2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T AWD – Bottom Line Review

(Contributing Editor: Susan Frissell)

LIVABILITY  = (eng.) “The suitability for living in measured in habitability and comfort.”

America’s oldest continually inhabited state capital has taken a stand against sprawl and in favor of Livability. A slightly more comfortable higher plateau elevation, strict urban planning restrictions, the Pueblo architecture and art all consistently land Santa Fe, New Mexico on someone’s America’s “Most Livable Small Cities” or “Best Places to Retire” list.

Following the initiative of its namesake, carmaker Hyundai has also embarked on an effort to make its mid-size family crossover more “Livable.” Contrary to original plans, the 4th generation Hyundai Santa Fe, passes on a “few inches longer” long wheelbase XL option. By handing over 3rd Row duties exclusively to a full sized Palisade, the Santa Fe of SAV’s makes no apologies for curbing cabin sprawl and rear occupant congestion.

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WHAT: All-new 4th generation TM 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T AWD mid-size family sports activity vehicle, replacing a successful 3rd generation DT Santa Fe Sport run.

Standard Power: 2359 cc, dual VVT-i DOHC 16V I-4 cylinder gasoline engine = 185 hp/ 178 lb-ft + 8-speed planetary automatic transaxle;

Optional Power: 1998 cc, turbocharged, direct injected, 2 x VVT-i DOHC 16V I-4 gas engine = 235 hp/ 260 lb-ft @ 1450 rpm + 8-speed planetary automatic transaxle;

 Idle Stop and Go – both powertrains

Optional Drivetrain: PTU to viscous multi-clutch differential all-wheel drive.

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: a larger adaptation of lil’ cute ute brother Kona’s deep Tiger Nose to Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture poured molten steel front end.

Graceful Grille: tall & wide corporate lattice hexagonal grille subtly curved at the lower risers, split to lower honeycomb grille

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate AWD: Wispy LED headlights make for broader fenders and more assertive corner DRL housings

Other Styling Notables:  Razor-like upper wrap-around LEDs underlined by span of metallic banding;  Inboard arrow chiseled lower corner turn indicator housings; Low cowl to dual valley hood;  Tall thin fender outline extending to creased beltline;  Rising creased cheatline and pronounced rocker panel;  Dramatic D-pillar Hofmeister kink softened by wrap-around boomerang taillamps;  Emphatic roof spoiler, mid & lower tailgate to rear quarter panel creasing;  Creased rear bumper corner back-up lamp housings;

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate AWD: A more expressively creased silhouette and gently tiered back end is supplemented by expected lower cladding and simulated skid plates

Clad & Skid -ed: Lower grey plastic body cladding, except at wheel arches, rising up at front & rear lower center fascia to accommodate simulated metal skid plates.

WHY: Mid-size family crossover SUV value standard bearer = elevated with +1 character lines and +1 tangible premium facets.

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Autumn 2018

WHERE: Hyundai new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Montgomery, Alabama, U.S.A.

WHERE TO:   Downhill brake control; 7.3″ ground clearance is more muddy grassy field than ravine capable.


Hyundai keeps de-rating the twin-scroll turbo twin-cam 2.0L four banger. The new 8-speed transaxle is smooth but hardly sporty snappy in downshifts. Low-end arterial squirt torque peaks before super aggressive highway passing attempts.  Direct injection imparts some valve noise. Good thing that the cabin is notably hushed except from some wind noise at speed.

Vertical motions are excised by the fully independent chassis. Losing the previous generation’s “Sport” nomenclature, sloughed off that version’s tautness. Thus, lateral control is ambiguous in crosswinds and the tall suspension travel and average dry grip lends to understeer. The Ultimate variant’s over-sized 19″ alloy wheel / tire combination generate the barest tire thwack.  What is heard is rarely felt, whether in seats or steering. Such is a characteristic of a more linear winding, but otherwise numb electric steering assist. Brake pedal reaction straddles the middle ground between mushy and oversensitive, but beware dive on hard stops.

HOW FAR: 23 combined miles per gallon observed fuel economy = 10% > EPA estimate; Roadtrip Worthy =  520 miles highway range.

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: In the middle of mid-size 2-Row crossover SUVs:

√ 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe wheelbase = 0.6″ > Buick Envision, 0.9″ < Volkswagen Tiguan LWB, 3.2″ < Ford Edge

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate AWD: Row 2 seating, glass generous for 3-adults

+1: 40.9″-inches Row 2 legroom = 2.9″ > VW Tiguan LWB, 0.3″ > Ford Edge; +1: 39 lbs. < Ford Edge

HOW USEFUL: Acceptably low load floor; 60/40% split 2nd Row seatbacks w/ power release; Available cargo shade cover; +1 Sub-cargo floor storage management; +1 Wide front seat cushion; +1 Outward visibility from low cowl, narrow front & side pillars, tall tailgate window; +1 Front & 2nd Row door pocket storage; -1 Tow Rating: 2000 lbs.

PARTICULARLY USEFUL: +1 Power liftgate operation w/ available variable speed and proximity activation.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate AWD: available 2-speed proximity activated power liftgate exposes 71+ cubic feet cargo capacity

+1 Cargo space (max.) = 24% > Buick Envision, 3% < Volkswagen Tiguan LWB; 3% < Ford Edge

HOW SAFE IIHS Top Safety Pick +; 6 airbags; Rear camera – 360° Surround view cameras (available); Forward & rear sonar park assist; Blind Spot Warning; Forward collision avoidance braking; Full adaptive cruise control; Lane departure warning, keep assist Lane Change collision avoidance;  Rear Cross Traffic Alert;  Automatic high beam headlamps; Rain sensing windshield wipers;

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate AWD: Surround camera view, Park Distance warning, Rear cross traffic, & Blind spot warning (inset)

SAFETY STANDOUTS: +1 2nd Row occupancy, parcel reminder w/ motion sensing; +1 Safe Exit side approaching traffic 2nd Row lock-in.

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Contrast stitched perforated leather seating, front heated & cooled, 2nd Row heated; Front 12-way power seats, w/ driver knee extension, 3-position memory; 4 power windows = full express; Height adjustable front pax seat; Tilt & telescoping, cross-stitched leather wrapped steering wheel w brushed metallic / stylish toggle and button supplemental drive, redundant audio communications controls; Neatly grouped center console switches; Drive mode variable color LCD center dial speedometer trip data / drive status display; Large bezel encased mid-dash twin dial and button climate control; +1 Brushed metallic integrated steering wheel spoke controls; +1 Easily accessible left lower dashboard dimmer & driver assist switches; +1 Wind & road noise isolation;

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate AWD: 12-way power, heated, cooled front seats w/ driver’s power knee extension & 3-position memory

Cool Gizmo(s): 2-speed power liftgate; 2nd Row occupancy / parcel reminder & motion sensing remote app notification; Side Exit approaching vehicular and bicycle traffic 2nd Row lock-in.

Details Done Right: Drive mode variable 7.0″-inch color LCD center dial speedometer trip data / drive status display; Fully padded and contrast stitched layered twin-cowl dashboard; Middle dashboard pebble graining; Metallic vent bezels;  Cool blue night switch illumination; Sunwash resistant deep gauge binnacle & canopy;  Quilted mesh Infinity door speaker grilles.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate AWD: 12 speaker, 11 channel, 630 watt, Q-Logic Infiniti audio

Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Chintzy door panels appliques; -1 Thinner cargo bay carpets and folding floor storage covers;

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: Pod-style mid dash-top 8.0″-inch capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen; +1 Large icons; Voice learning hands-free communications; 12-speaker, 630 W Infinity Q-Logic audio w/ streaming audio & HD radio; Mobile powered Android Auto/ Apple Car Play application & navigation overlays; Blue Link Apps

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate AWD: Native GPS navigation vs. Android Auto Google Maps voice command, guidance navigation

Subscription based: Sirius XM & Sirius XM TravelLink (90 days included trial); Blue Link Connected telematics (3 years included)

USB x 4, 12V x 1; 115V AC x 1; +1 Deep lower center stack mobile device pocket; Qi wireless charging; 12V x 1 in cargo bay.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate AWD: center console w/ storage and 2nd Row power ports

HOW MUCH: $39,905 = 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T AWD;

WHAT’S MISSING: Steering wheel shift paddles, snappier gearbox

ANY COMPETITION: Buick Envision: +1 9-speed automatic transaxle; Chevrolet Blazer: +1 V-6 opt., 9-speed automatic; Ford Edge: +1 Rear seat & cargo space, hi-po ST variant; Jeep Grand Cherokee: +1 Offroad creds, V-8 opt.; Honda Passport: +1 Cabin finish, V-6;

BOTTOM LINE: Value Driven Mid-Size Crossover Makes Goal Line Drive to Premium

An automotive enthusiast since an orange toy VW Beetle ended up in his playpen and following him everywhere, George Straton has been chief editor at ChicagoNow.com/Drive-He-Said automotive lifestyle blog since 2010. In 2017 George established Roadblazing.com, dedicated to accurate automotive reviews, news and road trip stories. George is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Phoenix Automotive Press Association. George also happens to be an attorney and Loyola University of Chicago Ramblers fan. Present ride: 2022 Mazda 3 Turbo AWD Hatchback.

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