The Honda hits peak torque at 4700 rpms – a place your typical soccer mom never goes. The turbo 4 hits peak torque at 1450 rpms where regular drivers always are. They are using more fuel because they are using more power.

        The Honda is getting better mileage because, as driven by the average driver, it’s a much slower less powerful vehicle. People drive torque not horsepower.

        • 0 avatar
          R Henry

          If I have a choice between an NA V6 and a boosted 4 pot, and fuel consumption was the same, I would take the V6 every time.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “I would take the V6 every time.”

            You have every right to choose the slower less responsive vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Having now done a new naturally-aspirated car and a new turbo car, both with about the same rated power, I’ve got to give the enjoyment edge to the naturally-aspirated option.

            If *ALL* you care about is low-end power and you never go more than 50% up your tach then you might be happy with the current group of turbos, but the mid-range and top-end are a disappointment.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      New 2.5 Theta III 4 cylinder on the horizon in NA and turbo form.

      More power and significantly improved thermal efficiency.

  • avatar
    gasser

    I almost leased one of these earlier this month, so I spent a bit of time looking into it. First, I didn’t like the NA engine. It was OK on the flat, but they wouldn’t let me drive it on the hills or on the freeway. I wanted the 2.0 turbo, but this meant moving up to the “Limited” trim which was over $33K. The SE is cleverly marketed, because if you want a power seat and the very valuable, sliding rear seat (which lets you opt for more 2nd seat leg room or more cargo space) you have to move up to an SEL plus , jumping 2 price points. Also generous incentives are not available on the Santa Fe, upper trims only offered about $2K off list. For me, a potential lessor, the problem was the lease rates (??high because of the buy back ???) I wanted both front seats electric and the 2.0 turbo. This led to a 36/ 10K miles monthly price of $400. This was knocking on the door of the luxury brands, so I went there. The vehicle itself is very good, Excellent steering, brakes, visibility, smooth transmission, comfortable seats. Great selection of colors. I really liked the size of the car. I can’t speak to gas mileage, but this has never been a Hyundai SUV strong point. I have read that there is a new engine plant under construction for a 2.5 NA engine and that a new turbo is also in the works.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Well, considering that a) they wouldn’t let you test drive a car on the freeway (that’s just stupid) and b) fed you nonsense about the lease “buyback,” I’d say you did well to not pull the trigger.

      One of Hyundai’s biggest problems, frankly, is its’ dealers.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        I haven’t shopped for a new Hyundai since 2012, but the worst thing about the dealer experience at the time was that parked in the showroom was a new Genesis coupe whose interior smelled like a garbage fire in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The Genesis 5.0R we test drove stank on ice as well, but not as violently. I’ve heard others bail on H-K products because of the stench they’re delivered with too. Have they fixed it, or are they still only cars for people who don’t care if they stink?

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Compared to my Charger the Stinger is a rose.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          Last summer my brother leased another Santa Fe; during the laborious paperwork phase, I sat in maybe 5-6 different Hyundai products and didn’t notice anything foul. I know what you mean though, and remember that distinct smell from Hyundais from several years ago. I wonder if it’s the Korean-made products only….

    • 0 avatar
      MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

      When I test drive, I simply state “I’m taking this on the highway”, and have never once met with any pushback. That seems mighty odd.

      90% of the time they send me out alone anyway, so I go where I want :)

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Yep, being an “old guy” who obviously has the means to buy a nice car has its’ advantages.

        • 0 avatar
          MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

          Car shopping is very different in your 40s with wisps of platinum in your hair, than it was as a snot-nosed 20 year old LOL

          Thing is, I was buying nice cars with my own good credit in my early 20s and STILL there would be dealers telling me to come back with my parents.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        When I was buying my Mazda3 the dealer wouldn’t allow to leave the shop. They had their own test loop on premises. Although, I wouldn’t care since I already test-drove it in another dealer.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Taillights stolen from an Altima and that face that Jeep finally removed from the Cherokee, but gets to live on in this and the Kona. There’s a styling trend that needs to be done away with.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Much better done than the dorky attempt that Jeep did on the Cherokee; plus Citroen was doing the split headlight thing before Jeep (not to mention older Hyundai concepts).

      Chevy actually does a very similar take to the Santa Fe on the Blazer/Trailblazer.

      The taillights are pretty generic.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    The biggest problem with Hyundai is with their dealer network. As I have previously mentioned on here before. We bought a new Santa Fe XL two years ago. Had to finance through Hyundai Finance Corp. to get the rebates (but re-financed after three months) and just before I am ready to sign the papers-the wife looked at the math on the contract and said it didn’t add up to what we agreed to. (She is a retired school teacher). There was a $400.00 charge for “key-insurance”. REALLY? I haven’t lost a key FOB-or key since I started driving. After complaining the finance guy took it off. So-I bashed them on the Internet and customer satisfaction survey. And the wife and I could have bought any brand-the Ford, Chevy, etc.,or the luxury makes. S0-needless to say, I will never step foot in that dealership again.

    I bought a $50,000.00 Chevrolet truck a year later and everything was pleasant and straight forward-and gave the Chevrolet dealer a glowing review.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      $400 key fob insurance? That’s pretty desperate. What does a brand new Hyundai key fob cost anyway?

      I bought my first brand new car in 2017 and was honestly floored by the amount of insurance they wanted to sell me. I was paying $250/mo just for the car, and they wanted to sell me another $200/mo worth of extra coverage, warranties, etc.

      My biggest asset in that whole process was the printed, itemized quote the dealership emailed me earlier that day. I used it as a sanity check for each new document I signed. Even still, they tried to swap a few numbers on me.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I was actually very, very interested in an Elantra Sport last fall, and a local Hyundai dealer has one of those “build your own price” tools. The Elantra Sport I was thinking about looked to be a hell of a deal. So I made an informal inquiry, at which point they told me that all the incentives they were advertising magically weren’t available. I even sent them a screenshot of the online calculator and Hyundai’s own US website verifying the incentives, and they refused to budge. They were “very confident” that they would be able to “work with my credit” (which I inputted as over 700) to get me approved on a lease, though. Too bad the payment would be “only” $150 higher than the one they told me I could get. I told the manager who was “working” with me to go do something anatomically impossible to himself, and told the kid who showed me the Elantra (a very earnest and professional young woman who, it turns out, was going to the same college as my oldest daughter) she’d do well to find another employer who didn’t lie to its’ customers.

        Can’t believe dealers still try to run this nonsense these days. And this is not atypical of Hyundai dealers. And that’s a damn shame – the cars are more than good enough to sell to qualified customers without resorting to old-school car-dealer BS.

        Old habits die hard, I guess.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    The archetypal blob crossover. Anonymous and built to stay that way.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I was interested to read this review because I drove this… POS. You take away nannies (for those who needs them) and this car is such bad execution. The only thing that goes for it, I like the size. Horrible interior finishing and materials. Everything feels soooooo cheaaaap. Switch gear is bleh. Honestly, driving this car ruined my mood for rest of the day. First, when you drive it, you don’t feel that you drive an SUV, the sitting is pretty low. Also, the nannies are so aggressive. I tried to cut the curve and this car was really taking steering out of me, fighting me. My new Highlander also has lane keep assist but I can easily overtake the computer if I need to make evasive maneuver. Santa Fe was dragging me into trouble. But this is the interior that killed it for me. As you might see, I paid nearly $10K more to have engine power and better interior, and definitely not to drive Santa Fe, even if I don’t need 3rd row.

    • 0 avatar
      CKNSLS Sierra SLT

      slavuta-
      You are an exception. I bought the Santa Fe XL and saved $5,000.00 over the Toyo/Honda equivalent.

      BTW-The interior (Both leather, etc.) in my 2018 Silverado isn’t much better than whats in the Santa Fe. Really….I mean that. And it costs a whole lot more.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        I am not sure about relevance of your comment. I drove THIS car, i.e. Santa Fe SE as per AOB article above. And I bought Highlander LE, which is trim analog of the car I tested. The test car was SE AWD and my Highlander is v6 LE AWD with engine and 3 rows being main difference. My car was 37K and SFe was 28K. But I would rather pay 10K extra and carry around unwanted row of seats than suffer inside Santa Fe every time I enter that ting.

        The versions with leather probably feel better but no way I would pay more than 25K for ANY Hyundai. To summarize, Highlander also has hard plastics below horizon but it doesn’t look cheap like Hyundai’s plastic that looks like cheap Chinese toys. Its just bad. I couldn’t get past better interior in Elantra Sport. Santa Fe SE is made for rentals, or even industrial use.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The Highlander (at least the outgoing one) doesn’t really have a better interior than the Santa Fe, which, btw, isn’t the direct competitor (that will be the Palisade).

      And all the reviews have been pretty positive for the Santa Fe; C/D ranks the Santa Fe 9th and the Highlander 17th.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        bd2,
        this is bulloney. Speaking of base vs base Fe has no chance in interior quality vs Highlander. They placed it 17th without spelling the reason for it. But I can imagine, this is not interior quality, driveability or performance. Value is the key-word here. Im not kind person who likes to spend extra for a badge. If Fe was close to ‘Lander, I would buy that car. But it wasn’t. This is the point where I care less what CR says. They can tell me that Corolla is a great car – I am not driving that! I don’t mean that ‘Lander is best out there, I don’t know what is. But its smallish size, power, and discounts made me happy.


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