Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
The all-new 2-row 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe — built in Alabama and on sale now — reveals just how serious the company is about the ever-growing compact-SUV market. It’s only slightly larger than the outgoing model, but it feels much bigger from inside, and Hyundai has managed to make this safety-packed compact SUV some 30 pounds lighter than the outgoing model.
You'll Like The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe If...
Loads of standard safety featuresFresh design and excellent valueOptional turbocharged engineStandard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty
You May Not Like The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe If...
No V6 optionSome drivers may find the active safety systems too intrusive
All-new model that replaces the Santa Fe SportSlots between compact Tucson and new, 3-row Hyundai PalisadeAll 2019 Santa Fe models are filled with tech and safety features
With the exception some hard plastic, the interior of the new Santa Fe is a pleasant place, both handsome and comfortable, with a unique T-shirt-like material used for the A-pillars and headliner. The instrument panel is a layered 3-level design, and the seats employ foam of different densities in targeted spots to make them comfortably supportive. Legroom is abundant, so much so that a 6-foot-4-inch passenger can sit comfortably behind a driver of the same height. Headroom is bountiful too, even with the optional panoramic sunroof installed. All Santa Fe switches and controls work with precision, and the buttons for many of the safety technologies are grouped to the left of the tilt and telescope steering wheel. Other niceties: Hyundai has positioned the navigation screen for reduced glare, the window switches have been moved forward for added elbow room, and the power rear liftgate, which can be opened with the swipe of your foot, has two speeds: 4.5 seconds or 6 seconds. The cargo area aft of the rear seat is a tiny bit larger than that of the Santa Fe Sport, and we like how the well-lined area features a false floor for secure, out-of-sight storage.
From all angles, the 2019 Santa Fe is a good-looking vehicle, with a front dominated by Hyundai’s new cascading grille. The look of the thin-slit high-mounted LED daytime running lights are reminiscent of the Jeep Cherokee; the actual headlights are down low, where you’d expect the driving lights to be. From the side, Hyundai’s compact SUV is characterized by a character line that extends from headlights to taillights and is one of the reasons the side windows of the Santa Fe are taller and offer a better outward view. The side windows, what industry folks call the “daylight opening,” are surrounded by satin-finish trim, and the rear directional signals are down low at bumper level. The stock aluminum-alloy wheels add to the muscular look.
The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is super quiet inside for an SUV, not unlike an expensive luxury car, thanks to extensive use of sound-deadening techniques that includes laminated side glass. What’s more, the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, even at the 7,000-foot elevation of Park City, Utah, felt strong, provided it was on boost, which was most of the time. The new 8-speed automatic is a model of smoothness, and via a pictogram on the dash, I could see that the new AWD Santa Fe acts predominantly as a front-wheel-drive vehicle, sending power rearward most readily in slippery conditions or when the throttle is pressed hard. Also, in the "Sport" drive mode, 35 percent of the power is sent rearward automatically. The electrically-assisted steering has a natural feel, and the standard lane-keeping assist program has three levels of intervention (and on “off” setting) to let the driver choose the level of audible warnings and/or steering intervention. On smooth asphalt and washboard dirt roads alike, the ride quality of the 2019 Santa Fe felt good, with well-controlled ride motions and great everyday comfort. Also, the suspension damping was spot-on, aided by improved rear shocks mounted more vertically than on the previous Santa Fe. Lastly: The Santa Fe’s automatic stop/start is smooth and hardly noticeable.
The entry-level Santa Fe, the SE, starts at about $26,500, which includes a destination fee of $980. The SEL, with Drive Mode Select and a heated power driver’s seat, begins at just above $28,500. A more popular choice (and our recommendation) will be the SEL Plus, a nearly $31,000 Santa Fe that has niceties such as 18-in. wheels, a hands-free liftgate, 2nd-row cargo area releases, and the powerful Infinity stereo. The Limited, at just over $33,500, has leather seats and the big sunroof, while the Ultimate, at nearly $36,500, adds a surround-view monitor, an 8-inch touch screen, a head-up display, and wireless smartphone charging.The 2.0T, available as an option only on the Limited and Ultimate models, adds about $1,700 to the price of the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe. Coincidentally, that’s also the price of HTRAC AWD, a smart choice available on all models. The Santa Fe that KBB tested, an Ultimate 2.0T AWD, carried an as-tested price of $39,095.As always, be sure the check the KBB Fair Purchase Price to see what other people are paying for a Santa Fe in your area. Also, keep in mind that the redesigned Santa Fe topped the midsize SUV/Crossover (2-row) segment in the KBB 2019 5-Year Cost-to-Own Awards, besting the runners-up, the Subaru Outback and Ford Edge.
All 2019 Santa Fes are equipped with SmartSense, the company’s suite of safety technologies. It offers: forward collision assist (with pedestrian protection), blind-spot collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist (with three levels of involvement), smart cruise control (with stop and go), a driver-attention warning and safe exit assist, which locks the doors to prevent people from exiting the vehicle if the Santa Fe senses traffic coming from behind. Also standard: a 7-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
It’s a long list, highlighted by the HTRAC AWD system, a wise choice at a reasonable $1,700. The other significant option is the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, available on the Limited and Ultimate models and a worthy consideration if you drive or live at high altitude. Other options available on the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe include a head-up display, an 8-inch multimedia nav system, next-gen Blue Link, wireless smartphone charging, heated seats, a surround-view monitor, a huge panoramic sunroof, the hands-free lift gate, rain-sensing wipers, and rear-window sunshades. There’s also an available 12-speaker 630-watt Infinity audio system with a Clari-Fi system that rebuilds audio details lost in digitally compressed music.
HTRAC AWD SYSTEMHyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel drive, optional on the Santa Fe, has a center electronic coupling that predictively varies the engine torque between the front and rear axles for enhanced vehicle stability. The drivetrain also features side-to-side torque vectoring and three driver-selectable modes: Normal, Sport and Smart. BETTER OUTWARD VISIONCompared to the Santa Fe Sport, the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe delivers significantly better outward view. Its A-pillars are slimmer, its side mirrors are mounted lower on the doors, and its rear quarter glass, thanks to the lower beltline, has increased in size by more than 40 percent.
Under the Hood
Santa Fe buyers have two 4-cylinder choices, and they’re familiar. The base engine is a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four that produces 185 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 178 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The turbocharged 2.0-liter is a more powerful engine, able to generate 235 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque from 1,450 rpm to 3,500 rpm. Of note, for 2019, both of these direct-injected Theta engines benefit from a new electric variable valve-timing system that replaces the formerly hydraulic one. Hyundai says the electric system is quicker and more precise while also reducing emissions. 2.4-liter inline-4185 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm178 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/29 mpg 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4235 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm260 lb-ft of torque @ 1,450 to 3,500 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/25 mpg
Hyundai has sold 1.6 million Santa Fes since 2000. For 2019, Hyundai wants to expand on that success with an all-new Santa Fe that looks more like an SUV than a minivan and is chock-full of safety and powertrain enhancements. At the same time, the structure of the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe has been strengthened, and new suspension geometry helps improve ride quality. Note: The new Santa Fe is a 2-row 5-seat crossover SUV that replaces the Santa Fe Sport. The 3-row 7-seat Santa Fe will continue to be sold in 2019, but it’s now called the Santa Fe XL. The XL will be sold for only one year before being replaced in 2020 by a new 3-row vehicle not related to the new Santa Fe. Competitors for the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe include small SUVs like the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Edge, Nissan Murano and Subaru Forester.