The segment space for unibody (non-ladder frame) mid-sized SUVs is a relatively small one, owing in part to their high entry prices. Hyundai has been fighting for the segment’s top spot for over fifteen years with their Hyundai Santa Fe, being bested by competition that always manages to be more refined and more feature-packed. This 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is a well-rounded offering with some pleasant surprises thrown in as well, but are they good enough to justify the price?
Finding its place
At first glance, it’s difficult to figure out just where the Hyundai Santa Fe belongs. It’s certainly larger than your average compact crossover but is about 200-300mm shorter than its would-be contemporaries the Mazda CX-9 or the Ford Explorer. Its wheelbase is also shorter by around 95-165mm. Granted, this means that the Hyundai Santa Fe doesn’t feel that large to drive at all, which a lot of customers will find appealing, but it also means that its overall dimensions result in less room at the second and third row compared to the competition. However, this doesn’t mean that the Santa Fe’s second or third row legroom is inadequate in any way, as both rows have more than enough room for average-sized individuals to sit comfortably. All seven of the Santa Fe’s occupants will be pleased with its cabin, with a refined use of high-quality materials throughout the interior and a classic mix of brown and black elements.
Keeping the Santa Fe’s cabin looking and feeling upscale is a generous use of brown leather on the door panels and dash, and everything from the shifter, climate controls, to the steering wheel feels great to the touch. Sitting atop the dash is a floating display with a responsive seven-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. The instrument cluster also features a seven-inch full-color display which shows the speedometer as well as vehicle information, while the tachometer, fuel levels, and water temperature are presented in easy-to-read analog displays on the left and right of the screen. Overall, the Santa Fe’s cabin is an exceptionally comfortable place to be in, aspiring for a premium feel and succeeding greatly.
Powering the Santa Fe is Hyundai’s tried and true 2.2-liter CRDi e-VGT diesel engine that produces 200 hp and 442 Nm of torque. It’s a wonderfully refined engine that offers great response through the rev range. Mated to the engine is an eight-speed automatic transmission that provides imperceptible shifts at any speed. The powertrain allows the Santa Fe to accelerate quickly whether around the city or overtaking on the highway, with plenty of power for pretty much any driving situation. Sadly, the powertrain’s peppy performance is hampered by the Santa Fe’s slightly lumbering handling characteristics, feeling heavy and plodding during tight turns at speed.
Drive the Santa Fe casually and relaxed, however, and you’ll find that it offers a pleasingly calm and comfortable ride, easily absorbing road irregularities from undulations to small potholes with ease. The Santa Fe also offers excellent fuel economy, returning an average of over 10 km/L on combined highway and city driving.
Long list of features
The Santa Fe comes standard with all the usual features you would expect from the segment. Power tailgate, six SRS airbags, stability control, wireless charging, rain sensing wipers, front and rear proximity sensors, and a 360-degree camera all come standard.
But at P2,338,000, the Hyundai Santa Fe’s features come at a hefty price tag. Still, both the aforementioned Mazda CX-9 FWD Touring and Ford Explorer 2.3 Limited EcoBoost come with even higher price tags, almost making the Santa Fe seem like a bargain. Those looking to invest in a comfortable mid-sized SUV for the family would do well to consider the Hyundai Santa Fe, as its combination of good looks, impressive features, and excellent powertrain are good enough to make it one of the best offerings in the segment.
Text and photos by Chris Van Hoven