Highlights of the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe interior include new windows providing better visibility, more passenger and cargo space, and the latest infotainment technologies. (Manufacturer photo)

Highlights of the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe interior include new windows providing better visibility, more passenger and cargo space, and the latest infotainment technologies. (Manufacturer photo)

Hyundai makes Santa Fe SUV larger, safer, smoother for 2019

The brand’s best-selling SUV in the U.S. also has a bold new look and lots of new tech features.

Hyundai’s compact Santa Fe is the brand’s best-selling SUV in the U.S., with sales totaling more than 1.6 million. A complete redesign for 2019 keeps up the momentum by giving Santa Fe stronger exterior styling, new safety equipment, and a quieter cabin with more space for passengers and cargo.

The two-row, five-passenger version previously known as the Santa Fe Sport is now called the Santa Fe, and the long wheelbase version with three rows and seating for seven is now named Santa Fe XL. Hyundai is in the process of producing an all-new SUV with three rows and seating for eight. It won’t carry the Santa Fe name but will have an entirely new name instead.

Santa Fe’s overall length and width are increased for 2019, and the wheelbase has been extended. The effect of these changes is a more comfortable experience for occupants, including a smoother ride and reduced noise levels.

Hyundai’s Smart Sense suite of technologies is now available on the Santa Fe. It adds a host of safety and driver-assistive features including collision avoidance, lane keeping, blind spot monitoring, and parking guidance.

An optional rear occupant alert system makes its debut in the 2019 Santa Fe. Before exiting the vehicle, drivers are reminded to check the rear seat in case they might otherwise forget there’s a child or pet on board. The reminder is a gentle chime along with a message on the instrument display just behind the steering wheel. If the system detects movement in the rear seats after the driver exits and doors are locked, it honks the horn and sends an alert to the driver’s smartphone. It’s unfathomable to most of us that anyone could forget there’s a child or pet in the car, but those people exist and let’s all hope they opt for this critical safety feature along with seeking professional help.

In a more relatable potential danger, the new Santa Fe also includes Hyundai’s first standard safe exit assist system, which protects passengers against opening a car door to exit if vehicles are approaching from the rear.

Santa Fe’s engine choices remain the same for 2019 but they are now paired with an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission that behaves with excellence. The base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 185 horsepower, 178 pound-feet of torque, and a fuel economy rating of 22/29/25 mpg with front-wheel drive and 21/27/23 mpg with all-wheel drive. The available turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder produces 235 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, and is rated 20/25/22 mpg with FWD and 19/24/21 with AWD.

There are five trim levels: SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Limited and Ultimate. Hyundai’s generous warranty is standard. It includes 10 years/100,000 miles on the powertrain. Pricing starts at $26,730 including the destination charge.

My tester was the full-boat setup: a Santa Fe Ultimate with the turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive. Every feature available for 2019 is standard on this version.

In a week that included plenty of time on twisty roads and a round trip from our own Snohomish County to Clackamas County in Oregon, the 2019 Santa Fe proved to be a winner. I found nothing to not like about it. The two adults, one child and one teen who were my passengers all at once while in Oregon felt the same way. This is a huge compliment to the new Santa Fe. These family members of mine are ruthless critics, not pushovers.

2019 HYUNDAI SANTA FE ULTIMATE 2.0T AWD

Base price, including destination charge: $39,780

Price as driven: $39,905

Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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