Hyundai’s fourth gen­er­a­tion Santa Fe IM­PRESSES

The Hamilton Spectator - - Wheels - Story and pho­tos by Jim Robin­son

The Santa Fe cross­over can jus­ti­fi­ably be seen as one of the three pil­lars of Hyundai’s turnaround into a world­wide au­tomaker.

Prior to the Santa Fe and the Elantra and Sonata sedans, Hyundai pro­duced ve­hi­cles such as the Ex­cel, which never did and the Stel­lar, which wasn’t.

And then there was the Pony, which still makes some long-time Hyundai peo­ple gri­mace.

But for many, hav­ing a Santa Fe in their drive­way was when Cana­di­ans started tak­ing pride of own­er­ship in a Korean ve­hi­cle.

More to the point, Hyundai was just named as the Red Dot Brand of the Year for 2018. The Red Dot ac­knowl­edges a brand that has come up with in­no­va­tive and cre­ative de­signs on a par­tic­u­larly high level.

For 2019, Hyundai has sim­pli­fied the Santa Fe line-up into four trim lev­els, two en­gines and one trans­mis­sion, with front-wheel-drive on the base Es­sen­tial model and all-wheel-drive op­tional on the Es­sen­tial and stan­dard on the rest.

Both en­gines are car­ry­overs start­ing with a 2.4-litre di­rect in­jec­tion in­line four-cylin­der pro­duc­ing 185 hp and 178 lb/ft of torque, fol­lowed by a 2.0-litre di­rect in­jec­tion turbo in­line four-cylin­der with 235 hp and 260 lb/ft of torque. Both use Hyundai’s in-house de­signed and built eight-speed trans­mis­sion.

The 2019, fourth gen­er­a­tion Santa Fe is one of eight new or re-en­gi­neered SUVs Hyundai plans to launch by 2020.

The look for 2019 is much changed, com­pared to the out­go­ing model. An ex­am­ple are the slim-line LED day­time run­ning lights po­si­tioned above the pro­jec­tion head­lights, which com­ple­ment the now sig­na­ture cas­cad­ing grille.

The in­te­rior adopts a lay­ered in­stru­ment panel with a large pri­mary gauge clus­ter and float­ing in­fo­tain­ment touch­screen at the top of the cen­tre stack.

There are a lot of lit­tle de­tail changes such as mov­ing the win­dow switches and door grab han­dles for­ward for in­creased el­bow room or the slight tilt­ing of the touch­screen to cut down on glare.

In ad­di­tion to a bevy of driver/safety aids, Hyundai is de­but­ing Rear Oc­cu­pant Alert for the first time on the Santa Fe.

It uses an ul­tra­sonic sen­sor that helps to de­tect the move­ments of chil­dren and pets. The sys­tem first re­minds driv­ers to check the rear seats when ex­it­ing the ve­hi­cle, with a mes­sage on the cen­tre in­stru­ment clus­ter dis­play.

If the sys­tem de­tects move­ment in the rear seats af­ter the driver leaves the ve­hi­cle and locks the doors, it will honk the horn and send a Blue Link alert to the driver’s smart­phone via Hyundai’s Blue Link con­nected car sys­tem.

The sys­tem is de­signed to pre­vent chil­dren and pets from be­ing for­got­ten in the car. But it also helps in case chil­dren ac­ci­den­tally lock them­selves in.

An­other neat fea­ture you might have seen on Santa Fe TV com­mer­cials is Safe Exit As­sist. It keeps the doors locked if the Santa Fe de­tects some­thing ap­proach­ing, such as a cy­clist, from be­hind and sends a warn­ing to the main gauge clus­ter while the doors re­main locked.

Tested here is the toptrim Ul­ti­mate AWD model with just about ev­ery op­tion found in the Hyundai parts bins.

In ad­di­tion to Adap­tive Cruise Con­trol, For­ward Col­li­sion Avoid­ance with Pedes­trian De­tec­tion and Blind Spot As­sist, the Ul­ti­mate fea­tured a 360-de­gree sur­round cam­era and just about the big­gest panoramic sun­roof I’ve seen on a mid-size CUV.

The 2.0-litre turbo is great for cruis­ing short or long dis­tances and the view from the driver’s seat has been im­proved with the larger win­dows in the 2019 model.

Hyundai’s HTRAC AWD sys­tem can be driver-se­lected to run in Nor­mal, Sport or Smart (eco) modes in ad­di­tion to a wide range of torque dis­tri­bu­tion for the best grip in all con­di­tions.

For the driver, the new Head Up Dis­play (HUD) projects an 8.5-inch vir­tual image onto the wind­shield that is ad­justable for bright­ness in day or night.

The turbo works well with the eight-speed au­to­matic be­ing free of an­noy­ing “rub­ber band­ing” on some CVT-equipped crossovers I’ve driven of late.

On my usual run up into the north coun­try, the 260 lb/ft of torque and the kick-down flex­i­bil­ity of the eight-speed made pass­ing on hilly roads a cinch.

The MacPher­son strut front sus­pen­sion and multi-link rear have been fine tuned to the point the Santa Fe feels more like a car than a util­ity ve­hi­cle to drive.

And when it comes to util­ity, there is 2,019 litres of cargo vol­ume be­hind the front seat with the in­te­rior be­ing high enough to stow a large, standup re­cy­cling bin up­right.

Drive a 2019 Santa Fe and it’s im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent how far Hyundai has come since it en­tered the Cana­dian mar­ket in 1984.

What’s Best: Com­pet­i­tive pric­ing, solid en­gi­neer­ing and the kind of util­ity that mid-size buy­ers want. What’s Worst: Low slung main head­lights could be vul­ner­a­ble to park­ing lot hits.

What’s In­ter­est­ing: Hyundai was just given the highly pres­ti­gious Red Dot Brand of the Year award for ex­cel­lence in de­sign and ex­e­cu­tion.

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