- More interior volume
- Choice of 5 and 7-seat versions
- More traditional SUV styling
- Efficient diesel engine on XL
- Santa Fe now far from compact roots
- Hyundai not known for bigger SUVs
- Do buyers want diesels these days?
- Is bigger and butcher really better?
The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is now a fully competitive five- or seven-seat mid-size crossover utility vehicle that will likely represent a good value against other makers’ SUVs.
The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe, the fourth generation of Hyundai’s larger crossover SUV, has been redesigned with a larger cabin, more upright design, and an expanded array of safety and comfort features. It’s offered in the standard five-seat version (formerly called Santa Fe Sport) and a longer Santa Fe XL model with a third row (previously called just Santa Fe). It also adds a new diesel engine option for higher fuel efficiency, but it's only available in the long-wheelbase XL version. The 2019 Santa Fe goes on sale this summer, and will be offered in SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Limited, Ultimate, and 2.2D trim levels.
The new Santa Fe appears to be larger, squarer, and more traditionally upright and SUV-like than the previous version, which had a streamlined shape with a more raked tailgate. Hyundai says the 2019 crossover is “bolder,” with thin swept-back headlights at the upper corners of a large, aggressively cross-hatched trapezoidal grille. In addition to larger dimensions, the most prominent change from the previous model is the vertical tailgate, taking the Santa Fe away from its small crossover roots and closer to the look of full-size SUVs. There’s also more glass: Hyundai says the windows for rear-seat passengers are 40 percent larger.
Inside, the 2019 Santa Fe has the usual thick console between the front seats, but its dash top is broad and wide, with an instrument pod on top in front of the driver and a 7.0-inch touchscreen sitting above it in the center. Hyundai notes it has focused extensively on passenger comfort with such things as more conveniently located cupholders and smaller door pockets to expand legroom.
New diesel in Santa Fe XL
The 2019 Santa Fe offers three engine choices, all powering the front wheels through a new 8-speed automatic transmission, with all-wheel drive optional. The base powerplant is a 2.4-liter inline-4 rated at 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. Buyers who want more kick in their family SUV can opt for a more powerful 2.0-liter turbo-4 estimated at 235 hp and 260 lb-ft. According to Hyundai, the engine for the long-wheelbase Santa Fe XL will be a new 2.2-liter turbodiesel-4 rated at 190 hp and 322 lb-ft that should deliver higher EPA fuel-efficiency ratings, though the company hasn’t yet estimated those numbers for any of the powertrains.
Interior volume is the same or larger in virtually every dimension, including front and rear seat head room and leg room. The one exception is front-seat shoulder room, which shrinks by a fraction of an inch. Cabin volume is up, although cargo volume with the second seat folded down falls by a fraction of a cubic foot. In general, however, the 2019 Santa Fe is a larger and squarer vehicle than its predecessor.
As in any family SUV, safety features are critical to lure in shoppers. The Hyundai Smart Sense suite of active-safety systems is standard on the SE and higher trim levels, the automaker says, although it didn’t specify all the versions it will offer. Safety Sense bundles adaptive cruise control, active lane control, driver-alertness monitoring, and parking sensors with rear cross-traffic alert and automatic reverse braking, among other features.
The Santa Fe is the first Hyundai to offer rear-occupant alert, which both reminds the driver to check the rear seat when leaving the vehicle and uses motion sensors to detect any movement by a child or pet after the vehicle is locked, sending a text alert if it detects any. While a rearview camera is standard, automatic emergency braking is not.
The base Santa Fe gets a 7.0-inch touchscreen display, with a larger unit for higher-level trims. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard; Qi wireless smartphone charging, a head-up display, satellite radio, a premium audio system, and many other family SUV features will be standard or optional depending on model and trim level.
The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe lineup will be offered in six trim levels, including the 2.2D that is the long-wheelbase XL three-row model with its diesel engine. Those details will be released later this year, along with full specifications and EPA ratings, and of course price.