Toby Hagon’s Hyundai Santa Fe Elite 2019 Review With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict And Score.

In a nutshell: Large seven-seat SUV now with a larger, more elegant cabin and improved road manners.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Elite Specifications

Price $54,000+ORC Warranty 5 years, unlimited km Service Intervals 12 months, 15,000km Safety 5-star ANCAP rating Engine 2.2-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel Power 147kW at 3800rpm Torque 440Nm at 1750-2750rpm Transmission 8-speed auto Drive 4WD Dimensions 4770mm (L), 1890mm (W), 1680mm (H), 1705mm (H, with roof rails), 2765mm (WB) Ground Clearance 185mm claimed Kerb Weight 1870-1995kg Angles 18.5 degrees (approach), 21.2 degrees (departure), 20.7 degrees (rampover) Towing 2000kg Towball Download 150kg GVM 2485kg Boot Space 547L (behind middle row) Spare Full-size Fuel Tank 71L Thirst 7.5L/100km 

Bigger and better than ever, the new Hyundai Santa Fe makes a sizeable leap over its predecessor in the way it is presented and the way it drives. With a choice of four-cylinder petrol or diesel power, all Santa Fes are all-wheel drive, providing more surety on snow or other slippery surfaces. A focus on value and safety also makes for a compelling seven-seat SUV proposition.

What’s in the range and how much does it cost?

It’s a mainly diesel lineup for the Santa Fe, although those wanting petrol propulsion can choose the base model Active, from $43,000, which gets a 138kW/241Nm 2.4-litre petrol.

Standard kit includes 17-inch alloy wheels, reversing camera, rear parking sensors and a 7.0-inch touchscreen incorporating Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There’s also radar cruise control that locks on to the car in front as well as auto emergency braking (AEB), blind spot monitoring and auto high beam. It’s a $3000 jump to the same Active with a 147kW/440Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite 2019 Review

Or you can opt for the Elite ($54,000), which steps up to 18-inch wheels and brings dual-zone ventilation, blinds for the rear windows, smart key entry and start, electric front seats, rain-sensing wipers, leather trim, tinted rear windows, electric folding tailgate and paddle gear shifters mounted on the steering wheel. The touchscreen also increases to an 8.0-inch unit and features onboard satellite-navigation and powers a better Infinity sound system.

Top of the range is the Santa Fe Highlander ($60,500), which gets bigger wheels again (19 inches), a panoramic sunroof, heated front and middle-row seats, ventilated front seats, a Qi wireless smartphone charging pad, heated steering wheel, 360-degree camera, head-up display and a memory function for the driver’s seat.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite 2019 Review

What’s the interior and practicality like?

The Santa Fe’s exterior has grown and is 80mm longer and 10mm wider than the car it replaces – and that translates to a bigger cabin.

Those in the rear, in particular, will appreciate the extra space. An almost flat floor liberates plenty of foot space, although knee room in the middle row is only average, lagging the sprawling space of class leaders.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite 2019 Review

In a rare moment of limousine thinking those in the back of an Elite or Highlander can even adjust the height and location of the front passenger seat courtesy of two toggle switches on the side of the seat.

That 60/40 split-fold middle row can be slid forward and back to trade off legroom with those in the very back, too. Really, though, those back seats are best left to smaller people.

Air vents to all three rows is a win, especially for those in the rear; in the Elite and Highlander there are separate controls. Rear seat passengers also have access to a folding centre arm rest and two USB charging points, perfect for keeping little ones content on big trips. Roll-up blinds in the Elite and Highlander are another bonus for keeping sun off young heads.

There’s not much boot space if you’ve got all seven seats in play; maybe a few shopping bags at best.

But fold that third row of seats and there’s a more useful 547 litres available across a flat floor. The boot also gets carpet to cover the seats; thoughtful for active families who might have sand or dirt flying on big adventures.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite 2019 Review

While many new SUVs (Audi Q7, Ford Everest, Mazda CX-9 being just a few) are putting child seat tether points in the back row of seats, the Santa Fe does without. Depending on state or territory regulations, that means children under the age of eight won’t be able to travel in that third row of seats. That’s a shame given the appeal elsewhere for young families.

Elsewhere, there are interesting finishes inside, including some bold materials for the roof and seats. Leather-clad cars use perforations and quilting to spice things up. It’s no Bentley, but there’s at least some thought put into presentation.

Rather than just a slab of generic dashboard there’s some curves and crevices for more visual interest. Hard plastics still poke their head up but are (thankfully) limited in appearances.

Even the Infinity speaker grilled have an interesting ridged pattern in keeping with the be-different thinking. Finding space for odds and ends is a snip courtesy of well thought out storage areas. Surrounding the gear selector are two cup holders and two deep uncovered binnacles.

The sizeable centre console takes care of valuables, while there’s an open shelf above the glovebox. It’s a shame one of the two USB inputs up front isn’t covered, allowing cords to be kept out of sight. But it’s a minor oversight for an otherwise well thought out cabin.

What are the controls and infotainment like?

While it’s pushing buttons and inserting keys for the Active, the Elite and Highlander have smart key entry with push button start. However, instead of grabbing the door handle you first have to push a button on that handle to unlock the car.

Once inside there’s a logical layout of buttons and controls.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite 2019 Review

A pod-like touchscreen commands the top of the dash and puts most infotainment functions well within the driver’s line of sight. There’s nothing innovative about what it does, but the basics are done well, from a selection of physical menu buttons on either side (including one programmable favourites button) and dials for volume and tuning. It’d be better if the volume knob was on the right-hand side reducing the need to lean slightly out of the driver’s seat for what is a common function, but at least there’s separate volume controls on the steering wheel.

Ventilation controls are as logical as others, two large temperature dials allowing quick adjustments.

Connectivity is also a big one with the Santa Fe. As well as Bluetooth and the direct smartphone links (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) there an associated app called Hyundai Auto Link, which allows you to remotely link with the car.

In the Active and Elite you need to be vaguely near the car, because it’s a Bluetooth connection. But with the Highlander it uses the mobile phone network and the onboard SIM.

If you’ve got the Highlander you can not only have a detailed trip computer with comparative data logging, but it will also allow you to unlock or start the car remotely or get alerts when the car is driven beyond a pre-determined area. It can even collect data after a crash.

What’s the performance like?

In isolation the 138kW and 241Nm on offer from the 2.4-litre petrol engine in the base Santa Fe Active is nothing shabby. But in reality it’s stretched in a car that weighs about 1.8 tonnes, especially when that torque peak arrives at 4000rpm.

It’s not much of an issue during gentle around-town driving with only a couple of people on board, but load it up and throw hills and higher speeds into the equation and it’s a lot less rosy.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite 2019 Review

Fortunately the 2.2-litre turbo diesel comes to the rescue. With 147kW and 440Nm there’s a lot more to play with, particularly torque. And having that full 440Nm on tap from as low as 1750rpm means the Santa Fe diesel always feels well nourished in its middle engine revs.

There’s some mild lag when you first hit the throttle from a standstill, but it’s not bad and normal progress soon resumes.

While the engine is carryover from the previous model, it’s hooked up to a new eight-speed automatic, one that generally does a good job of picking the right ratio. And having those extra gears improves performance and response at everyday speeds.

All of which adds up to a good driving experience, the frugal 7.5 litres per 100km claimed fuel use sealing the diesel deal. Sure, you’re more likely to use closer to 10L/100km in most driving, but it’s still respectable for the size and scope of the vehicle.

Unlike many rivals, though, there’s no stop-start functionality to momentarily switch the engine off when stationary; potentially an obvious upgrade for a future iteration.

What’s it like on the road?

The Santa Fe rides on a new architecture, which makes for a more convincing machine through bends. There’s a lightness to the main controls, with easy steering that is responsive. Some more feedback would be good, but for around-town running it’s effortless and user-friendly.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite 2019 Review

It’s also respectably quiet and comfortable, the suspension taut but not harsh. Grip from the 18-inch tyres on the Elite is decent, although push on and the front tyres start to run wide.

There are four driving modes – Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart. For most driving Comfort works fine and blends light steering with relaxed gearshifts. Eco is a bit doughy, requiring a bigger push of the accelerator.

And while there’s lots to like with the Sport mode – meaningful weight to the steering and sharper throttle response – its propensity to hold on to gears is sometimes out of step with the low-rev easiness of the engine.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite 2019 Review

What’s it like off the road?

Sure, the Santa Fe drives all four wheels (in all modes but ECO where front drive is prioritised to save fuel), but it’s not a proper off-roader, instead using the underpinnings of a regular passenger car. Any driving off paved roads, then, should be limited to things such as light gravel tracks or snow-covered surfaces. The Santa Fe is a soft-roader at best.

Does it have a spare?

There’s a full-sized spare tyre and it’s fitted to the same alloy wheel used elsewhere on the car. There are also tyre pressure sensors to alert you if a tyre is deflating, something that could potentially eliminate damage by allowing you to change a flat tyre rather than continue driving on it.

Can you tow with it?

The Santa Fe is rated to tow 2000kg, but it has a rated towball download of just 150kg. Given many set their trailer up to put 10 percent of the weight over the towball that will instantly limit some.

Plus, to get that 150kg towball limit you need to option Hyundai’s own tow kit. If you use an aftermarket tow kit Hyundai recommends a towball limit of 100kg.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite 2019 Review

What about ownership?

Hyundai matches key rivals with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, although if you’re using the car for commercial purposes (including as a courier or Uber car) the kilometre limit is capped at 130,000km.

Servicing is due every 12 months or 15,000km and costs $399 for the diesel models and $315 for the petrol. In the first five years, the only exception is the four-year service, which is $499 for the diesels and $420 for the petrol.

The car comes with 12 months of roadside assistance, which includes help for flat batteries or flat tyres, as well as breakdowns. If you continue to service the car within the Hyundai dealer network that roadside assistance is extended annually until the car is 10 years old.

What safety features does it have?

Hyundai has gone big with safety with the Santa Fe, adding all the safety gear across all models, which is in keeping with moves from many rivals. It’s all wrapped in under the Hyundai SmartSense marketing banner.

It includes a forward facing radar and camera to provide auto emergency braking (AEB) tuned for other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. There’s also blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert, the latter warning of cars approaching from the side when backing out of parking spots. Lane keeping assist has the usual issues of often missing lane markings and providing too many warnings, but it’s at least there.

For the Elite and Highlander there’s also Safe Exit Assist, which warns of cars approaching from behind and can temporarily lock the doors to stop them being opened into another vehicle. And, in the Highlander there is a superior 360-degree camera, among other extras. All of which adds up to a five-star ANCAP rating.

About the only safety disappointment is the lack of top tether points for child seats in the third row.


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About Author

Toby Hagon

From Porsches to LandCruisers, Toby Hagon loves all things cars and has been writing about them for more than 20 years. He loves the passion and people that help create one of the world's most innovative and interesting industries. As well as road testing and chasing news he more recently co-authored a book on Holden. These days he crosses the world covering the industry but still loves taking off on the Big Trip in Australia.

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