2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Elite review (video)

Hyundai continues to buck the trend for Korean-built cars with 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe. It is the latest to hit the busy large SUV market, and brings with it attractive European styling, luxury and quality feel materials, and a solid powertrain.

The new Santa Fe, launched locally in July, really gives the competition a run for its money. Most 7-seater SUVs will set you back $70k-plus when you add all the features and safety tech that this comes with. The base model Active starts from only $43,000. Then, if you demand more, opt for the surprisingly lavish Elite as tested, or the top of the range Highlander.

All models are available with a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine powering all four wheels, connected to a new eight-speed auto transmission. The base Active can also be had with a 138kW 2.4-litre petrol engine with six-speed auto. Here, we are road testing the Elite, which retails from $54,000 (excluding on-road costs)

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Elite – THE SPECS

Engine: 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder
Output: 147kW@3800rpm / 440Nm@1750-2750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive, locking centre diff
Wheels: F & R: 18×7.5, 235/60
ANCAP: Not yet tested (previous model 5 stars)
Tare weight: 1944kg
Power-to-weight: 13.22:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 7.5L/100km
Economy during test: 8.1L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 71L/Diesel

Power efficiency: 19.6kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 4.55 seconds*
0-100km/h: 9.82 seconds*
60-110km/h: 6.97 seconds*
1/8 mile: 11.19 seconds at 108.3km/h*
1/4 mile: 17.18 seconds at 132.6km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.611g
100-0km/h braking: 2.93 seconds at 37.39 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.209g
Decibel at idle: 46*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 78*
Priced from: $54,000

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Elite – THE PACKAGE

One of the most exciting things about the new Hyundai Santa Fe is its design and aesthetics. It has caught up with many of the recently updated Hyundai models, displaying a very elegant and modern style. The front facia is made up of a large ‘cascading’ grille and a chrome strip to balance the width of the car. It also has signature Hyundai large lights half way down the bumper that are separate from the rest of the light units. Contours are sleek and sharp, flowing to the rear which gives off an athletic appeal. The rear mirrors the front in many ways, where the taillight units are split into two (lower down), and a chrome strip joins the upper units. The silver scuff plate on the front and rear give off a robust appeal. Overall, we love how you don’t need to put up with an overweight-looking box-on-wheels shape to get one of the most affordable large SUVs on the market.

There is just as much praise deserved on the interior as well. There are only a few hard plastics that feel a tad inferior, but overall, the cabin has a high quality, non-quirky feel about it, and an elegant layout to match the exterior. There’s some use of carbon-fibre-like trim and alternative-looking bubbled textures on the doors. It is incredibly easy to navigate through all of the buttons and controls, especially with the way the air-conditioning controls are separate from the infotainment screen – this will be preferred by any old-school passengers. A standout is the instrument cluster, which looks really sophisticated at night. Adopting a clean arrangement and a soft blue glow, it is notably easy to grasp the dials while driving.

The seats are beautifully supportive and fit for long trips – whether you’re in the front or rear. There’s a plethora of adjustments that can be made to suit all shapes. We love the extra controls on the right-hand side of the front passenger seat so the driver can adjust easily without having to reach over and pull a back muscle. In the second and third row passengers are looked after with dedicated air vents, and even temperature control from the third row standard on this mid-spec Elite.

The Santa Fe shares the same platform as the recently updated Kia Sorrento. It’s great to see that even the cheapest model comes standard with 7 seats. Some competitors charge a premium for this. Whether you’re in the front, or second row, there’s an abundance of space for big families. As you might expect the third row is a bit tighter but it can be made more comfortable thanks to a slide-adjustable second row. Likewise, in the boot if you have the need to carry lots of luggage, it measures in at 547 litres with the second row up, or 1625 litres with the second row folded down. This compares well against the Toyota Kluger’s 529L, but not as well as the Mazda CX-9’s 810L (with the third rows folded down).

And still speaking of space, Hyundai has done a top job of making the best use of space and design by creating many storage spots throughout the interior. The mini anti-slide shelf above the glovebox is a handy space not often seen in other cars, and there are cup holders galore in all rows, and a big centre console box in the middle.

Even though the Santa Fe Elite is only the mid-spec model, it still comes with an impressive list of tech and luxury. You get 18-inch alloy wheels with a full-sized spare alloy, blind-spot sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, a very handy side door exit warning that scans for cars driving past you when parked (a new feature we haven’t even seen in premium cars), lane departure warning with lane keeping aid input, forward and reverse collision mitigation, selectable driving modes, distance control cruise control, front row electric seats, electric and auto-open tailgate, rear window blinds, and a 10-speaker sound system integrated with an 8.0-inch touch-screen with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Digital DAB+ radio.

The touch-screen is simple to use and quick to grasp. This is helped by the placement of physical buttons down the sides of the screen to access different menus quickly. Being such a large car means that the screen is not within the easiest of reach when driving. In terms of entertainment, the 10-speaker sound system consists of a separate amplifier which helps produce good quality sound from any of the different audio connections on offer.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Elite – THE DRIVE

The fact that the petrol engine is only available in the base model should be enough to tell you that it’s more inferior than the diesel engine. It also doesn’t have the greatest fuel consumption, with an official average of 9.3L/100km. With 147kW of power and 440Nm of torque on offer, the diesel provides strong pickup around town and impressive hauling on the open highways. There can always be more power, but given its competitive pricing and the market segment it sits in, it is more than reasonable. We tested 0-100km/h in a best of 9.82 seconds, which is just shy of the previous model, and decently quicker than any of the heavy-duty ute-based SUVs in this class.

The unit is free-revving for a diesel compared with others, and very quiet. It’s also very fuel efficient. We were able to achieve 7.4L/100km in mostly highway conditions. Officially, the average is 7.5L/100km, but expect it to rise to around 8-8.5 under mixed conditions. A 71L fuel tank means that you should be able to travel 1000km before refuelling, which is super handy for travelling families who want to go exploring every other weekend.

New for 2019 is a blissfully smooth eight-speed auto transmission. It works perfectly with this engine, making it feel like a premium European offering. Gear shifting is so smooth, you hardly even feel it as a passenger – under light or heavy acceleration. And it seems very intuitive, too. When zipping around the suburbs it maintains the right gear for the load, resisting early upshift like some new cars, and out in the country it thrums along in top gear utilising that 440Nm of torque. Hyundai has produced a standout powertrain here.

Driving dynamics are also impressive for an affordable 7-seat SUV. You can feel that it’s a large car in the lane, measuring 1890mm wide, but the lane-keeping aid steps in to assist with this. It can easily be switched off as well, and it stays off the next time you drive it.

Bumps are undertaken confidently and return very little kickback in the steering, making long sweeping bends calm and relaxing. Turning up the pace, you’ll notice some body roll come in, as to be expected, and the steering doesn’t provide the pure communication that you might get in the more expensive Euro rivals. However, road noise and vibration levels are kept to a very minimum – Hyundai Australia has obviously worked hard to refine this area to suit local conditions.

All models are now all-wheel-driven and come with an off-road mode and centre diff lock. This is great if you’re planning some light bush duties. On the dirt it feels solid, but you won’t want to go too hardcore as the tyres are better suited to the bitumen.

Safety tech is up there with the most prestigious brands on the market. And most systems are just as refined and advanced. Only the radar cruise control could be slightly more intelligent and responsive when it comes to overtaking other cars we think. Nonetheless, Hyundai makes a hard argument over more expensive brands. We love the new passenger exit warning safety feature that senses close approaching cars as you exit onto the road, and the handy electronic tailgate that opens automatically when the key fob is at the rear of the car – no Irish dancing required here.

Resale value has never been a strong point for South Korean vehicles. But the brand does offer a generous five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and capped-price servicing to entice buyers or second-hand buyers. Servicing is required every 15,000km or 12 months.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Elite – THE VIDEO

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Elite – THE VERDICT

Hyundai has undeniably caught up to the premium brands with the 2019 Santa Fe. It offers loads of technology and safety; including some stuff that hasn’t been seen before in this segment. We think Hyundai has become a technology leader in this class.

The new Santa Fe doesn’t skimp on premium design or quality either. Inside and out. All of the major fixtures feel solid and well-built, and the exterior could easily be mistaken for a higher-end package. Add to that, there’s plenty of space with seven seats, with amenities for all, and excellent value especially with this Elite variant. The new Santa Fe is yet another example that proves Hyundai has well and truly shaken off any inferior reputation from its early days.

PROS:
– Big step up in premium look and feel
– Standard safety equipment list is extensive
– Full-sized alloy spare
– Impressive array of convenience-focused innovations; new passenger exit warning detects passing cars
– Refined, quiet and economical diesel

CONS:
– Questionable resale value
– Touch-screen is a bit of a stretch

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

Mark is a contributing road tester at PerformanceDrive, and is an expert in technology and efficiency. He has had a passion for cars since before he can remember. With the soul and background of an IT nerd, Mark especially appreciates technology advances, safety, and attention to detail. His first car was a rusty powder blue 1972 Volvo 144 sedan. When he's not road testing vehicles, his daily drive is still a Volvo only now it's able to steer and brake all by itself.