Hyundai Santa Fe: 2019 Motor Trend SUV of the Year Contender

WE LIKE Strong value proposition, spacious interior

WE DON’T LIKE Underpowered engines, not much innovation

With its polarizing mug, you’d think the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe would be more exciting than your average crossover. Unfortunately, it’s underpowered and lacks refinement. Christian Seabaugh deemed the Santa Fe’s ride floppy and bouncy, described the base 2.4-liter engine as coarse and grainy, and found the upgraded 2.0-liter turbo to still be underpowered. Numb steering, rear-end hop, and head toss over lumps and bumps bedeviled Gordon Dickie.

The AWD-equipped model won back some points off-road, where it climbed hills with minimal wheel slip when the center differential was locked.

Value remains a strong point, especially now that all 2019 Santa Fes come standard with Hyundai’s SmartSense safety suite—which includes front and rear automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control. But not everyone sees the value story. “I would probably still consider the slightly cheaper CR-V that’s half the class below this,” Zach Gale said.

The Santa Fe’s interior won praise from a number of judges for its spaciousness, high-quality materials, and unique touches such as the interwoven headliner. Miguel Cortina appreciated the upscale feel in a car that costs roughly $36,000, and Gale liked the massive cargo capacity and the ability to fold the second row from the tailgate area.

Hyundai also continues to prove its infotainment expertise with a super-intuitive system. There are multiple shortcut buttons, a responsive touchscreen, and knobs to set, media, navigation, and climate control. Nothing important is buried within submenus, and everything is arranged in a logical manner. There are loads of USB ports for the connected family, too.

Scott Evans summed it up best: “It’s an effective update to a mainstay crossover, but it doesn’t really do anything new.”

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