The Hyundai Santa Fe is all new, entering its fourth generation for the 2019 model year. But this midsize crossover SUV has a tough act to follow. The third-generation Santa Fe (which is actually still on sale as the three-row Santa Fe XL) remains an incredibly compelling product. I spent a week with one back in February, and still found it to be hugely competitive. Is this brand-new Santa Fe compelling enough to really move the needle?
Spice up the carpool lane
The Santa Fe’s exterior design does a terrific job of mixing ruggedness and sleekness. The first elements I notice when walking up to this SUV are the thin running lights unified by a lovely chrome strip that forms the radiator grille’s upper framing. Flanking each side of the grille are large, bold-looking headlamp clusters that contrast well with the thin LED running lamps above them. Altogether, the front design lends to an unforgettable aesthetic.
Out back, the look doesn’t appear as inspired or revolutionary, but remains handsome, nonetheless. The cabin design is also comely. I especially love the polygonal surfacing on the speaker grilles. Their artful nature goes far in making the rest of the Santa Fe’s interior feel more upscale. That is until you look a little closer.
Spacious enough, but lacking cabin quality
The plastics on the door panels reek of cost-cutting with their hard, shiny appearance and scratchy feel. Still, the Santa Fe’s interior is spacious, comfortable and quiet. It takes no time at all to find an ideal driving position, and once you’ve found it, you can devour hundreds of road-trip miles while making your back feel like it’s on vacation.
The Santa Fe comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on a 7-inch touchscreen, but my loaded example features an 8-inch screen along with a 7-inch instrument cluster display. I’ve also got embedded navigation, a 12-speaker Infinity premium audio system, HD and satellite radio , plus wireless phone charging.
The base Santa Fe is powered by a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine making 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. My tester packs a 2.0-liter, turbocharged I4 with 235 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Regardless of engine, all Santa Fe models use an eight-speed automatic transmission routing power to the front wheels. All-wheel drive is a $1,700 option across all trim levels, meaning my Ultimate 2.0T tester costs $39,845.
Keeping it solid
The newest generation of the Hyundai Santa Fe doesn’t feel like a substantial improvement over the third-generation model, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The third-gen Santa Fe didn’t really need much improvement anyway, so why mess with success?
And here’s the linchpin: No matter how you spec it, the Santa Fe ends up costing around $5,000 less than its comparably equipped competition.