The 2019 Santa Fe is more than just a restyled and re-engineered, next-generation model from Hyundai. It is also the next step in an ambitious onslaught the company is mounting in crossover utility vehicles.
Introduced last fall, the new Santa Fe is a middle-sized utility wagon that formerly had been named the Santa Fe Sport. In prior years, the “Sport” extension was meant to differentiate this five-passenger hauler from the longer, seven-passenger crossover that Hyundai called the Santa Fe – same name but with no Sport attached.
This year, both vehicles carry the Santa Fe name. The longer, seven-passenger model is set apart as the Santa Fe XL, with the “XL” designating that it is “extra long.” That’s treating it like just another trim level of the standard Santa Fe.
By consolidating its shorter and longer Santa Fe versions under a more unified name, Hyundai is making room in its vehicle lineup for new crossover utility vehicles that have already begun to arrive. Today’s sudden gush of new models from Hyundai is another reaction by a car brand to America’s growing preference for multi-use wagons over traditional passenger cars.
Until about this time last year, the Korea-based car company offered three versatile wagons: the compact Tucson, the mid-size Santa Fe Sport and the longer, seven-seat Santa Fe. One year ago it added the Kona, a small crossover that has won a lot of acclaim in its first 12 months.
The new Hyundai Kona – sold with front- or all-wheel drive and in a gas-powered and electric-drive variation – is this year’s North American Utility Vehicle of the Year, awarded at the Detroit auto show by a panel of people associated with the motor media. It is a Best Buy of the Kelly Blue Book price trackers, a 10-Best SUV chosen by Car and Driver magazine, and a Top Safety Pick Plus of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, to name its most prominent awards so far.
As a small and economy-minded crossover, the Kona starts at a list price of $20,980 for front-drive models and $22,370 for all-wheel-drive versions. For the price it packs quite an impressive array of niceties, including alloy wheels, backup camera with guidance lines, color touch screen compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone links, and advanced automatic safety systems including radar-based front-collision avoidance with automatic braking, lane-keeping assistance and driver drowsiness monitoring. Notably, the Kona is equipped with a desirable, geared automatic transmission, rather than a halting and wheezing continuously variable automatic tranny that some other car makers install in models of Kona’s grade. Soon to come from Hyundai is an all-new eight-seat crossover wagon with high-grade trappings and premium-vehicle aspirations. To be called the Palisade, the new vehicle is scheduled to arrive this summer with a 2020 model-year designation.
The Palisade will become the largest crossover utility vehicle available from Hyundai, measuring three inches longer and four inches wider than this year’s Santa Fe XL. The boldly vertical, big-bodied utility vehicle will come with a full package of advanced automatic driving technologies. The list includes front-collision avoidance with automatic braking and pedestrian detection, radar-based distance-keeping cruise control with full stop capability, blind-spot collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance and lane-keeping aid.
Between last spring’s Kona and this summer’s Palisade, we have the remade 2019 Santa Fe – or at least one of them.
Although the two Santa Fe versions now are more closely associated by name, only the standard-length, five-person Santa Fe is thoroughly modernized and re-engineered for 2019. The Santa Fe XL is a carry-over design from last year.
When explaining the renaming to the motor press, Hyundai states that “an all-new three-row, eight-passenger SUV is currently under development and will carry an all-new name.” That’s the Palisade, we now know. According to some reports, Hyundai will introduce a new version of the extended-length, three-row Santa Fe XL next year. But it’s also possible that the XL will get phased out after its current, 2019 model run. If you want a five passenger mover you can buy the Santa Fe in the basic, SE trim level starting at $28,495 when equipped with all-wheel drive. If you want more features you can move as high as the Santa Fe Ultimate level for $39,845 when equipped with four-wheel traction and an upgraded, turbocharged engine.
Or, if you need to sometimes add an additional two passengers, requiring a seven-person, three-row wagon, you can go with the Santa Fe XL SE, at a list price of $33,745 when equipped with all-wheel drive.
The extended-length model runs as high as $42,445 for a Santa Fe XL Ultimate with all-wheel drive.
The body design of this year’s new, fourth-generation 5-seat Santa Fe is more upright and vertical than the prior generation, making the crossover utility vehicle look bolder and tougher. It is larger than the preceding model, providing both more passenger space and more cargo room. It has expanded window area, giving driver and passengers safer and better sight-lines. As with the soon-to-arrive Palisade, all price levels of the new Santa Fe come with an impressive array of automatic safety features. They include forward-collision avoidance with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping aid, blind-spot monitoring and collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic alert and crash avoidance, adaptive cruise control with full-stop and restart capability, and automatic high-beams. With the new, critically acclaimed Kona, followed by this year’s fully modernized Santa Fe, and with the Palisade about to arrive fresh on their heels, Hyundai is positioning itself very well as the American appetite for crossover utility vehicles grows.
Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.
2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
Vehicle type: 4-door, 5-passenger, front- and all-wheel-drive mid-size crossover utility vehicle
Price range: $28,495 to $42,445 (plus options)
Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles basic warranty; 10 years/100,000 miles powertrain warranty; 7 years/unlimited miles corrosion warranty; 5 years/unlimited miles roadside assistance
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Base engine: 2.4-liter I4
Power: 185 horsepower at 6,000 rpm; 178 lb.-ft. torque at 4,000 rpm
Fuel economy: 22 mpg city; 29 mpg highway
Wheelbase: 109 inches
Length: 188 inches
Width: 74 inches
Height: 66 inches
Weight: 3,591 pounds
Fuel capacity: 18.8 gallons
Turning circle: 37.5 ft.