Hyundai has packed the 2019 Santa Fe to the brim with safety features. But unlike many other manufacturers, the Korean automaker is not doing away with safety components that often get overlooked or outright thrown out in today’s touchscreen, voice-controlled and driver attention-monitoring world — knobs and buttons.
The Santa Fe has loads of them. Big, beautiful and easily accessible dials. Want to change the radio station, turn on the heated seats, switch from radio displays to navigation or change from comfort mode to sport? No need to scroll through the infotainment system, thereby taking your eyes off the road, there’s a button or knob just waiting for your physical input. It’s not only safer, it can add years to the life of those like me who become frustrated by having to navigate endless menus only to switch radio stations when something awful begins to play. The Eagles, for instance.
Along with the Santa Fe’s analog safety features is a large collection of digital measures to prevent the SUV from going desperado and riding (or climbing) fences.
The 2019 Santa Fe comes standard with forward collision assistance, driver attention warning, blind spot warning, lane keep assist and rear cross-traffic warning. Also standard is safe exit assist, which keeps the doors locked if Hyundai’s SmartSense detects an oncoming car set to pass by the Santa Fe while it’s parked.
Hyundai’s European division chose a realistic but still very strange way to describe the new feature.
“Imagine the scenario: you are driving home with children in the rear seats and, as is often the case, one of them becomes increasingly desperate to use the toilet,” the release states. “No matter how fast you drive, sometimes the nearest facilities can be out of range before the need to go becomes too urgent.”
The release goes on to say children often don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions, so thanks to safe exit assist, they will not be able to open the door as another car passes when “You pull over to a roadside spot where your child can relieve themselves.”
When you and your child aren’t frantically searching for a place to find “relief,” you can take comfort in the Hyundai’s spacious interior.
The 2019 version has grown slightly from earlier models and now features a slightly longer wheelbase. That stretch adds to the sizeable 35.9-cubic feet of cargo space with the second row erected and massive 107.2-cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat. Hyundai has dropped the “sport” designation for the two-row, which will now be known as just Santa Fe, with a three-row version dubbed the Santa Fe XL.
The Santa Fe’s quiet and supple ride supplements significant head and legroom for front and rear passengers. The Hyundai does suffer from a bit of body roll, but not enough to take away from its ability to smooth out significant bumps and jostles on the road.
The Santa Fe comes with either a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder or a 2-liter turbo-four. Buyers also have the option of rear or all-wheel drive. Left Lane tested the Ultimate 2.0T which comes standard with the turbo-four offering 235 horsepower to send to all four wheels.
Response is sluggish on throttle tip-in, but with 260 torques and a spooling turbo, the Santa Fe has some get-up-and-go, but it still falls short of inspiring. However, the engine responds well at speed and is now coupled with an eight-speed automatic which presents smooth and sensible gear changes. The Santa Fe is far from athletic, but is well-suited for everyday driving.
The Ultimate trim adds creature comforts and amenities in the form of wireless device charging, heated front seats, LED lighting, 19-inch alloy wheels (standard comes with 17-inch), surround view monitor, heated steering wheel and a trailering package to name a few.
Even in top trim, the Santa Fe still comes with a heavy dose of hard plastics and will not worry any luxury manufacturers, though it is still well-equipped.
The standard 2.4-liter with front-wheel drive starts at $25,750 with the Ultimate 2.0T, with all-wheel drive coming in just shy of $39,000.
Overall, the Santa Fe offers comfort both in space and ride quality, comes as standard with loads of safety features and tech, and has enough performance to not give too many headaches on the daily commute. And of course, it has lots of wonderful knobs and buttons. Knobs and buttons I would use to change the channel if the Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling” came on the radio, though that is a pretty good description of the emotion the Santa Fe evokes.
(And if you are reeling from the fact anyone could suggest The Eagles aren’t God’s gift to rock and roll, just remember, as they said in 1994 — “Get Over It.”)