Car Reviews

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Review

Dean Mellor’s 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Review With Pricing, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Safety, Verdict And Score.

In A Nutshell Hyundai has taken the wraps off the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe range which at launch consists four all-wheel drive models with a choice of petrol and diesel engines… and the potential for more variants to follow.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Specifications

Pricing $43,000 (Active petrol); $46,000 (Active Diesel); $54,000 (Elite Diesel); $60,500 (Highlander Diesel) Warranty 5-years/unlimited km Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Safety TBA Engine 2.4-litre four-cylinder GDi petrol; 2.2-litre four-cylinder CRDi turbo-diesel Power 138kW at 6000rpm; 147kW at 3800rpm Torque 241Nm at 4000rpm; 440Nm at 1750-2750rpm Transmission 6-speed auto; 8-speed auto Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 4770mm (L); 1890mm (W); 1705mm (H) Turning Circle 11.4m Ground Clearance 185mm Kerb Weight 1745kg; 1870-1995kg GVM 2485kg; 2630kg Payload 740kg; 635kg-760kg Cargo space 547L/1625L Towing Capacity 750kg/2000kg Tyres 235/65R17 (Active); 235/60R18 (Elite); 235/55R19 (Highlander) Spare Full-size alloy Fuel Tank 71L Thirst (combined) 9.3L/100km; 7.5L/100km

Hyundai’s fourth-generation Santa Fe has upped its game in terms of style, ride, handling, performance and safety.

What is the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe?

The Santa Fe is Hyundai’s entrant in the competitive ‘SUV Large <$70K’ market segment, which includes similar seven-seat all-wheel drive vehicles such as the Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9 (and now CX-8), Nissan Pathfinder and the hugely popular Toyota Kluger, as well as more off-road-biased ute-based vehicles such as the Ford Everest, Holden Trailblazer, Isuzu MU-X, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Toyota Fortuner.

Hyundai Sante Fe

This time last year the Hyundai Santa Fe had a 7.7 per cent share of the segment, which had dropped to 6.2 per cent by the end of June 2018. Hyundai no doubt hopes its new fourth-generation Santa Fe will reverse this trend, despite the brand dropping the entry-level Active X 2WD ($40,990) with 3.3-litre V6 engine, which accounted for 17 per cent of Santa Fe sales in the past 12 months.

Initially, the new fourth-generation Santa Fe will only be offered with an AWD drivetrain, with a choice of four-cylinder petrol or diesel engines. The line-up is Active Petrol ($43,000), Active Diesel ($46,000), Elite Diesel ($54,000) and Highlander Diesel ($60,500).

At the recent launch event for new Santa Fe, Hyundai Australia’s CEO JW Lee certainly didn’t hide the fact the V6 model would be sorely missed, stating, “We want a V6 petrol model but it’s not available at the moment.” Interestingly, however, it’s the top-spec Highlander model that has historically accounted for the bulk of Santa Fe sales, making up a whopping 48 per cent of the mix over the past 12 months.

Hyundai Sante Fe

The base-spec 2019 Santa Fe Active is the only variant to be offered with a choice of petrol or diesel engines. The 2.4-litre four-cylinder Gasoline Direct injection petrol engine makes a claimed 138kW of power at 6000rpm and 241Nm of torque at 4000rpm. Many will see the $3k premium for the Active Diesel to be well worth the extra spend considering its significantly greater peak outputs – the 2.2-litre four-cylinder Common Rail Direct injection turbo-diesel pumps out a claimed 147kW of power at 3800rpm and 440Nm of torque from 1750-2750rpm. And while the petrol engine is mated to a six-speed auto, the turbo-diesel scores Hyundai’s in-house developed eight-speed auto.

Both the mid-spec Elite and the top-spec Highlander are exclusively turbo-diesel/eight-speed auto propositions, and all models at this stage feature Hyundai’s mode-selectable HTRAC active on-demand 4WD system, which includes a 50/50 front/rear lock mode.

The new Santa Fe is slightly bigger than its predecessor (70mm longer and 10mm wider) and it features a new monocoque body structure that’s said to use 15 per cent more high-strength steel than the previous model, improving passive safety and chassis dynamics, thanks in part to greater torsional stiffness. The fully independent suspension is by way of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear.

In addition to a very comprehensive suite of standard safety equipment, the Santa Fe is loaded with convenience and comfort features. The Active comes with a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, a 3.5-inch TFT LCD with trip computer and digital speedometer, adjustable Head Up Display, climate control air conditioning with controls and vents for second-row occupants, dusk-sensing headlights, fog lights, LED DRLs, 17-inch alloy wheels and roof rails. It also has Hyundai Auto Link, which allows an overview of vehicle data on a Bluetooth connected smartphone.

Hyundai Sante Fe

Additional features on the Elite include a larger eight-inch touchscreen, Digital radio, premium audio with 10 speakers, satnav with live traffic updates, leather trim, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat and eight-way power adjustable passenger’s seat, heated and ventilated front seats and heated outboard rear seats, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, glovebox cooling, rear door window screens, a power tailgate and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Hyundai Sante Fe

The top-spec Highlander adds LED Bi-function headlights with dynamic bending, LED fog lights, surround view monitor, wireless inductive smartphone charging, a seven-inch colour TFT LCD supervision cluster, 14-way power adjustable driver’s seat, heated steering wheel, wood-effect trim, suede roof lining, panoramic glass sunroof and 19-inch alloy wheels. Highlander customers also get Hyundai’s Auto Link Premium, which allows phone control of engine start and stop, door locks, hazard lights, hazard and horn, interior temperature and defroster.

What’s the interior like?

The Santa Fe’s dashboard sweeps back at the base of the A-pillars to join almost seamlessly with the door trims while the multimedia system stands proud in the middle of the dash, its colour touchscreen complemented by large, clearly marked switches and dials for ease of operation. The HVAC controls are similarly clearly marked and easy to use, no matter what the spec of the vehicle, and the air vents feature attractive alloy-effect trim.

Hyundai Sante Fe

The wide centre console houses the auto’s shift lever, a pair of cup holders and controls for handbrake, hill hold, parking sensors, HDC, camera view and drive mode. It also provides a place to stow your phone that doubles as the inductive smartphone charger on the Highlander. There’s plenty of space in the centre console bin, generous door pockets, a decent-size glovebox and a small parcel shelf above it the glovebox.

Hyundai Sante Fe

Despite only basic adjustment, the Active’s driver’s seat offers good comfort and plenty of leg room. The centre console slightly impedes left leg room, but it also acts as a brace when cornering. The Elite and Highlander seats offer far more adjustment and therefore better comfort, the Elite adding lumbar adjustment and the Highlander a seat-base extender, and the leather trim on both higher-grade models looks much nicer than the Active’s cloth. Forward visibility from the driver’s seat is good, thanks in part to the narrow A-pillars and small quarter windows, which allow you to see to the sides ahead of the exterior mirrors.

Hyundai Sante Fe

The second-row seats slide forwards and backwards and have backrest rake adjustment. The outboard seats have a comfortable shape and second-row occupants have HVAC controls, loads of storage and 12V power. As is the case with most SUVs, the centre position isn’t great, but there’s certainly enough width for three adults on shorter drives.

Hyundai Sante Fe

Access the third row is via what Hyundai calls a one-touch ‘Walk-in switch’ – in other words, one switch allows the second-row kerb-side seat to fold and slide. The third-row seats can be easily pulled into position form the cargo area via straps. It’s a bit of an awkward climb to get into the third row for adults, but tweens and smaller teens won’t have a problem, and there are plenty of grab handles to choose from. Once in the third-row seats, however, there’s not a lot of leg room, but there are vents and AC fan control, cup holders and 12V power.

With all the seats folded there’s a flat cargo floor and the cargo area has four tie-down hooks, but they’re flimsy looking plastic jobbies. The second-row seats can be easily folded from the cargo area thanks to electric release switches.

Overall, the interior is a smart and contemporary design, and it works well, although third-row space is not quite as generous as some class competitors.

What’s it like on the road?

Hyundai Australia CEO JW Lee describes the Santa Fe as one of the brand’s flagship models in Australia, and a demonstration of how the company approaches the Australian market, investing heavily in local development and testing.

Hyundai Sante Fe

Like all Hyundai cars sold in Australia, the Santa Fe benefits from local steering suspension tuning, undertaken by the Hyundai Australia Chassis Development and Product Planning teams, in conjunction with an engineer from damper supplier ZF SACHS, and an engineer from HMC in South Korea. Thousands of kilometres of local testing over a variety of surfaces saw the team evaluate 27 front damper builds and 22 rear damper builds, and two front and three rear spring rates, to attain the desired result.

“First and foremost it had to be comfortable for families; it had to be safe with good recovery after big bumps, and we sprinkled in some fun-to-drive,” says Hyundai Australia Senior Manager Product Planning Andrew Tuitahi.

Hyundai Sante Fe

It was obvious just how confident Hyundai was with its local suspension set-up at the vehicle’s national media launch, which included plenty of bumpy secondary roads in the hinterland behind Coffs Harbour in northern NSW, as well as a good dose of winding and twisting gravel roads.

The Santa Fe has a lively chassis for what’s essentially large SUV. Steering response is good and the electric power assistance is well weighted on the open road, with body roll nicely controlled when the vehicle is thrown into a corner with some gusto. But the suspension isn’t firm at the expense of comfort, and it does a good job of soaking up potholes and bumps, even on the top-spec Highlander which is fitted with low-profile Continental 235/55R19 rubber. The Elite wears slightly higher-profile 235/60R18 Kumhos, while the Active has 235/65R16 Hankooks.

Hyundai Sante Fe

There’s plenty of grip available on gravel roads thanks to the HTRAC variable torque control all-wheel drive system, and switching between the various drive modes has a noticeable effect on chassis behavior. In Eco mode, torque is mostly apportioned to the front wheels, in Comfort mode up to 35 per cent is directed to the rear wheels and in Sport up to 50 per cent is sent to the rear wheels; the latter Sport mode is the pick for brisk runs on gravel roads, allowing the vehicle to turn into corners responsively and then accelerate out with a touch of oversteer. There’s also a lock mode to ensure a 50:50 torque split for very slippery conditions.

Hyundai Sante Fe

As you’d expect, the turbo-diesel is the pick of the two powerplants, providing strong performance from low in the rev range and working well with the smooth shifting eight-speed auto, which is happy to use the engine’s bottom-end grunt by hanging on to taller gears unless prompted to downshift with a prod on the accelerator.

The 2.4L petrol engine needs to be revved to deliver its best. In isolation you wouldn’t describe performance as lacklustre, but it’s certainly no match for the 2.2L turbo-diesel.

Hyundai Sante Fe

Both petrol and diesel models offer Drive Mode select, which adjusts throttle response and transmission behavior depending on the mode selected. There are Eco, Comfort and Sport modes, as well as a Smart mode that learns driver behaviour and adapts throttle/transmission responses to suit.

All of the controls and instruments are clearly labelled and logically positioned, and it doesn’t take long to feel at home in the Santa Fe. The Head Up Display is bright without being distracting and it shows speed, navigation commands, fuel level and various driver assistance and safety features.

Considering the mix of bumpy blacktop and gravel roads on the launch drive, the Santa Fe exhibited good road shock isolation for a vehicle with a big monocoque structure. Wind and road noise is also well suppressed, making it easy to converse with passengers in the second and even third rows at highway speeds.

What safety features does it get?

All model variants of the Santa Fe are packed with active and passive safety features. Standard gear across the range includes six airbags, three top-tether child seat points, two ISOFIX points, ABS, Brake Assist, EBD, TCS, stability control, hill-start assist, downhill brake control, Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Forward Collision Avoidance Assist (car, pedestrian and cyclist), high-beam assist, lane-keep assist, Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, speed limiter and TPMS.

Hyundai Sante Fe

In addition, the Elite gains front parking sensors, Rear Occupant Alert (ROA) and Safety Exit Asist (SEA). The ROA monitors the rear seats and alerts the driver if there are still occupants in the vehicle when exiting; the initial warning consists a message on the instrument cluster and then, if ignored and the vehicle is locked, the horn will sound and the lights will flash. The SEA is designed to prevent accidents when a door is opened while another vehicle is approaching from behind; it warns the driver of the impending danger and also prevents child lock doors form being unlocked if an approaching vehicle is detected.

In addition to the safety features on Active and Elite, the Highlander also has Advanced Smart Parking Assist System (ASPAS), Surround View Monitor and additional front and rear parking sensors.

So, what do we think of the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe?

Hyundai sees its investment in local steering and suspension tuning as a unique selling proposition for all of the passenger cars in its line up and, after sampling the new fourth-generation Santa Fe on some pretty crook (albeit fun) roads, potential customers can rest assured that this investment has paid dividends. The new Santa Fe might be a large SUV, but it’s fun to drive, especially with the 2.2L diesel engine and eight-speed auto… which is a big bonus for a seven-seat wagon. The Santa Fe is also chock-full of standard safety gear, is well-appointed and offers strong on-road performance.

Hyundai Sante Fe

Editor's Rating

What's the interior like?
What's it like to drive?
What about safety?
Practical Motoring Says: Who’d a thunk a seven-seat SUV could be fun to drive? The new 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe proves that fun, practicality and safety are not exclusive of one another.

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Dean Mellor

Dean Mellor