In its fourth-generation, the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is positioned to go squarely against other compact crossover SUVs like the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue with new styling in a larger package that offers more powertrain options than the other vehicles in the segment.

The all-new Santa Fe essentially replaces the current Santa Fe Sport. The current Santa Fe, a larger 3-row vehicle, will be called the Santa Fe XL during the 2019 model year and will be replaced the next year by an even larger SUV with an all-new name.

The 2019 Santa Fe will also introduce a diesel variant, which will also have a third-row option. That 2.2-liter turbodiesel has an estimated output of 190 horsepower and 322 lb-ft of torque, but it won’t be offered until early in the 2019 calendar year. Initially, the standard 2-row Santa Fe will come with a choice of a normally aspirated 185-horspower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine making 178 lb-ft of torque or a turbocharged 2.0-liter rated at 235 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. All models will be equipped with a new 8-speed automatic transmission.

Larger footprint

The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe rides on an all-new platform that has a wheelbase of 108.9 inches, 2.6 inches more than the Santa Fe Sport it replaces. Overall length is up 2.8 inches to 187.8 overall and the vehicle is nearly a half-inch wider at 74.4 inches. Not only is the new Santa Fe bigger, it looks the part with more traditional SUV styling as opposed to the sleeker crossover roofline of the previous model.

The 2019 model sports a new cascading grille theme that has a mesh texture and a front fascia topped by a chrome bar that connects the grille with the flanking LED running daytime lights (DRLs). The headlamps and foglamps themselves are positioned on either side of the main inlet. The profile is that of a muscular off-roader, with well-defined wheel arches and lower sills, while a strong character line ties the front DRLs to the rear. The greenhouse is more upright and features a larger daylight opening with a satin chrome surround, while optional roof rails add to the rugged SUV look. Base models will be equipped with 17-inch wheels and tires, while 19-inch alloys will be standard on turbo and diesel models.

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Upscale cabin

The all-new cabin has a dual cockpit layout using high quality soft touch materials and brightwork to give it an upscale look. The center of the dash features a free-standing 7-inch infotainment touchscreen on base models, 8-inch units are fitted to higher trim levels. Below the center vents are manual controls for the HVAC and switches for heated/cooled seats and the heated steering wheel. The center console houses a conventional gearshift lever and a pair of cupholders as well as switches for the electric parking brake, drive modes and a defeat button for the engine start/stop system. The instrument cluster in front of the driver includes a large center speedometer flanked by a tach and fuel and temperature gauges. A full-color 8.5-inch head-up display module is an available option and shows speed, smart cruise control settings, nav directions and blind spot, lane departure and forward-collision assist warnings.

The infotainment system includes Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car suite of apps, including remote start, door locking, car finder and roadside assistance. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is also standard. Hyundai will also offer an optional high-end Krell audio system. A slick feature of that option is diamond texture speaker covers that match the diamond quilt pattern in the front bucket seats.

On the road

We had the opportunity get behind the wheel of Korean market models equipped with the 2.0-liter diesel that will be sold there and in Europe. As with all compact crossovers of this ilk, the seating position is high with good visibility all around, especially out the rear where the more upright greenhouse and bigger glass area provides a better view out for the second row and third row passengers. Speaking of the second row, there is plenty of rear seat legroom, further enhanced by the ability of the bench to index fore and aft and the seatbacks to recline. This feature will also come in handy with 3-row equipped diesel models.

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The front buckets are comfortable and supportive, with driver-oriented positioning of the displays and controls. While the output of the 2.0-liter turbodiesel is somewhat less than what we’ll have in the U.S. (179 horsepower, 283 lb-ft of torque), it still offers plenty of twist, which makes the Santa Fe feel relatively light on its feet. So is the steering, which is amply boosted. The ride is fairly soft, but Hyundai representatives said that the suspension tuning and steering is geared more toward the Korean market and that to expect a sharper feel to the steering and a tauter ride on U.S. versions.

The 8-speed automatic transmission provides clean, unobtrusive shifts and other features, like the lane keep assist and active cruise control work well in both highway cruising and stop-and-go commuting. The Hyundai system seems to be well-calibrated, I didn’t feel as if I were fighting the car on which line to take in the lane when lane keeping assist was active.

Our all-wheel drive version was equipped with Hyundai’s HTRAC system which uses a variable-torque-split clutch with active torque control between the front and rear axles. Drivers can select from Normal, Sport and Smart modes, the latter which toggles back and forth between Normal and Sport depending on throttle, wheel slip and other inputs. In Sport mode, more torque is sent to the rear wheels to give the Santa Fe a bit more dynamic feel.

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Safety assists

In addition to lane keeping, blind spot and cross traffic warnings and assists, the Hyundai Santa Fe will offer the industry’s first Safe Exit Assist. This system warns and helps to prevent opening a door in the path of vehicles or cyclists when they approach from behind. The assist will sound an alert and lock the door to keep it from being opened. The Santa Fe also features a rear seat occupant alert that will sound the horn, blink the lights and send an alert to the driver’s smartphone via the Hyundai Blue Link system if movement is detected in the rear seating area after the vehicle has been locked.

Pricing for the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe will be announced closer to the vehicle’s on-sale date in the U.S. this summer.


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