Ace of Base: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe SE

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

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.

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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6 of 41 comments
  • Conundrum Conundrum on May 29, 2019

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

  • Slavuta Slavuta on May 29, 2019

    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.

    • See 3 previous
    • Slavuta Slavuta on Jun 03, 2019

      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.

  • Honda1 Unions were needed back in the early days, not needed know. There are plenty of rules and regulations and government agencies that keep companies in line. It's just a money grad and nothing more. Fain is a punk!
  • 1995 SC If the necessary number of employees vote to unionize then yes, they should be unionized. That's how it works.
  • Sobhuza Trooper That Dave Thomas fella sounds like the kind of twit who is oh-so-quick to tell us how easy and fun the bus is for any and all of your personal transportation needs. The time to get to and from the bus stop is never a concern. The time waiting for the bus is never a concern. The time waiting for a connection (if there is one) is never a concern. The weather is never a concern. Whatever you might be carrying or intend to purchase is never a concern. Nope, Boo Cars! Yeah Buses! Buses rule!Needless to say, these twits don't actual take the damn bus.
  • MaintenanceCosts Nobody here seems to acknowledge that there are multiple use cases for cars.Some people spend all their time driving all over the country and need every mile and minute of time savings. ICE cars are better for them right now.Some people only drive locally and fly when they travel. For them, there's probably a range number that works, and they don't really need more. For the uses for which we use our EV, that would be around 150 miles. The other thing about a low range requirement is it can make 120V charging viable. If you don't drive more than an average of about 40 miles/day, you can probably get enough electrons through a wall outlet. We spent over two years charging our Bolt only through 120V, while our house was getting rebuilt, and never had an issue.Those are extremes. There are all sorts of use cases in between, which probably represent the majority of drivers. For some users, what's needed is more range. But I think for most users, what's needed is better charging. Retrofit apartment garages like Tim's with 240V outlets at every spot. Install more L3 chargers in supermarket parking lots and alongside gas stations. Make chargers that work like Tesla Superchargers as ubiquitous as gas stations, and EV charging will not be an issue for most users.
  • MaintenanceCosts I don't have an opinion on whether any one plant unionizing is the right answer, but the employees sure need to have the right to organize. Unions or the credible threat of unionization are the only thing, history has proven, that can keep employers honest. Without it, we've seen over and over, the employers have complete power over the workers and feel free to exploit the workers however they see fit. (And don't tell me "oh, the workers can just leave" - in an oligopolistic industry, working conditions quickly converge, and there's not another employer right around the corner.)