2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

Performance


#5 out of 23 in Midsize SUVs

$25,750 MSRP
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2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.5

The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is a respectable SUV for your daily travels. Though its base engine won't launch you with gusto, it's certainly agreeable for most. If you want more kick, Hyundai also offers an upgraded turbocharged four-cylinder and a V6. Not everyone will describe its handling as exciting, but the Santa Fe is still enjoyable to drive. Its ride is smooth, comfortable, and surefooted. 

  • "The handling is quite responsive; the Santa Fe feels taut and agile, something not often said about SUVs. There's limited body roll when it's pushed through turns, and the steering response is prompt, which gave our drivers confidence. The ride is a touch firm, though it absorbs impacts well and the vehicle remains planted." -- Consumer Reports
  • "While Mazda's CX-9 may have set a new standard for 7-passenger SUV handling, the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV isn't far from this benchmark." -- Kelley Blue Book (2018)
  • "Most of all, the Santa Fe is easy to drive, car-like and comfortable, but it's not unsettled when driven hard. No one buys a three-row SUV expecting a sports car, but, for this class, the Santa Fe offers confidence-inspiring handling with restrained body motion and lean. Braking is firm and linear, and steering offers reasonable – though not outstanding – feedback." -- Cars.com (2017)

Acceleration and Power

The Santa Fe comes standard with a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. It's well-suited for everyday scenarios, though it isn't very snappy when you lay on the throttle. The optional 235-horsepower turbo 2.0-liter engine is a bit more energetic. That said, don't expect blistering acceleration with this four-cylinder, either. Both come with a refined eight-speed automatic transmission.

Only one powertrain comes in the Santa Fe XL: a 290-horsepower 3.3-liter V6 paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Among this trio of engines, it's the optimal choice when it comes to strong acceleration and towing abilities.

Though the base Santa Fe isn't all that powerful, it is very fuel efficient. Its rating of 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway is one of the highest in our midsize SUV ranking. Fuel economy drops slightly to 20/25 mpg city/highway on turbocharged 2.0T editions. The V6-powered Santa Fe XL gets 18/25 mpg.

  • "We tested the turbo and found its performance to be pleasantly peppy. The torque peak happens all the way down at about 1,400 rpm, which makes the compact SUV feel very responsive off the line and around town." -- CNET
  • Powertrain performance is something of a mixed bag. We spent the bulk of our drive time with the 2.0T engine, and while it delivers more-than-sufficient power overall … there is a frustratingly lackadaisical response upon initial throttle application. It's especially apparent when pulling away from a stop, but it happens at speed as well-say, when you want to accelerate to pass a vehicle on the highway. This is probably a combination of turbo lag, the 8-speed transmission, and throttle-pedal tuning; the power eventually comes, but it often takes its sweet time. The naturally aspirated 2.4-liter base engine has a more linear feel than the turbo, but its 50-horsepower deficit is apparent. It's fine in around-town driving, but it struggles to provide decent acceleration up steep grades, or for highway passing maneuvers." -- Consumer Guide
  • In front-wheel-drive models, the SUV's 290-horsepower 3.3-liter V6 feels exceedingly powerful, but with good throttle response, smooth pickup and strong acceleration. The heavier all-wheel-drive Santa Fe models, however, could do with some more low-end grunt to get moving. The Hyundai's 6-speed automatic transmission isn't exactly state-of-the-art. Most of the Santa Fe's competitors have transmissions with more gears. Still, it works well enough, providing clean, easy gear changes and prompt downshifts when you need them." -- Kelley Blue Book (2018)

Handling and Braking

In the base configurations, the Santa Fe and Santa Fe XL are front-wheel-drive SUVs. All-wheel drive is available on every edition, and some versions come with hill-start assist and hill descent control. You'll feel plenty confident behind the wheel of this SUV, thanks to its balanced suspension system and responsive steering, and overall ride quality is comfortable.

  • "Thanks to AWD coupling, controlled braking, and some nifty torque vectoring voodoo, Hyundai's Traction (HTRAC) all-wheel-drive system corrects our wayward driving antics. Despite the assistance, the Santa Fe is a hoot to drive and impressive for a small SUV." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Aside from the straining 2.4-liter, the Santa Fe was extremely quiet, and its structure felt solid even over miles of washboard dirt roads. Compared with the outgoing model, the suspension has repositioned dampers with revised valving, redesigned bushings, and new knuckles and carriers, and it delivers a composed ride and minimal body roll. The steering is quicker than before and is nicely weighted and confidence-inspiring." -- Car and Driver
  • Over rain-weakened dirt roads it wouldn't slide until I went full Scandinavian Flick and at the end of the day I was looking at a 300-or-so-foot climb up a deeply rutted and rocky trail … The Santa Fe climbed, slipped and gripped its way up the slope, only pausing to figure out which wheel needed power. It also has hill descent control, which keeps your speed steady on slick declines, making this more SUV than almost anyone needs." -- Autoweek
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