2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Driving Impressions

February 19th, 2020 by

I recently spent a long weekend living with the new 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe from Morrie’s 394 Hyundai. I wanted to see how it could work into my lifestyle as a guy who regularly carries lots of stuff. With my wife and three dogs, loads of camera gear, and some groceries, could the Santa Fe handle it all? Keep reading to find out how the new Hyundai Santa Fe handled everything I threw at it.

First Impressions

The 2019 Santa Fe has sporty styling, but to my pleasant surprise the ride isn’t overly sporty. Rather, it is a gentle, comfortable, and spacious crossover. Hyundai has translated the Kona’s styling well into a scaled up, family-friendly size. The sharp, high-mounted daytime running lights with the high and low beam headlights mounted lower in the bumper. The look takes some getting used to, although the bold styling will be appreciated by some more than others. Generally, I found the new Santa Fe’s styling to be more mature and futuristic than the outgoing model’s.

The Santa Fe’s 2.4-liter, inline-4 didn’t really blow me away. With 185 horsepower on tap, it feels a bit sluggish in this platform. Although the 2.4-liter’s fuel economy is pretty commendable (22/29 city/hwy), I prefer the available 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 instead. The smaller, turbocharged motor gives up some economy (20/25 city/hwy) to the standard engine but makes an extra 50 horsepower. That’s enough to really transform the way the Santa Fe drives. Regardless of engine choice, the suspension is soft and supple, gliding over rough pavement with ease. There is a noticeable amount of body roll in tighter corners but the Santa Fe doesn’t try to be a sports car either.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe headlight

Behind the Wheel

Inside the Santa Fe, everything is well designed with lots of elbow room and little nooks and crannies to put things. The cabin has a light, airy feeling, no doubt helped by the massive panoramic sunroof. Unlike a lot of modern cars, visibility is quite good out of the windshield and sides of the Santa Fe. Front and center atop the dash is an 8.0-inch touchscreen plus there is a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster. The Ultimate trim, which was equipped on this vehicle, also includes a color head-up display (HUD). I appreciated that the HUD displayed both speed and turn-by-turn directions but my polarized sunglasses made it tricky to see.

The size of the trunk really surprised me. The back seats easily fit two adults or kids in car seats with nearly endless room behind them for their stuff. If you need even more room, you can fold the rear seats down with the push of a button. I had no problems fitting all of my camera equipment, including larger items like tripods and light stands, back there. Without folding down the rear seats, I also stuffed a week’s worth of groceries for two people and items from a few other errands into the trunk. Now, part of that might be my expert-level Tetris packaging skills, but I never felt like I ran out of space during a full day of running errands.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe front seats and panoramic sunroof

High Technology

The Santa Fe is every bit as high-tech inside as it looks from the outside. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard on every trim level, in addition to two USB ports. For those with compatible phones, there is also a Qi wireless charging pad. Things get really crazy when you start looking at safety features. The 12-speaker Infinity audio system sounds awesome! I also loved how easy it was to connect my phone to Bluetooth or set up Android Auto. It made accessing my music and podcasts a breeze.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe with Infinity audio system

If I had one gripe about the interior, it’d be that it feels like there is an overabundance of buttons. On the other hand, the Santa Fe, especially in the fully-loaded Ultimate trim, offers a ton of standard features. Then again, because of those buttons, you don’t have to spend extra time hunting for things on the touchscreen. It might take a second to find what you’re looking for but after a few days, it becomes second nature.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe center console

As far as buttons are concerned, there were two in particular that I would never want to give up: one for the heated seats and one for the heated steering wheel. With some of the record-breaking cold temperatures we’ve experienced lately, those two features were game changers. I do wish the key fob had a remote start button but if you set up an account with the Hyundai Blue Link app on your smartphone, you can remote start the Santa Fe from anywhere. That way, the heated seats and steering wheel are ready to go when you enter the vehicle. Blue Link is available for free for the first three years of ownership on all 2019 models. Blue Link also lets you schedule maintenance, send destinations to the navigation system, or pinpoint your Hyundai in a crowded parking lot.

Safety Matters

Even the base SE trim literally comes loaded to the gills with everything you could imagine to keep you safe. Each trim level comes packed with sensors all around the Santa Fe to help avoid collisions. Whether there is something behind, beside, or in front of you, the Santa Fe will probably see it first. Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Warning, and Safe Exit Assist all come standard as well. With the SEL Plus trim level or higher, the standard backup camera also features proximity sensors.

Hyundai also offers a few options that are exclusive to the Ultimate trim like a trick 360-degree surround view camera and a Rear Occupant Alert to make sure you don’t leave anyone or anything in the back seat when you get out.

Final Thoughts

Like it or not, Hyundai relies on trim levels to define what features are available on the Santa Fe. While other brands might offer packages for technology or safety equipment, or expensive a la carte options, there are very few standalone options for the Santa Fe outside of dealer add-ons like all-weather floor mats. Instead, the trim levels offer a wide range of options to differentiate a base SE trim at $25,500 from an Ultimate 2.0T at $38,145. Aside from trim levels, the only big decision you’ll have to make is if you want to spend $1,700 to get all-wheel drive. I was amazed at how confidence-inspiring it was to have the extra grip when I found myself driving in slippery conditions. If you live somewhere snowy, I’d highly recommend it.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe front exterior

The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe makes very few compromises as an everyday family vehicle. For people who live multi-faceted lives or parents who are minivan averse, this will be a good fit. With the Santa Fe, you get tons of room inside, loads of technology and safety features and styling that is anything but plain.

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