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2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate Review: A Good Everyday SUV

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2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate
Overall Impression
Solid choice for a busy family.
New safety features are a bonus.
The turbo engine is enjoyable to drive.
Roomy Cabin
Ride & Handling
Fuel Economy

I don’t think Hyundai is deliberately trying to confuse us, but the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe has been redesigned and the naming has changed. It’s all a little perplexing to us but the previous-generation Santa Fe was a three-row crossover, but the 2019 model is now a two-row, and is essentially the redesign of last year’s two-row Santa Fe Sport.

There’s even a three-row model called the Santa Fe XL (previously just called Santa Fe) that seats seven. But don’t get too attached, because the XL is on the way out. It’s due to be replaced by the new Hyundai Palisade.   

Clear as mud?

This week, we’ve been driving the top-of-the-line, 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T AWD.

What’s New For 2019

Well, the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe receives a makeover with a new interior and exterior look. The 2019 Santa Fe is the first to come with Hyundai’s optional Rear Occupant Alert feature. The system helps prevent children and pets from being forgotten; it also helps in case children accidentally lock themselves in.

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2019 Hyundai Santa Fe.

Features & Options: Connectivity & Safety 

The top-trim, 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T AWD ($38,800) comes standard with smartphone integration, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. What’s more, safety features such as forward collision mitigation, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a drowsy-driving warning system, and Hyundai’s Safe Exit Assist, which will temporarily prevent your door from opening if a vehicle is approaching from behind, all come standard.

More creature comforts like a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, and a power-adjustable passenger seat are also standard on the Ultimate. This trim also gets driver-seat memory settings, adjustable lumbar support for the driver, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, and even heated rear seats. Connectivity and tech features include an eight-inch touchscreen, heads-up display, navigation, wireless smartphone charging, and dual front and rear, 2.1-amp USB charge ports.

Total MSRP including destination: $39,905. By comparison, the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe SE starts at $24,250. The seven-seater XL begins at $28,350. Pricing for the Hyundai Palisade is due later this year.

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2019 Hyundai Santa Fe interior layout.

Interior Highlights: Roomy & Comfortable 

The Santa Fe’s new interior comes with attractive materials, including a fresh new dashboard design. It’s also longer and wider than the old Santa Fe Sport, giving it more space inside. The interior has plenty of soft touch materials throughout and you can’t miss the full panoramic sunroof. Passengers in the back are easily pampered with the tilting and reclining heated seats, and climate control vents for extra comfort.

Our passengers put down the rear sunshades this week, saying they thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

The cargo area behind the rear seat offers room for carrying three large suitcases or two sets of golf clubs. The rear seats are a 40/20/40 split combination and fold down for additional cargo space. Total interior volume on the new Santa Fe goes up, thanks to the increased width and length. With a maximum of 71.3 cubic feet and a handy, out-of-sight storage area underneath the cargo deck, there’s plenty of room for an active and growing family. 

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Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

Our Santa Fe Ultimate tester came with a turbocharged, 2.0-liter engine producing 235 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque. It comes mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and sends power to all four wheels. EPA fuel mileage estimates come in at 19/24 city/highway and 21 combined mpg. When compared to other similar vehicles, the 2019 Santa Fe with the 2.0-liter turbo misses the mark in terms of fuel economy

Lower trim levels receive a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder with 185 horsepower. EPA fuel mileage estimates for that engine are 22/29 city/highway and 25 combined mpg. Fuel-conscious buyers will want to consider this engine instead. 

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The turbo engine is fun to drive but the fuel economy is not what we hoped.

Driving Dynamics: The Safety Features Are Useful 

The Santa Fe’s 2.0-liter turbo packs enough horsepower to rival the sportier crossovers on the market. With the turbo engine, the Santa Fe ramps up the fun-to-drive meter over the standard, naturally-aspirated four-cylinder. During normal driving, the 2.0-liter turbo has more than enough power for any situation. 

Visibility is good and we especially liked the heads-up display so we could keep our eyes on the road. It’s a good bet for someone who is a daily commuter on heavily congested streets.

The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe now features a standard Forward Collision Avoidance Assist system. This will help keep you out of trouble if you are inadvertently distracted or tired after a long day at the office. The top-down parking camera system and rear parking sensors were also helpful on our drive this week. 

Even with the upgraded 19-inch wheels, the cabin is quiet at high speeds and the ride is smooth. Those who live in colder climates may want to consider a higher trim level Santa Fe with all-wheel drive. Our tester came with all-wheel-drive which was needed on the snowy and icy roads this week.

Conclusion: A Solid Daily Commuter 

The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe will fit urban consumers looking for an all-wheel drive SUV. While we wish the fuel economy were better, it does come with lots of modern tech and plenty of space for the family. If you’re looking for a good value in the two-row crossover segment, it’s a vehicle you’ll want on your short list. 

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Gallery

Photos: Hyundai Motor America.