Interestingly, as cars become little more than rolling computers with seats they’re actually becoming less complex, at least from a driving application and design perspective. The new autonomously driven…
Interestingly, as cars become little more than rolling computers with seats they’re actually becoming less complex, at least from a driving application and design perspective.
The new autonomously driven Prophecy Concept EV from Hyundai is about as minimalist as four-wheeled conveyances come, that is until inspecting the details. The brand’s upcoming Optimistic Futurism design language has been designed to connect people more fully with their cars, or so said the head of Hyundai’s global design centre SangYup Lee in the vehicle’s press release.
“We have brought to life yet another icon that establishes a new standard for the EV segment as well as pushing Hyundai’s design vision to even broader horizons,” said Lee. “A part of that expansion is what we call Optimistic Futurism, a design concept embodied by ‘Prophecy’. With Optimistic Futurism, our aim is to forge an emotional connection between humans and automobiles.”
Of course, creating emotional ties between consumers and their products should be a key priority of all brands, and to that end Hyundai has a pretty good chance of doing so with the Prophecy. The South Korean company, which sometimes seems to be playing a game of design tug of war between the overly conservative and overtly dramatic, the various generations of its Sonata mid-size sedan making this abundantly clear (seen at CarCostCanada in its stunning new 2020 design, somewhat less emotive 2019 version, even more sedate 2015 variant, and swoopy 2014 design), has pulled off a design with the Prophecy that’s at once minimalist in its retrospective shape and simultaneously a wonder of unique intricacies.
Its curvaceous styling could’ve easily been conjured up by Porsche for its next-generation Panamera or the new Taycan, not that it looks like either, but few brands dare attempt to shape a car with as many rounded edges, let alone a grille-less front end, not dissimilar to Tesla’s Model 3. Then again its seemingly vented rear quarters, which pull eyeballs away from the otherwise large transparent acrylic whale tail-like rear wing, appear to pay homage to Preston Tucker’s ultra-aerodynamic (for its era) post-war 48, although protruding from this otherwise pixelated 3D panel are LEDs for the taillights. Hyundai has done something similar up front, but as part of a more traditional set of headlamp clusters that utilize the same transparent acrylic as the rear spoiler and in the camera monitoring system.
Of course, all of the above aid aerodynamics, which is why others have chosen variations on the Prophecy’s theme, Hyundai even going so far to create propeller-inspired wheels that direct air down each body side.
No exterior or interior dimensions have been released, but it appears to sit in the mid-size sweet spot, while technical specifications aren’t available either, but of course with “EV” in the name it’s obviously 100-percent electric. Hyundai has told us the Prophecy’s battery is located below the passenger compartment, so expect it to ride on a completely new “skateboard” architecture that would allow for multiple body styles to reside on top.
The Prophecy’s cabin is easy to see through its four clamshell doors, its four seating positions separated into deeply sculpted buckets providing what appears to be just enough legroom in back. A unique tartan upholstery design is another nod to Porsche’s 911, 924 and 928 models from 1975 through 1980, blue-green a popular colour combo in the day, but nothing the German performance brand ever did back then achieved the built-in wow factor that Hyundai’s new creation does, and not just because the Koreans use the Scottish pattern for the bolsters as well as the centre inserts.
Even the Prophecy’s massive wraparound digital display that frames the windshield’s base isn’t all that radical these days, although the pop-up driver’s instruments are pretty slick, but even still these can’t steal the thunder from the car’s driving controls. You may have noticed its lack of steering wheel, this seemingly irreplaceable tool having been swapped out for a pair of pivoting joysticks. Why not, especially in a car that’s designed to be capable of full self-driving.
Will we ever see a Prophecy on the road? Unless it’s this single example being transported to the next auto show, when that ever happens (the Geneva auto show it would’ve been unveiled at cancelled due to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19), this new concept exists to show prospective Hyundai buyers its future styling direction, and to that end it looks like the brand’s design department has things well in hand.
Hyundai | “Prophecy” Concept EV Unveiling (16:04):
Well you’ve gone and done it now Canada. You lost your love for the Hyundai Accent Sedan and now its gone. It could be worse. Our American friends felt similarly about the hatchback and now they’ve…
Well you’ve gone and done it now Canada. You lost your love for the Hyundai Accent Sedan and now its gone.
It could be worse. Our American friends felt similarly about the hatchback and now they’ve lost the more versatile five-door variant that becomes Hyundai’s sole subcompact car offering here in Canada for 2020. The U.S. market loves four-door three-box models a lot more than we do, and with car sales slipping as crossover SUVs rise, it was only a matter of time before something gave way.
Hyundai’s U.S. division will fill the void left by the Accent Hatchback with the same entry-level Venue sport utility we’re getting for 2020 (I just picked one up for a weeklong test and so far I’m impressed), while the slightly larger Kona has been selling like gangbusters for nearly two years, resulting in significant sales leadership in the same subcompact crossover SUV segment.
A quick glance at sales numbers makes Hyundai Canada’s decision to trim the fat easy to understand. The Kona, which went on sale in March of 2018, sold a phenomenal 25,817 units during its first full calendar year of 2019, by far the best any subcompact SUV has ever done and more than 7,000 units ahead of the second-place Nissan Qashqai. Bolstering its entry-level SUV roster, Hyundai just added the even smaller Venue to the mix, which found 456 buyers in its first month of January 2020 alone. While that number didn’t come anywhere close to the Kona’s 1,651-unit tally during the same month, it nevertheless outsold the Accent’s 202 sales by 225 percent. It’s hard to argue against those numbers, which is why cars like the Accent are slowly fading away and small SUVs, like the Venue and Kona, are taking over.
To be fair, at least amongst subcompact cars, the Accent has long been number one in its entry-level segment, only beaten by the Toyota Yaris for the first time last year. The Yaris, by the way, only sold 190 units last month, which is 12 fewer than the Accent, but this said last year’s third-place Kia Rio actually stole the show with 243 deliveries so it’s anyone’s guess as to the subcompact car category’s top dog in 11 months’ time.
One thing’s clear, the Accent Sedan won’t help push that tally up by much. Plenty of dealers across the country still have this great little four-door available, although most have made their farewells and ushered in the 2020 Accent Hatchback, which continues forward looking the same, albeit updated with a new engine and new optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), the latter replacing the six-speed automatic tested in this 2019 model.
I’ve got mixed feelings about the 2020 updates, as the changes were all about fuel economy. This 2019 Accent sports a fairly punchy 132-horsepower 1.6-litre four-cylinder with 119 lb-ft of torque, whereas the new 2020 model gets an identically sized four utilizing Hyundai’s new Smartstream technology, but the result is just 120 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque. It wouldn’t have been long ago that losing 12 horsepower and six lb-ft of torque would be a nail in the coffin for a new model, but now that improvements at the pump and emissions reductions are so important, at least in this entry class, the update seems like progress.
To be clear, the Smartstream G1.6 DPI engine used in the new Accent has very little in common with the Smartstream G1.6 T-GDi engine found in the new Sonata. The former is a naturally aspirated inline four-cylinder with dual-port injection (DPI), continuously variable valve timing, and a new thermal management module that helps warm the engine up faster for optimal performance and efficiency, whereas the latter is a radical turbocharged V4 making 180 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque thanks in part to industry-first Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) that ups performance by four percent, improves fuel economy by five percent, and reduces emissions by 12 percent (I’ll go into more detailing when reviewing the new 2020 Sonata Turbo), while Low Pressure Exhaust Gas Recirculation (LP EGR) particularly helps Hyundai to achieve the last figure.
While the Sonata Turbo’s new Smartstream G1.6 T-GDi is a significant progression in engine technology, a mechanical rethink that will allow for myriad packaging benefits and potentially shrink the size of future engine bays while making hybrid tech easier to adapt for existing models, plus it also stands as a witness to the importance of the internal combustion engine (ICE) in future products (why would Hyundai invest so heavily in a dying technology if hey didn’t believe it had decades of life left), the Accent’s Smartstream G1.6 DPI should be seen as more of an upgrade to an existing powerplant rather than anything revolutionary.
Then again, factor in the gains in fuel economy and the word revolutionary might be apropos. The 2019 model on this page is good for a claimed 8.2 L/100km in the city, 6.2 on the highway and 7.3 combined whether using its standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic, whereas the new 2020 model ekes out 7.8 L/100km city, 6.1 highway and 6.9 combined with its six-speed manual or 7.3, 6.0 and 6.6 respectively with its new CVT. That latter number represents a 12-percent improvement in fuel economy.
I like the six-speed automatic in the current Accent as it shifts smoothly, provides good mechanical feel and even comes across quite sporty when slotted into manual mode and operated by hand, but with more of its mission focused on fuel economy the 2020 Accent’s optional CVT, dubbed ITV by Hyundai for “Intelligent Variable Transmission,” should be considered an upgrade. Hyundai claims it simulates shifts well, so I’ll be sure to report back on that when tested, and most CVTs are smoother than conventional automatics, unless those simulated shifts aren’t executed ideally. I won’t go into much more detail about this gearless box right now, but will say it incorporates a wide-ratio pulley system claimed to provide a broader operation ratio when compared to rival CVTs, this improving fuel economy when higher gear ratios are in use and benefits performance when using its lower ratios.
As it is (or was) for 2019, the Accent sedan provides relatively sporty performance from its more potent engine and at least equally engaging transmission, while its ride is good thanks to a well-calibrated front strut and rear torsion beam suspension, and should continue being so moving into 2020 as the two model years are identical other than their powertrains. Likewise handling is about average for the class, its electric power steering providing good directional response yet only moderate feedback, but it’s still fun to fling through corners. The standard four-wheel disc brakes provide strong stopping power too, the Accent always feeling safe and stable even when practicing emergency manoeuvres.
Another positive is interior roominess. For such a small car it certainly feels spacious inside, particular for headroom. Front legroom is good and it should be more than adequate for side-to-side hip and shoulder room too, unless those inside are particularly large folk. It’s easy to get the driver’s seat into a good position, thanks to ample steering column rake and reach, while fore and aft seat adjustment is excellent. The backrest reclines, of course, but there’s no way to adjust the lumbar. Fortunately the seat is well designed for good support all-round, so shouldn’t be a problem for most body types.
It’s fairly small in back, but it should be suitable for two average sized adults or three slender passengers, kids included. With the front seat positioned for my five-foot-eight longer legged, shorter torso frame, which meant I had to push it further rearward than most measuring my height would, I had about two inches remaining between the seatback and my knees, plus enough space for my feet while wearing winter boots. Fortunately the seatbacks get finished in a nice cloth, which would be a bit more comfortable if touching the knees, but no one likes to experience that either way. I had a reasonable room from my small-to-medium build torso to the door panel, measuring about three to four inches at the hips and slightly more next to my left shoulder, while approximately two and a half inches of air space was left over above my head (but remember I’ve got a shorter than average torso).
Unfortunately Hyundai doesn’t include a folding centre armrest in back, and there were no vents on the backside of the front centre console to keep the rear quarters aerated, but at least Hyundai provides a rear USB charge point for powering passengers’ devices.
As far as interior finishings go, Hyundai has eschewed the latest subcompact trend to soft-touch surfaces, which I found both disappointing and odd. Touch the dash, the instrument panel, the door panels or anywhere else and, other than the leather-wrapped steering wheel of this top-line model, fabric door inserts, centre armrest, plus of course the seats, there isn’t a single pliable composite surface at all. Most unusual are the hard shell plastic side armrests, that I have to say are very uncomfortable. In this segment I’m able to accept a lack of soft surfaces elsewhere, such as the dash top and door uppers, but using hard plastic for the armrests is going too far.
This oversight is a shame because most everything else about the new Accent is praiseworthy. I say most because it only included a monochromatic trip computer in this top-tier model, which should really have a full-colour TFT multi-information display in this day and age. Again, I don’t mind the analogue gauges, although some competitors are starting to digitize more of their primary clusters.
Hyundai hopes such shortcomings are forgotten quickly when adding up all the other standard and available features, plus this car’s fairly low price point. Just for a sampling, on top of everything already mentioned my top line Accent Sedan featured proximity-sensing entry with pushbutton ignition, a nice infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, plenty of apps, a backup camera with active guidelines, and more. The climate control system is automatic, albeit single zone, while this model includes three-way heated front seats as well as a heatable steering wheel, the former capable of getting warmer than the class average (it can get very cold in Korea) and the latter downright hot.
The just-noted leather-wrapped steering wheel rim is nicely finished and padded for extreme comfort, while the switchgear on the 9 and 3 o’clock spokes is superbly done with voice activation, audio controls, and phone prompts on the left side, plus multi-information display and cruise controls on the right. The turn signal/headlight and windshield wiper stalks are upscale too, these, along with most of the cabin’s switchgear making its owner feel as if they’ve paid more than they really have. Likewise for the overhead console that incorporates old-school incandescent lights, yet features one of the nicest most luxuriously finished sunglasses holders I’ve ever felt, not to mention controls for the powered glass sunroof.
The rear seatbacks are split 60/40 for stowing longer items via the trunk, and dedicated storage space is fairly generous at 388 litres (13.7 cu ft), but take note the lid is very short so you’re limited as to how much you can angle in. A hatchback would remedy this, of course, so be glad Canada chose to keep the more versatile of the two body styles moving into 2020. A benefit to trunks over hatches is security; a trunk being more difficult to access by would-be thieves and therefore passed by more often when easier prey is available, but a simpler solution is to bring valuables inside. Hyundai provides a fairly large compartment underneath the trunk’s load floor, mostly filled up with a compact spare tire and tools, but there’s space around the edges for small items.
So there you have it. If you must have a new Accent Sedan, start calling around to your local Hyundai dealers to find one. I’ve checked, and there are some available, but you’ll need to act quickly. According to the CarCostCanada 2019 Hyundai Accent Canada Prices page, the base Essential with Comfort Package Sedan starts at $17,349 plus freight and fees, while this top-line Ultimate Sedan starts at $21,299. Of course, discounts will be available, as retailers are motivated to sell, and information about any manufacturer rebates will be available to CarCostCanada members, plus deals on factory leasing and financing rates, which were available from zero-percent at the time of writing (and 0.99 percent for the new 2020 model), and as always dealer invoice pricing that can potentially save you thousands, depending on the car being purchased.
As an alternative you can also walk over to your local Kia dealership for a 2020 Rio sedan, which is basically identical to the U.S.-market Accent Sedan under the skin, drivetrain upgrades and all. Interestingly, the Rio is now the only new subcompact sedan available in Canada, so Korea’s other auto brand has an opportunity to pull in a few sales it might not have been able to earn previously (they also have a 2020 Rio Hatchback).
It would be easy to look at the Veloster as an automotive anomaly, a car that doesn’t quite fit into the compact sport coupe segment, but I prefer to think of it as a more practical sports coupe.
After all, there’s good reason only a handful of volume-branded compact sports coupes remain in today’s auto sector. Owners finally got tired of hearing complaints from family and friends trying to access their rear seats, so they bought sporty four- and five-door alternatives. Heck, even the mighty VW GTI can only be had with four doors these days, yet instead of conforming to near wagon-like levels of practicality Hyundai took a good idea that was poorly executed by GM’s Saturn division for its 1999 SC sports coupe, that saw a second rear-hinged half-door added to the driver’s side for easier back seat entry, and adapted it to the more appropriate passenger’s side with an easier to use conventional hinge on a larger three-quarter sized door. Voila! A car that looks like a coupe from the driver’s side and a particularly sleek four-door hatch from the passenger’s side.
Sales were initially quite strong in Canada, but have steadily tapered off since its first full year of 5,741 units in 2012, but thanks to a ground-up redesign for this 2019 model year the Veloster has responded with a 36.6-percent uptick to 1,295 units as of October’s close, although only 279 examples were sold during July, August and September of this year, representing a collapse of 55.1 percent compared to Q3 of 2018, so we’ll have to wait and see if 2019’s final three months fare any better.
Before we see Hyundai transform the Veloster into a volume-branded BMW X4 in order to keep its coupe alive while the world transfers interests from cars to crossover SUVs (an interesting prospect), those who still appreciate sports coupes for their lower centre of gravity and inherently better handling should take note of the new Veloster’s change from a torsion beam rear suspension design (the old car’s Achilles heal) to a new independent multi-link setup, the update thoroughly transforming its ride and handling.
The new Veloster’s underpinnings are much more compliant than the previous model’s, providing comfortable cruising around town with less drama over rough pavement, yet the little coupe remains firm enough to feel like a sport model. Still, despite what feels like a more docile suspension setup it’s much better through the corners, especially when pushed hard over broken asphalt mid-turn, which would have upset the outgoing model. Now you can cut the apex with less concern of finding an unforeseen bump or pothole, the rear suspension now absorbing such obstacles with no rear shudder or loss of tire patch contact.
While the Veloster comes standard with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine good for 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, which drives the front wheels through a standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic, my Veloster Turbo tester uses a 1.6-litre turbo-four making 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. It still twists the front wheels through an as-tested standard six-speed manual gearbox, although those wanting automation can choose a new seven-speed dual-clutch EcoShift DCT gearbox with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. I’ve driven a six-speed version of the latter in previous Velosters (see 2016, 2015 and 2014 reviews), and it proved to be quick shifting and very engaging, so I can only imagine the new seven-speed unit is even more fun to row through the gears, but being a purist when it comes to sports cars I’d be inclined to save the $1,500 and keep the DIY transmission.
It’s a well sorted six-speed with easy, progressive clutch take-up that feels ideally suited to the torque-rich turbocharged four-cylinder. Maximum torque arrives at 1,500 rpm and continues all the way up to 4,500, while max power, arriving at 6,000 rpm, makes laying further into the throttle worthwhile. The little engine hits redline at 7,000, although it’ll spin higher if you enjoy hearing the high-pitched mechanical whine, with sport mode really improving performance along the way. Really, push the big, grey “SPORT” button to the left of the shifter and the Veloster Turbo immediately transforms from nice economical runabout to a truly enthusiastic performance car.
Even better, there are zero negatives when choosing the Turbo over the base Veloster at the pump, with the manual transmission resulting in 9.4 L/100km in the city, 7.1 on the highway and 8.4 combined for the base engine and an even better 9.4 city, 7.0 highway and 8.3 combined for the Turbo, while the base car’s six-speed auto is good for a claimed 9.1 city, 7.1 highway and 8.2 combined compared to just 8.5, 6.9 and 7.8 respectively for the Turbo with its seven-speed DCT. Yes, you read that right. Opt for the better performing Turbo and you’ll save on fuel, at least if you don’t bury your foot in the throttle every time you take off.
A quick drive will be more than enough for you to attest to the Veloster’s sport coupe credentials, but once again living with the car for a week reminded me of just how practical it is. The rear liftgate opens high and wide enough to stow big items, and while not as accommodating as most compact hatchbacks the dedicated cargo area measures a reasonable 565 litres (20 cubic feet), or about the size of a full-size sedan’s trunk, and a considerable increase over the old first-generation Veloster’s 440-litre (15.5 cu-ft) trunk. Of course, you can lower the rear seats to expand its usability, their divide placed at the 66/33-position instead of the usual 60/40, which makes sense for a car that only seats four. With both rear seatbacks laid flat the Veloster allows for 1,260 litres (44.5 cu ft) of gear-toting space, which is once again a significant increase over the previous model’s 982 litres (34.7 cubic feet) of maximum load carrying capacity.
The long driver’s door and proximity-sensing keyless entry make access to the cockpit ultra-easy, and the two passenger doors means that no one needs to compromise when coming along for the ride. Sure the first rear passenger to enter needs to slide along the seat to get to the other side, making me wish Hyundai hadn’t included a fixed centre console with cupholders and a storage bin in between, but it’s not too difficult to negotiate and provides some useful functionality (a folding centre armrest would work better).
With the driver’s seat positioned for my five-foot-eight, long-legged, short-torso frame I had about four to five inches ahead of my knees, plus a reasonable amount of space for my feet, although it was a bit tight for my toes underneath the driver’s seat. There was plenty of space from side to side, however, plus about three inches remained above my head, so it should be roomy enough for somebody under six feet.
The two rear seats are nicely carved out for good lateral support, while their backrests push outward slightly at the lower back to improve comfort on road trips. Amenities are limited to power window switches on the left panel and rear door, while the armrests are the only padded surfaces other than the seats.
This is also true for the front seating compartment, incidentally, the Veloster’s almost complete lack of soft-touch surfaces disappointing. Even the dash top and instrument panel or hard plastic, but at least some of these were given a matte textured treatment, whereas each door panel, armrests aside, were entirely comprised of glossy hard composite.
The red on black sport driver’s seat is as comfortable and supportive as it looks, while its two-way powered lumbar support almost ideally met the small of my back. I was able to set up the seat to my preferences thanks to fairly long reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column, further optimizing comfort and control, while the seat warmers and heatable steering wheel rim came on quickly and strong.
Upon ignition, via a button on the centre stack to the right of the steering column, a transparent head-up display powers up out of the dash top. I must admit it was a bit distracting at first, as it’s right in the line of sight (as it should be), but when selecting sport mode it provided a nice tachometer graphic that proved helpful when pushing the engine to redline, while I grew to appreciate it for other functions too. Just below, a colour multi-information display is set without an easily legible set of analogue dials, while controls on the steering wheel spokes, plus to the left and right of the dash were high in quality, well damped, and easy to reach.
Likewise for the infotainment display atop the centre stack, although the only button at its base was for the car’s hazard lights. Its quick-access switchgear can be found lower down the centre stack, between the audio system’s power/volume and tuning knobs, but I ended up using the steering wheel controls mixed with the touchscreen for most functions.
Thanks to a $3,000 Turbo Tech package, which includes the just-noted head-up display, leather upholstery, driver’s seat lumbar support, and Sport mode function noted earlier, not to mention rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, and automatic climate control (with an auto defogger), my test model had a bigger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with integrated navigation and a great sounding eight-speaker Infinity audio system with an external amplifier.
Before I get ahead of myself, the 2019 Veloster starts at $20,999 plus freight and fees, with the Turbo hitting the road at a base of $25,899. The Turbo Tech package boosts that price up to $28,899, while a $500 Performance package can be added with or without the Tech upgrade, and includes a special set of 18-inch alloy wheels on 225/40 Michelin Pilot summer-performance tires.
The base Veloster sports 18-inch alloys too, by the way, plus auto on/off headlights, LED daytime running lights, power-adjustable heated side mirrors, remote entry, a leather-wrapped heatable multifunction steering wheel, a tilt and telescopic steering column, cruise control, power windows, illuminated vanity mirrors, a sunglasses holder, filtered air conditioning, a one-inch smaller 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, six-speaker audio, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity with audio streaming, a leather-wrapped shift knob, heated front seats, manual six-way driver and four-way front passenger seat adjustments, blindspot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, all the expected active and passive safety features, plus more.
Upgrading to the Turbo adds LED headlights, LED side mirror turn signal repeaters, LED taillights, a unique grille and extended side sills, proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display replacing a more conventional 3.5-inch trip computer within the gauge cluster, a large powered glass sunroof, silver vent rings, checkered dash trim, partial cloth/leather upholstery with red stitching instead of blue, leatherette door trim, red interior accents, and more.
I could delve into available colours and more, but being that this review is being published as 2020 Velosters are arriving, you’ll need to accept what you can get if you want to take advantage of year-end discounts and zero-percent financing (the 2020 model was being offered with 0.99-percent financing at the time of writing). By the way, you can learn about these deals and more at CarCostCanada, where all pricing for trims, packages and individual options are itemized, plus info about available manufacturer rebates as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
Something else to consider is the new Veloster N, which gets a new 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder good for a lofty 275 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It comes solely with a six-speed manual gearbox incorporating downshift rev-matching, while an electronically controlled limited slip differential helps get all that power down to the road, and an electronically controlled suspension connecting to 19-inch alloys on 235/35 Pirelli summer-performance tires maximize grip. Normal, Sport, N and Custom drive mode selections, plus a driver-adjustable active exhaust system, make this very special Veloster even more engaging, while fuel economy is still reasonably low at 10.6 L/100km in the city, 8.3 on the highway and 9.5 combined. It can all be had for a very affordable $34,999, so I urge you to take a look.
Something else to consider with the 2019, base model 2020s are no longer available with the manual transmission, which is a bit of a shame as this entry-level model is no longer a cheap fix for performance purists and custom tuners, while the new entry price rises by $1,400 to $22,399. Of course, Hyundai wouldn’t have dropped it if buyers were demanding an entry-level six-speed manual, but it’s nevertheless a negative. Soon, the only way to get a manual will be the $27,499 Turbo, so therefore budget-oriented performance fans will want to start searching for their base 2019 Veloster now. Also noteworthy, Hyundai has changed up some trim names for 2020, dropping GL and Tech from the 2019 car and adding Preferred and Luxury to the new version. The Veloster N is still available in one single trim line for the same price, but if you’re looking for it at CarCostCanada, take note it’s now a separate model for 2020.
No matter the model year or trim designation, the redesigned Veloster is wholly better than the car it replaces, with much better performance and nicely updated electronics, while it retains an ideal mix of sporty coupe styling elements and practical hatchback livability.
The Sonata has been with us for a long time, 31 years in fact. During those three-plus decades we’ve seen truly expressive designs offset by comparatively safe styling exercises, and it seems to have…
The Sonata has been with us for a long time, 31 years in fact. During those three-plus decades we’ve seen truly expressive designs offset by comparatively safe styling exercises, and it seems to have done better with the latter.
Looking back, the 1998–2004 fourth and 2009–2014 sixth generations were especially daring, while the comparatively conservative 2004–2009 fifth-gen model was nevertheless so modestly attractive it sold well too. I tested all of the above and was impressed with each, plus I had the latter car in V6-powered top-line trim as a long-term tester for more than a year, experiencing zero problems and thoroughly enjoying its comfort and performance, as my weekly blog-style updates attested. It’s no wonder I’ve been a proponent of the car ever since.
The current 2014–2019 seventh-generation Sonata is, of course, the best one yet, but up until a rather thorough 2018 mid-cycle refresh it was one of the least inspiring visually. Don’t get me wrong, the 2014–2017 version was still a reasonably attractive mid-size four-door family sedan, but calling its update a facelift doesn’t do the level of cosmetic reconstruction justice.
The identical 2018 and 2019 Sonata models featured a completely modified grille that left the previous sharply edged six-sided design behind, replaced by a much more fluid shape that has helped move Hyundai away from the new Genesis luxury brand, the latter having kept much of the old grille design up until the new 2020 G90’s diamond-shaped look. The Sonata’s stylish new grille gets flanked by attractive headlights filled with ovoid projector beams (or as-tested LEDs) and LED daytime running lights, all of which hover over an eye-catching six-pack of vertical LED fog lights.
The Sonata’s sportiest Ultimate trim (shown here in the photos) boasts cool dark chrome edging around an otherwise black gloss mesh grille insert, plus more darkened chrome on the lower fascia and the headlamp bezels, which uniquely flow rearward along the front fenders and the car’s entire shoulder line before curving up and around the rear quarter windows ahead of meeting up at the base of the A pillars. This signature detail was first used with the sixth-generation Sonata back in 2009, and will once again help make the upcoming 2020 model look special. That 2020 Sonata incorporates many of the design elements shown on this attractive 2019 model, but adds drama and size, while its rear styling is completely reworked.
Hyundai continues with the darkened chrome trim while adding its fair share of gloss-black accents to this Sonata Ultimate, its front fog lamp surrounds ideally matching the sporty diffuser-style rear bumper, all topped off by the panoramic sunroof’s deep, inky glass and the high-gloss black roof that combine into one all-black mass. I must admit, the 2018 refresh turned a rather boring Sonata into a superb looking mid-size family hauler.
It needs to be good looking in order to survive, of course. It’s up against some very strong competitors such as the new Toyota Camry, a car that could even be called seductive in its edgiest XSE trim, not to mention the newest Honda Accord that antes up with its most premium-level design yet, plus the new Nissan Altima improves styling while providing standard all-wheel drive, as well as a whole host of other brands trying to lure in mid-size sedan buyers with performance models and/or economical hybrid/plug-in alternatives, while Hyundai’s sister-brand Kia and Germany’s Volkswagen are complementing their more traditional Optima (the Sonata’s platform-mate) and Passat offerings with sportier four-door coupe variants called Stinger and Arteon respectively, and despite all these interesting and impressive choices most new car consumers are looking to the crossover SUV segment for their next ride.
How is this SUV enthusiasm affecting mid-size sedan sales? Of the 14 currently available in Canada, just four found more year-over-year buyers through the first nine months of 2019, and this Sonata wasn’t amongst them. The category-leading Camry’s 11,579 unit sales were up 4.18 percent since the third quarter of 2019 ended, but this market growth is hardly notable next to the third-place Ford Fusion’s 33.43-percent increase, but it only managed 7,280 total deliveries. The other two bright lights are actually nominal players when it comes to overall numbers, with Honda’s Clarity plug-in hybrid showing a 12.37-percent gain to 890 sales, and Buick’s Regal experiencing an amazing 48.71-percent uptick to 635 units down the road.
Ultimate losers include VW’s aforementioned Passat that’s decreased its year-over-year unit sales by 78.24 percent, resulting in only 570 sold, while Kia’s Optima didn’t do much better thanks to delivering just 1,363 examples for a 52.09-percent decline. Others, such as the Altima, fell 43.34 percent for a 2,568-unit downturn, and that’s despite its all-new design, while the Mazda6 plunged 42.76 percent to 1,130 units. Comparing some of these numbers shouldn’t leave Hyundai feeling too bad about its Sonata that only managed 3,346 deliveries for a 14.18-percent reversal, this actually leaving the car in fifth place behind the Camry, Accord, Fusion and Malibu, albeit still more popular than the Altima, Optima, Subaru Legacy, Stinger, Mazda6, Clarity, Regal, Passat, and Arteon. Some brands might’ve let out a collective sigh of relief upon Ford’s announcement that its Fusion would soon be discontinued without replacement, but the thought of why they’re ditching the segment altogether may be too sobering to provide any hope of market gains.
Everything said so far in mind, this road test review is more of an adieu to the outgoing 2019 Sonata ahead of the entirely new 2020 model arriving, which will allow some of us to pay tribute to the car that helped define Hyundai’s new design direction, while more serious folk decide whether or not they’ll take one home. I’ve got a great deal of good to say about this specific Sonata Ultimate, with the styling and sales portion of my review now moving inside, where this particular four-door gets an impressive cabin filled up with premium-like finishings and more standard features than you’ll likely find in the majority of rivals noted above.
No shortage of premium-quality, soft-touch synthetics can be found throughout the interior, joined by beautifully textured metallic inlays and brushed aluminized accents, not to mention glossy piano black detailing to match all the exterior trim mentioned earlier. A medium-grey cabin motif boasts stylish perforated leather seat upholstery in an identical medium-grey shade, with light-grey piping highlighting each bolster to match the same colour of contrast stitching found along those bolsters as well as the door panel inserts, shifter boot, and baseball-stitched, black leather-wrapped, flat-bottom sport steering wheel.
The steering wheel looks sporty enough, and thanks to a thick padded rim, ergonomically shaped thumb spats, and an overall substantive weightiness makes its driver feel as if piloting a now classic Genesis Coupe than anything family oriented, not that you couldn’t stuff a fairly sizeable kid or two into the back of that four-seat liftback. The placement of the shift paddles is near perfect, truly enhancing the driving experience overall. It’s all combined with more than enough steering column rake and reach to, together with the eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat (with two-way powered lumbar), provide my long-legged and short-torso five-foot-eight body with complete comfortable and total control, unlike some in this class that don’t fit me in as ideally.
This in mind, Toyota’s new Camry XSE was sharing commuting and errand duties with the Sonata Ultimate during the same week, which by looks alone seems to be the sportiest mid-size four-door on today’s market. It’s a big improvement over the outgoing Camry in every way, including steering column reach, but nevertheless it doesn’t fit my frame as well. Additionally, the Camry XSE’s steering wheel doesn’t look or feel as sporty, or allow as much control as this Sonata Ultimate. I’m not griping, because Toyota has done a very good job with the new Camry’s cabin, with finishing that’s more refined and an overall design that’s slightly more premium-like than this top-line Sonata, but when talking real performance, the Japanese brand’s mid-sizer couldn’t hold a candle to this Korean. What’s more, the steering wheel in the Sonata is heated from the mid-range trim upward, while the Camry doesn’t even make a heatable steering wheel available.
One of the most notable differences between the Camry XSE and Sonata Ultimate are the front seats. The latter model offers up two of the best sport seats in the mid-size sedan class, that aren’t only embossed with slick “Turbo” lettering on their backrests and finished with all the attractive upgrades noted earlier, but were designed with deep side bolstering that holds buttocks and backside firmly in place during aggressive manoeuvring. If you want to stay planted in the Camry’s driver’s seat while attempting the same lateral Gs you’ll need to hang onto something other than the steering wheel, as Toyota’s driver’s seat leaves you perched on top rather than within. The Camry’s seats weren’t very comfortable either, not even in the luxuriously appointed XLE model, but the Sonata Ultimate’s seats are fabulously supportive. The Sonata’s three-temperature front seat warmers heat up faster and more potently than the Camry’s too, plus Hyundai provides three-position front seat ventilation as well, this not available in any 2019 Camry (Toyota will add optional ventilated front seats for 2020).
The Sonata’s rear outboard seats offer two-way seat heaters too, in mid-range Preferred trim and above, plus their seatbacks are similarly carved for comfort and support, but not so much as to render the centre position unfit for a third passenger. My tester’s retractable side window sunshades, standard in Luxury and Ultimate trims, are also not available with the Camry, while the Sonata’s rear occupants benefit from a bevy of additional features such as LED overhead reading lights, dual air vents, a big folding centre armrest with integrated cupholders, large bottle holders in the door pockets, plus more. A panoramic sunroof, standard on Luxury and Ultimate trims, adds more light to the rear passenger compartment too, although even less equipped trims are hardly dark inside thanks to good side window visibility.
Rear seat roominess is a Sonata strongpoint too, thanks to a lot of knee space, ample legroom that allowed me to stretch my legs out almost completely while shod in winter boots, and about four to five inches from hips and shoulders to the door panels, while approximately three and a half inches remained over my head, so therefore taller passengers should fit in back without issue.
The trunk is quite big at 462 litres (16.3 cubic feet), while you can open its lid by pressing a button on the dash or automatically by standing aft of the Sonata with the ignition off and proximity-sensing key in pocket. The trunk is nicely detailed out with carpeting all the way up each sidewall, including the inner lid, plus each side of the 60/40-split seatbacks fold down via pull-tabs.
All of the items noted thus far came standard in my top-tier Ultimate tester, including its sporty looking 18-inch double-five-spoke alloys encircled by 235/45R18 Michelin all-season rubber (replacing 16- or 17-inch Kumho tires), the front two directed by a special rack-mounted motor-driven power steering (R-MDPS) system featuring a dual-pinion steering rack, while a trim-exclusive twin-scroll turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with dual continuously variable valve timing and two-stage variable induction produces 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque (this engine replaces the base 2.4-litre four-cylinder with 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque), and an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual mode and steering wheel-mounted shift paddles (instead of a six-speed automatic with no paddles on lesser trims) enhance performance. Additionally, Ultimate trim includes the upgraded leather sport seats mentioned before, and the eye-catching textured metallic inlays, the construction of which Hyundai refers to as the 3D Three-dimensional Overlay Method (T.O.M).
I decided to make a more detailed list of key features than usual because Hyundai’s value proposition has always been a good way to judge its cars against rivals, and when factoring in that the 2019 Sonata Ultimate retails for only $37,199 (plus destination and fees), it becomes hard to argue against. A similarly powered Camry with less features, incidentally, tops $41,000, about $4,000 or 10 percent more than this top-line Sonata, while its base price is also a couple of thousand higher. The base Sonata Essential starts at $24,899, while Hyundai has up to $2,000 in additional incentives available at the time of writing, according to CarCostCanada, where you can also find pricing details for almost every car sold in Canada, including trims, packages and individual features, as well as rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
Additional features pulled up to Ultimate trim from the $34,899 Luxury model include the previously noted LED headlights with adaptive cornering and automatic high beams, ventilated front seats, rear sunshades and powered panoramic sunroof, plus aluminum scuff plates, chrome inner door handles, an electromechanical parking brake, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink garage door opener, a six-way powered front passenger seat, driver’s seat and side mirror memory, an 8.0-inch high-resolution centre touchscreen with navigation, great sounding 400-watt nine-speaker Infinity audio, always appreciated wireless charging, rear seat HVAC ducts, reverse park distance warning, driver attention warning, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, and lane departure warning with lane keeping assist.
Items pulled up to Unlimited trim from the mid-range $28,799 Preferred model include the stitched pleather door inserts, heatable steering wheel, rear seat warmers, and proximity-sensing trunk release noted earlier, plus dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio (including the rooftop shark antenna), remote engine start, and BlueLink connectivity, while the second-rung $27,699 Essential Sport donates its sport grille, dark chrome and sportier exterior trim, sport suspension, LED taillights, front door handle welcome lighting, proximity keyless entry, sport-type Supervision instrument cluster with a 4.2-inch TFT LCD multi-function display (within the otherwise analogue primary gauge cluster), paddle shifters, eight-way powered driver’s seat, and aluminum pedals.
Finally, standard items pulled up to Ultimate trim from the base Essential model include auto on/off headlights, LED daytime running lights, power-adjustable heated side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, speed-sensitive variable intermittent wipers, heated front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, Bluetooth with audio streaming, filtered air conditioning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, the usual active and passive safety features, and much more. It really is a lot of car for thousands less than most competitors.
Being that I’ve been comparing to the Sonata to Toyota’s Camry, the Japanese mid-sizer offers up a more advanced gauge cluster-mounted multi-information display, featuring a larger, more organically shaped screen that wraps around the outside of each analogue dial, plus it’s filled with more features. Nevertheless, the Sonata’s is bright, clear and not short on many functions. The Sonata’s centre stack comes across a bit more vertical and therefore more traditional than the Camry’s as well, but this has more to do with end of lifecycle issues than any lack of technical prowess at Hyundai (the 2020 Sonata’s 12.3-inch display will be a big step above the Camry’s, by the way, plus my upcoming Nexo and Palisade stories will provide even more proof of Hyundai’s infotainment leadership). The Sonata’s touchscreen sits high on the centre stack between two vents, and it’s a very clear, high-resolution display with excellent depth of colour and good graphics. It boasts a quick operating system too, and it’s generally easy to figure out, no matter the function.
The quality of Sonata switchgear is also excellent, especially those on the steering wheel and centre stack, the latter finished with a nice aluminized treatment on two tiers of interfaces. The top tier is for audio and infotainment systems, whereas the bottom one is for the HVAC system and its various functions, plus the heated/cooled seats and heatable steering wheel. Below this is a rubberized tray for your phone that doubles as a wireless charger, while additional connectivity can be found just above on a panel featuring two 12-volt chargers, a USB port and aux plug (expect more USBs and less of the others in the 2020 redesign).
Back to the thick paddle-infused flat-bottom steering wheel and well-bolstered driver’s seat, the Sonata Ultimate feels a lot sportier than the Camry XSE I tested, even without having a V6 under the hood. The top-line Camry is about a second and a half quicker off the line (the 6.0 seconds compared to 7.3, give or take a tenth or two), as long as you can stop the front wheels from spinning, but straight-line acceleration is hardly the only performance criterion, or for that matter the most important one in my books. The 2.0-litre turbo moved the Sonata off the line quickly enough, while its eight-speed auto shifted with much snappier increments than the Camry’s eight-speed, especially when its Drive Mode Select system was switched from Comfort, past Eco, into Sport mode, these adjusting steering, engine, and transmission responses. The free-revving top-line Sonata powertrain is a lot more fun when pushed hard, and its lighter weight over the front wheels results in easier, quicker turn-in with less understeer.
This is probably why the Sonata Ultimate takes to corners more aggressively than the Camry XSE. Truly, Sonata Ultimate handling is a black and white differentiator, the Hyundai feeling crisp and reacting sharply, with the Toyota pushing its front end past the edge of its lane when driven at similar high speeds through the same stretch of tarmac, not to mention becoming much more unsettled at its back end. The one felt confidence inspiring and the other out of its league, and this was despite having one-inch larger 19-inch alloys on 235/40 all seasons on the Camry. Mix in driver’s seat superiority and it’s really no contest, the Sonata Ultimate so much more engaging we might as well be comparing a BMW 5 Series to a Lexus ES 350.
The Sonata Ultimate also gets high marks for fuel economy thanks to a claimed rating of 10.4 L/100 km in the city, 7.4 on the highway and 9.1 combined compared to the Camry XSE’s 10.7 city, 7.4 highway and 9.2 combined rating, but to be fair I need to point out that Toyota’s use of an eight-speed automatic throughout the range helps its less potent four-cylinder models eke out as little as 8.1 city, 5.7 highway and 6.9 combined, compared to the Sonata 2.4’s best rating of 9.2, 6.8 and 8.1 respectively.
More negatives? It wanting to use the auto trunk opening function when the Sonata is already unlocked it won’t open, and being that there’s no button in back you’ll need to walk around to the driver’s door, open it, and push the button on the dash. The Camry provides a button on the trunk that works by proximity sensing whether the doors are unlocked or not. Another Camry bonus includes heated front seats that come on automatically upon startup, or not, depending on how you left them. You’ll need to set the Sonata’s heated seats each time you restart.
Plenty of other qualities help keep the Camry atop the mid-size sedan segment’s hierarchy, and I’ll cover these in an upcoming full-line road test review, while there are a number of other credible contenders in this class, as noted earlier, but you shouldn’t buy any of the Sonata’s competitors without spending time behind its wheel, especially if performance is high on your list of new car attributes.
Now that the upstart Genesis brand is finding its footing in the luxury sector, having initially taken two of Hyundai’s most premium models (the G80 and G90) with it before adding one of its own (the…
Now that the upstart Genesis brand is finding its footing in the luxury sector, having initially taken two of Hyundai’s most premium models (the G80 and G90) with it before adding one of its own (the new G70), the namesake South Korean giant is in the midst of a rebranding exercise that not only needs to differentiate itself from Genesis, but also keep it separate from Kia, which is arguably fighting over the same mainstream volume customer base.
I think they’ve done an excellent job so far. Just compare the two brands’ mid-size SUV entries, the third-generation Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia’s current Sorento. They don’t look at all alike from the exterior styling to the interior design and execution, but the two companies benefit from a lot of development and component cost sharing that no doubt boosts the bottom line.
Of note, that third-generation Santa Fe is now history, replaced by this much more dramatically penned fourth-generation model for 2019, complete with the new design language I mentioned at the beginning of this review. Its grille is large, deep and certainly distinctive, and its innovative use of frontal lighting, featuring narrow strips of LEDs up top and tightly grouped clusters of secondary driving lights down below, is starting to permeate the brand, showing up on the new Kona at the lower end, as well as the even newer Palisade at the upper end.
Speaking of sizes, not everyone seems to agree on where the Santa Fe fits into the SUV scheme of things. It started life as more of a compact utility than anything truly mid-size, but like so many other vehicles it’s grown over the generations to the point that now it leans more toward mid-size than compact. Despite coming close to matching the length, width and height of five-passenger mainstays like the Ford Edge, some industry insiders still clump it into the compact SUV segment and therefore muddle the marketplace, so I’m here setting the record straight.
To be specific, at 4,770 millimetres (187.8 inches) long and 1,890 mm (74.4 in) wide the 2019 Santa Fe we’re testing here is a considerable 246 mm (9.7 in) longer than the current Ford Escape compact SUV yet only a fractional 9 mm (0.3 in) shorter than the Edge, while it’s 52 mm (2.0 in) wider than the former and only 38 mm (1.5 in) narrower than the latter. To be fair, the new Santa Fe is actually a full 70 mm (2.7 in) longer and 10 mm (0.4 in) wider than the outgoing model, this improving interior roominess. So while I’ve long considered the Santa Fe a mid-size crossover SUV, now we can all safely categorize it as such.
As for the three-row Santa Fe XL, it currently remains available with last year’s design and a 2019 model year designation, but as you’ve probably already guessed it’s currently being replaced by the much more appealing (to me at least) 2020 Palisade noted a moment ago, which just happens to be in my garage this week. Between the smallest (so far) Kona/Kona EV and this Santa Fe is Hyundai’s Tucson, a model that’s still nice but starting to look a bit dated (expect an update next year for the 2021 model year), while an entirely new city car-sized crossover SUV dubbed Venue will slot in under the Kona for the 2020 model year, arriving this fall.
Lastly, I recently spent a week with the new 2019 Nexo (review forthcoming), a crossover SUV that’s only slightly smaller than the Santa Fe (albeit with a longer wheelbase), and unlike its spiritual predecessor the Tucson FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicle) that shared underpinnings with the second-generation Tucson, the Nexo only exists because of Hyundai’s desire to create a dedicated platform to further its hydrogen fuel cell and electric powertrain program. At $73k it won’t find many buyers, a problem made worse by a lack of hydrogen refueling stations (only three in Canada, one of which is in Ontario and the other two in BC — one being a Shell station luckily located a few kilometres from my home.
Unlike the future-think Nexo, the near two-decade strong Santa Fe has always been a really strong seller for Hyundai, especially here in Canada. In fact, last year it was once again number one in the mid-size SUV segment with 24,040 units sold, well ahead of the second-place Ford Edge that only managed to pull in 19,156 new buyers in 2018. The Santa Fe has actually held first place in this category for more than a decade, an impressive feat considering how fierce the competition is.
One thing you may notice missing from this redesigned 2019 Santa Fe is a “Sport” model designation. The outgoing two-row SUV was named Santa Fe Sport in order to differentiate it from the larger three-row Santa Fe XL, but the brand’s product planners (et al) skipped the Sport nameplate when introducing the ironically sportier 2019 Santa Fe, because at the time they knew what we didn’t, the much grander three-row Palisade was on the way.
I’m not going to go into much detail about the new Santa Fe’s exterior styling, only to say this fourth-gen model had a tough act to follow, and to add that I like the new design. As for the Santa Fe’s interior styling, quality, fit, finish, etcetera, I’m pretty sure it will impress you. It’s one of the most luxurious crossover SUVs in its class, with more soft-touch surfaces than the majority of rivals, the entire middle portion of the dash-top comprised of a stitched and padded composite material that looks like rich leather, this followed up with a similar surfacing on the sides of the lower console, the door panel armrests, and the door inserts.
The door uppers get a nice high-quality pliable treatment front and back too, with the Santa Fe’s only hard plastic being the most forward portion of the dash top, including the instrument shroud below the otherwise soft-touch hood, plus a small portion of each upper door panel, the entire lower section, and the lower half of the instrument panel. These areas don’t get touched a lot anyway, which is why most mainstream automakers follow suit, and being how nice Hyundai finished off the meshed metal-look inlays that wrap around the upper edge of the instrument panel into the doors front to back, plus the lovely variation on that metallic theme lower down on each door panel, which are actually speaker grills for the upgraded Infinity audio system, it’s okay that they didn’t go all the way with the soft-touch composites.
Along with that high-grade metal there’s a lot of nice satin-finish metallic detailing throughout the rest of the cabin too. Hyundai encircled the gauge cluster in metal brightwork, plus tastefully applied it to the steering wheel’s lower spoke switchgear, the tablet-style infotainment touchscreen, the dash vents, the dual-zone automatic climate control interface, the gear selector, the door pulls, the beautifully finished power window switches and side mirror controller, plus more.
While all this impresses, the first thing I noticed when entering my top-line Santa Fe was its luxurious and totally unique headliner. It’s similar to denim, although not blue jeans, but rather a light beige khaki-coloured material with slightly browner flecks within. It looks rich, plus it wraps all the way down each roof pillar front to back, which is unheard of in this class, while it also opens up overhead thanks to a wonderfully large panoramic sunroof. It’s power-actuated by a double-purpose slider button that opens the sunscreen (made from the same beige denim material) with a light tap, and the glass itself after a slightly harder pull rearward. The overhead console surrounding the powered sunroof button also integrates switchgear for four LED reading lamps, plus it houses one of the softest padded sunglass holders I’ve ever felt.
Of note, the redesigned 2019 Santa Fe includes some new trim lines, starting with the base Essential, which can be upgraded to Preferred, Preferred Turbo, Luxury, and finally this as-tested Ultimate trim. Before I get into the details of each, let me once again praise Hyundai for saying goodbye to the “Limited” trim designation, not only because it’s way overused, but also because no one ever limits the sale of anything that wears a Limited trim badge. I’m also personally grateful they didn’t swap it out for “Platinum” instead, as that precious metal is becoming ubiquitous too.
I like the name Essential for a base model, especially one that includes standard heatable front seats plus a standard heated steering wheel, not to mention a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a backup camera with active guidelines, dual USB charge ports, Bluetooth, auto on/off projector headlights with LED accents, fog lamps, 17-inch alloys, chrome and body-colour exterior detailing, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, two-way powered driver’s lumbar support, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks with recline, an electromechanical parking brake with auto hold, Drive Mode Select with Comfort, Smart, and Sport modes, and much more for just $28,999 plus freight and fees (make sure to go to CarCostCanada for all the pricing details, plus rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands).
Pay just $30,199 and you’ll get Hyundai’s suite of SmartSense advanced driver assistive systems including auto high beam assist, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, forward collision alert and mitigation with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, and Driver Attention Warning.
Adding all-wheel drive will set you back another $2,000 in Essential trim, or it comes standard with the $35,099 Preferred model that also makes the just-noted SmartSense package standard, while including even more safety features such as blindspot detection, rear cross-traffic alert with collision avoidance, a rear occupant alert system that remembers if you opened a rear door prior to driving and then reminds you that someone or something may still be in back when exiting, and finally safe exit assist that warns of traffic at your side when opening your door.
Plenty of additional features are included in Preferred trim too, such as 18-inch alloys, turn signals integrated within the side mirror housings, proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear parking sensors, a Homelink garage door opener, dual-zone automatic climate control (with a CleanAir Ionizer, Predictive Logic and auto defog), BlueLink smartphone telematics, satellite radio, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, fore and aft sliding rear seats, plus more. Of note, the Santa Fe’s 2.4-litre base engine is still standard in Preferred trim, but you can now opt for a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine for $2,000 extra.
Heading up to $41,899 Luxury trim adds the turbo engine and AWD as standard equipment, plus dark chrome exterior door handles, door scuff plates, LED interior lighting, a 7.0-inch TFT LCD multi-information display within the primary instrument cluster, the aforementioned powered panoramic sunroof, a 360-degree Surround View parking camera, a deluxe cloth roofliner, leather console moulding, memory, four-way powered lumbar support and an extendable lower cushion for the driver’s seat, an eight-way powered front passenger’s seat, perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heatable rear outboard seats, rear side window sunshades, a proximity actuated smart liftgate, and more.
Lastly, my $44,999 Ultimate trimmed tester included most everything from Luxury trim plus 19-inch alloys, satin exterior trim and door handles, LED headlights, LED fog lamps, LED taillights, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up display that projects key info onto the windscreen ahead of the driver, a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation and traffic flow info including incident data via HD radio, plus a 12-speaker 630-watt Infinity audio system with QuantumLogic Surround sound and Clari-Fi music restoration technology, a wireless charging pad, and more.
The two engines just mentioned are carryover, although both receive new variable valve timing for quicker response and better fuel economy. The base 2.4-litre four-cylinder continues to make 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, while the top-line turbo 2.0-litre four increases power to 235 and torque to 260 lb-ft. Santa Fe fans will immediately notice that the upgraded engine is down 5 horsepower, but I can promise you it’s not at all noticeable. In fact, the new Santa Fe feels quicker than the outgoing one thanks to a much more advanced eight-speed automatic replacing the old six-speed unit, the new one also receiving standard auto start/stop that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling in order to reduce emissions and save fuel.
Fuel economy is therefore improved over the outgoing model, with the 2.4 FWD base model now rated at 10.8 L/100km in the city, 8.0 on the highway and 9.6 combined compared to the old model’s respective 11.1 city, 8.6 highway and 10.0 combined; the same engine with AWD now capable of a claimed 11.2 city, 8.7 highway and 10.1 combined compared to 12.0, 9.1 and 10.7 respectively with last year’s Santa Fe 2.4 AWD; and finally 12.3 city, 9.8 highway and 11.2 combined for the 2.0-litre turbo instead of 12.5, 9.6 and 11.2 when compared to the same engine in the previous generation. Yes, a bit surprising the new eight-speed auto and auto start/stop system resulted in zero combined fuel economy improvement with the turbo, but when factoring in that most mileage is done in the city then it’s a positive.
The Santa Fe’s HTRAC All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system sends most of the powertrain’s torque to the front wheels in order to save fuel unless slippery conditions require additional traction at back, but choosing one of the available driving modes intelligently apportions motive power where it can most effectively improve efficiency or performance, based on need. For instance, Comfort mode splits front/rear torque approximately 70/30 for all-weather stability, while Eco mode pulls more to the front wheels, Sport mode pushes up to 50 percent to the rear wheels, and Smart mode varies all of the above as needed.
Just like the outgoing third-generation Santa Fe, the new model incorporates a fully independent suspension with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link setup at the rear, plus a stabilizer bar at each end for improved handling. The steering is motor-driven powered rack and pinion, and felt even more responsive than the setup in its regular-wheelbase Sport predecessor, while the suspension setup impressed even more. In fact, I’m not sure how Hyundai made its ride so compliant and easy on the backside, yet didn’t these seemingly soft underpinnings didn’t impact the Santa Fe’s handling one iota. The new Santa Fe manages corners better than the previous one, my tester’s upgraded 19-inch alloys and lower-profile 235/55 all-season tires no doubt assisting in this respect, but then again this should negatively affect ride quality and it certainly didn’t.
As mentioned earlier, the revised turbocharged engine makes a bit less power than the outgoing one, but it certainly doesn’t feel any less energetic off the line. The eight-speed automatic is ultra-smooth and quite quick through the cogs as well, while the Santa Fe’s Drive Mode Integrated Control System can be set up for Sport mode that lets revs go higher between shifts, provides snappier engagement, improves throttle response, stiffens the steering, and as noted earlier apportions up to 50 percent of the AWD system’s torque to the rear, although I mostly left it in Smart mode as it combines the fuel savings of Eco mode, the smoother drivability of Comfort mode, and the driver engagement of Sport mode, depending on the way the it’s being driven.
Of course, family vehicles always compromise performance for comfort, which is as it should be because that’s what most buyers in this category want. The 10-way powered driver’s seat was wonderfully comfortable all week, its powered lumbar adjustment finding the small of my back easily thanks to its optimal four-way design. Forced air can blow through the perforations in the upholstery to keep things cool in summer, a relieving feature, and there’s plenty of space up front to move around in. It’s roomy behind too, made even better by seat recliners that go way back, and the second row’s fore and aft sliding feature that provides more space for luggage when necessary.
The five-seat Santa Fe’s interior volume measures 4,151 litres (146.6 cubic feet), while its maximum cargo capacity is 1,016 litres (35.9 cubic feet) behind the second row and 2,019 litres (71.3 cubic feet) with its 60/40-split rear seatbacks lowered, a process that is made easier via powered release buttons on the cargo wall. Being a skier I would have appreciated 40/20/40 spit-folding rear seatbacks or a centre pass-through, especially considering how much nicer trips to the mountain would be for those in back if they could take advantage of the outboard seat heaters, so maybe Hyundai could consider this for a mid-cycle update in a couple of years.
Just the same, the new 2019 Santa Fe is easily one of the better five-occupant crossover SUVs available, and should be considered if you’re in the market.