Hyundai has introduced its new Santa Fe sport utility vehicle due to hit the road in summer 2018 with a new look, improved ride and handling, enhanced interior space, and new names.
On the subject of the latter, the 2019 Santa Fe lineup will drop the Santa Fe Sport moniker for its 5-passenger model, calling it simply Santa Fe, while the longer 7-passenger model continues as Santa Fe XL. However, the occasional-use third-row seat will go away on all but a new diesel version, with Hyundai saying it plans to introduce a new as-yet-unnamed larger 8-passenger, 3-row SUV (presumably as a gasoline model, but we won’t rule out electrification).
Dimensionally, the Santa Fe is 71 mm longer than the Santa Fe Sport it replaces, with all that taken up in wheelbase. That means a roomier interior, particularly in legroom, which is compounded by moving the rear seats back. Width is marginally increased (by 15 mm), which translates into increased hip room.
The exterior look follows the current Hyundai design language, with a large hexagonal cascading grille blanked by a composite light design, featuring LED daytime running lights above LED headlights. A side character line stretches just below the window line from the headlights to the taillights. A firm stance is conveyed through 19-inch diamond-cut wheels.
Suspension geometry has been revised, with the rear shocks more upright for improved ride and handling in all driving conditions, and there’s also available load-levelling to maintain the driving characteristics no matter how the SUV is loaded up, which reduces the need to make the rear suspension firmer to compensate for trailer use.
It also features the latest driving aids — head up display, high-beam assist, forward collision avoidance, blind spot warning, lane keep assist, driver attention warning, adaptive cruise with stop and go feature, around view monitor, and rear cross traffic alert with braking, among others.
One new aid prevents the vehicles’ doors from being opened if the blind spot monitor senses a vehicle approaching along the side (including motorcycles and bicycles), and also sounds an alert to warn vehicle occupants.
Inside, the fourth-generation Santa Fe features a repositioned instrument panel touchscreen tilted to reduce glare, longer and higher centre console with repositioned cupholders, window switches and grab handles moved forward to enhance elbow comfort, and narrower map pockets to improve leg room and comfort. Contrast stitching around the instrument panel and piping on the seats provides an upscale feel.
The removal of the third-row allowed designers and engineers to create more leg room for rear seat occupants, in addition to the added cargo room. The seats can also go down at the push of a button.
The interior also features rear-seat occupant alert, where the system detects movement in the rear seat and alerts the driver as the doors are closed. If the system detects movement after the vehicle is locked, it will honk the horn and flash the lights, as well as sending an alert to the paired smartphone.
As with all new vehicles, connectivity is a big issue, and the Santa Fe is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and features available Blue Link connectivity, which allows a compatible smartphone to work as a keyless remote, and it can also connect to Amazon Echo, Google Assistant and some smartwatches. There’s also an available wireless charge pad for compatible Android and Apple devices.
Santa Fe power will continue to be supplied by the 2.4-litre 4-cylinder and 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder, but there is no mention of the 3.3-litre V-6 in the Santa Fe XL. Our guess is that it will go away, to be replaced by a new engine in the upcoming 8-seater.
Of great interest to Canada, though, is that the new 2.2-litre turbodiesel 4-cylinder (rated at better than 200 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque) will become available.
Both engines are mated to a new 8-speed paddle-shift automatic, sending power to all four wheels in a driver selectable multi-mode system (Normal, Sport and Smart). Lighter than the 6-speed it replaces, the new transmission adds a new gear at the bottom and top, which means it will launch the vehicle better and run more quietly on the highway. Fuel economy is expected to improve by as much as 3%.
The 2019 Santa Fe models represent the 3rd and 4th of eight new utility vehicles Hyundai is planning to launch by 2020. More market-specific details, including pricing, will announced closer to launch.