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Quick First Drive: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

William Maley

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A few weeks back, I attended an event at Hyundai’s technical center which resides outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The reason for my visit was to get a preview of what they’ll be showing at the LA Auto Show (which I’ll be able to talk about later today once the NDA lifts). But Hyundai also offered the chance to drive some of their latest products on a small drive route. I had the chance to drive three models; the Santa Fe, Kona, and Veloster. 

A quick note about this first drive report. You will not get any impressions on the handling of the three models. The short drive was mostly made up of straight roads around the technical center. You’ll need to wait until I can my hands on the vehicles for a week-long evaluation to see how they fare in the bends.

First up is the Santa Fe.

  • I’m quite impressed with the work done on the Santa Fe’s exterior as it has much more presence on the road than the Santa Fe Sport it replaces. The square shape is accentuated by a more aggressive grille and a more upright rear end. One downside to the new look is the raised belt line, which reduces the overall glass area and makes the interior feel slightly cramped.
  • Step inside and Hyundai has taken a huge leap forward here. A lot of their current interiors tend to focus more on utility and having controls in easy reach. The Santa Fe adds a bit of style with rounded edges, sculpted sides for the driver and passenger, and brushed metal accents. One nice touch in the Ultimate is a contrasting roofline that looks and feels like a piece of soft linen. One item that hasn’t changed is the controls. They are still easy to find and operate.
  • The front seats are quite comfortable and offer a number of power adjustments to help dial in the perfect position. The rear seat is massive with loads of head and legroom, even with the optional panoramic sunroof.
  • A 2.4L four-cylinder with 185 horsepower serves as the base engine, while a more powerful 2.0L turbo-four pumping out 235 horsepower is available on the higher-end Limited and Ultimate. An eight-speed automatic is standard on either engine, and you do have the choice of either front or Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel drive system.
  • I drove the turbo-four with AWD and found it to be a bit underwhelming. The issue is the noticeable delay with power delivery when leaving from a stop or accelerating suddenly from a low cruising speed. I can’t fully tell if this due to the tuning of the engine, transmission, or combination of the two. It is quite the shame because the engine really shows it has punch when making a pass. 
  • Ride quality is towards the top of the class as the suspension is able to smooth out most rough road surfaces. Road and wind noise are well-muted.
  • There’s a lot to like about the 2019 Santa Fe with its new look inside and out; spacious interior, and smooth ride. The turbo engine does sour my initial impression and has me wondering if you should wait a year until picking the turbo engine. Those who have driven the 2.4L say the engine is slightly sluggish, but I would take that over the mess that is the turbo-four.

Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided Breakfast, Lunch, and the Santa Fe for this Event.

Gallery: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

Year: 2019
Make: Hyundai
Model: Santa Fe
Engine: 2.4L 16-Valve DOHC GDI Four-Cylinder or Turbocharged 2.0L CVVT DOHC Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front or All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 185 @ 6,000 (2.4); 235 @ 6,000 (2.0T)
Torque @ RPM: 178 @ 4,000 (2.4); 260 @ 1,450-3,500 (2.0T)
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/29/25 (2.4 FWD), 21/27/23 (2.4 AWD), 20/25/22 (2.0T FWD), 19/24/21 (2.0T AWD)
Curb Weight: 3,591 - 4,085 lbs
Base Price: $24,750 - $38,800

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