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. …

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech Road Test

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
Hyundai gave its innovative Veloster a ground-up redesign for 2019, and this Turbo Tech model is very impressive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
The Veloster looks like a sleek two-door coupe from the driver’s side. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
A rear door on the passenger’s side makes getting into the back ultra-easy. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
The new Veloster Turbo looks plenty sporty. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
A hidden rear door handle gets you into the rear seating compartment. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
Available LED taillights add sophistication to the design. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
A diffuser-style rear bumper integrating dual centre tailpipes sets the Turbo apart. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
The updated Veloster’s interior looks better and adds improved electronics, yet disappoints in materials quality. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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).

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
The Veloster Turbo’s cockpit impresses ergonomically. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
This bright, clear, mostly analogue gauge cluster is enhanced with a TFT multi-info display plus a HUD on top of its cowl. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
The centre stack is well organized and comprised of high quality switchgear. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
This available navigation system provides very accurate route guidance. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
Hyundai offers three Veloster transmissions, with this six-speed manual still the driving purist’s choice. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
The Turbo’s leather-covered sport seats are as comfortable and supportive as they look. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
Rear access is superb for a sport coupe. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
The Veloster provides a nice large opening for a sport coupe, although it’s not so big when comparing compact hatchbacks. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
Cargo capacity is up considerably for 2019, making this the most practical Veloster yet. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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…

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate Road Test

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
Last year’s refresh transformed a rather bland Sonata into this very alluring mid-size four-door. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata’s exterior design is more elegant than sporty, but Ultimate trim’s alloy wheels, blackened trim and rear diffuser give it an edgier look. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata’s big new grille previewed a new look designed to separate Hyundai from its premium Genesis brand. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
LED headlights come standard on Luxury and Ultimate trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
This vertical six-pack of LED fog lamps looks brilliant, especially at night. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The top-line Ultimate’s wheels are only 18s, but nevertheless the car handles better than competitors with larger rims and rubber. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
These sharp looking LED taillights come standard across the Sonata line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata’s interior is starting to look a bit dated, especially when compared to the 2020 model about to replace it, but it’s well made and fully featured. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata’s cockpit is very well laid out, with everything in easy reach. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
A classic dual-dial gauge cluster features a simple yet clear multi-info display at centre. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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). 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
A nicely shaped sport steering wheel and paddles help separate Sport and Ultimate trims from more luxury-oriented Sonata models. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata lays its controls out in a more conventional centre stack than some of its rivals, but it all works well. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The navigation system’s map is very detailed, thanks to a high-resolution touchscreen display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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). 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The backup camera’s image is big and bright, plus includes dynamic guidelines to ease parking. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
Aluminized audio and HVAC controls add a quality look and feel. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
Three-way cooled front seats add to the Sonata Ultimate’s premium experience. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
Its two 12-volt chargers, aux plug and single USB port make the Sonata’s age obvious, but its wireless charging pad is one modern-day advantage we wouldn’t want to live without. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata Ultimate’s 8-speed automatic aids performance and efficiency. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
These are two of the best sport seats in the mid-size sedan class, and they’re comfortable too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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). 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
No one in the back seat with feel claustrophobic thanks to this big panoramic sunroof. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
Rear seat roominess is generous, and comfort good. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
You can’t get rear window sunshades on a Camry, helping set the Sonata apart. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The 2020 Camry will finally offer rear seat warmers, but they’re available in the Sonata now. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata’s trunk is large. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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…

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate Road Test

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The totally redesigned 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe has a sharp looking new face. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The Santa Fe, now undeniably mid-size, has long been the best-selling SUV in its class. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The Santa Fe isn’t quite as distinctive from the rear, but nevertheless attractive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Ideal for city, suburbia, or the open road, the Santa Fe is perfect for average sized Canadian families. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Now there’s very few styling similarities between Hyundai and Genesis, and none to Kia. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Narrow upper headlamps, LEDs in as-tested Ultimate trim, and secondary lighting clusters below have become trademark Hyundai design details. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
These 19-inch alloys are exclusive to the top-line Santa Fe Ultimate. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Hyundai reserves these LED taillights for the Ultimate model too. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The Santa Fe will upgrade your expectations for mid-size SUV refinement. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
There’s no shortage of soft-touch above the waste, and the quality of materials is truly impressive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
A 7-inch TFT LCD multi-information display sits within this colourful primary gauge cluster. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The Santa Fe Ultimate is one of the most feature-rich SUVs in the mainstream market. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The Santa Fe’s touchscreen is one of the fastest reacting systems we’ve ever tested. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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). 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The optional overhead camera, standard in Luxury trim and above, makes parking easy. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Dual-zone auto HVAC, 3-way seat heaters and coolers, a heated steering wheel and more help make the Santa Fe fabulously comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
All Santa Fe trims get a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic with auto start/stop to save fuel. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
These are comfortable front seats, the driver’s aided by 4-way powered lumbar support. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The panoramic sunroof is massive, features a powered sunscreen and powers open. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Rear seating space is very generous, plus the seats slide forward, rearward, and recline nicely. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
There’s plenty of room for cargo, but I would have preferred some type of centre pass-through. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The load floor is nice and flat with all seats folded. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Storage space below the load floor comes in handy. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The new 2019 Santa Fe is once again one of the best offerings in the mid-size SUV class. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
It’s difficult not to recommend this SUV. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

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.

With the Genesis Coupe now long gone, and Genesis itself becoming a standalone luxury brand, this completely redesigned 2019 Veloster becomes the only dedicated sports model in Hyundai’s lineup.  That’s…

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
Hyundai fully redesigned its Veloster for 2019, and we’ve got a top-line Turbo Tech in our garage. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

With the Genesis Coupe now long gone, and Genesis itself becoming a standalone luxury brand, this completely redesigned 2019 Veloster becomes the only dedicated sports model in Hyundai’s lineup. 

That’s a pretty heavy weight for this little front-drive compact to carry, but it continues to walk with a swagger of confidence thanks to truly unique styling that preserves the original model’s unorthodox hatchback shape and its most identifiable feature, the long driver’s door that makes it look like a regular sports coupe from one side, and the extra rear passenger’s side door that allows easier access to the back seats. 

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
With one door on the driver’s side and two for passengers, the Veloster continues to strike a unique profile. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Yet there’s no way you’ll mistake the Veloster for a compact sedan or even a regular hatchback when one whizzes by, its third door sneakily hiding its handle in the rearmost section of the side glass surround as if doubling as a tiny quarter window, while the car’s general shape is much longer, lower and leaner, and its rear liftback design much more vertical and dramatically styled than the average compact commuter car. 

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
The Turbo gets some special grille and lower fascia detailing to set it apart from its normally aspirated sibling. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, other than providing plenty of room up front and a fairly accommodating rear passenger compartment the Veloster is anything but the compact class average, yet its much more practical design makes it one of the more pragmatic choices amongst compact sports coupes, albeit this list has been dwindling in recent years and now disparate at best with only the Honda Civic Coupe available in three regular trims plus the sportier Si, plus the rear-wheel drive Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 twins, and finally the soon to be discontinued VW Beetle. Certainly there are other sporty four- and five-door compacts from the legendary VW GTI/Golf R and Subaru WRX/STI to Ford’s Fiesta and Focus ST and RS models, the latter blue ovals already slated for cancellation, while a handful of mainstream volume brands still off larger performance cars, but the days of compact sport coupes seem numbered. 

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
This hidden rear door handle gets passengers into the back seats. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Reason enough for the Veloster to break the rules with its three-door body style (or four-door if you include the hatch), but rest assured its underpinnings are comparatively straightforward. It comes standard with a 2.0-litre base 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, whereas the Veloster Turbo model in our garage this week is 400 cubic centimetres smaller a just 1.6 litres yet puts out a much more energetic 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. It still drives the front wheels through a standard six-speed manual gearbox, but those wanting automation can option up to a quick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. 

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
The Turbo comes very well equipped in standard guise, but our tester also includes a nicely outfitted Tech package. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Our tester includes the manual as we’d prefer if it were staying with us longer than a week, plus it also gets a $3,000 available Turbo Tech package featuring a powered head-up display system with a Sport mode function, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, automatic climate control with an auto defogger, a larger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with integrated navigation, eight-speaker Infinity audio with an external amplifier, leather upholstery, and two-way powered driver seat lumbar support. 

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
The Tech package includes a larger 8-inch touchscreen with navigation. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Another $500 provides an upgrade to the Performance package that adds unique 18-inch alloy wheels on 225/40 Michelin Pilot summer-performance tires, while all of the above was added to a Veloster Turbo that already comes standard with LED headlights, LED side mirror turn signal repeaters, LED taillights, a unique grille and extended side sills, proximity-sensing 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 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. 

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
These sporty leather seats come as part of the Tech package. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, Turbo trim pulls up plenty of features from the base model mentioned earlier, including 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. 

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
The Veloster looks like a sports coupe, but it’s practical like a 4-door hatchback. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Before moving on from trims and features, Hyundai now offers the even more capable Veloster N for 2019, boasting a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder good for a meaty 275 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission featuring downshift rev-matching, an electronically controlled limited slip differential for getting power down to the road, an electronically controlled suspension attached to unique 19-inch alloy wheels on 235/35 Pirelli summer-performance tires for maximizing lateral grip, Normal, Sport, N and Custom drive mode selections, a driver-adjustable active exhaust system, and more. 

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
The Veloster provides a decently sized cargo hold plus the versatility of 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

This $34,999 model gets unique styling details including some red paintwork along its lower extremities and the option of Chalk White, Phantom Black and exclusive Performance Blue (more of a baby blue) exterior colours, plus inside it features blue-stitched N exclusive cloth sport seats and other upgrades. 

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
Come back soon for the full review to find out how well this little Veloster Turbo hauls… (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Base Veloster and Veloster Turbo trims are much more affordable, the former starting at just $20,999 plus freight and fees, and the latter for only $25,899. You can add the conventional automatic to the base model for another $1,300, whereas the more performance-oriented dual-clutch automated gearbox ups the Turbo’s price by $1,500. This meant my almost fully featured test model came to $29,399, just shy of a fully loaded Veloster Turbo Tech DCT’s $30,399 list price. To get full 2019 Veloster pricing details include models, trims and options, not to mention detailed rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, make sure to check out CarCostCanada. 

A standard 2019 Veloster upgrade that deserves the most attention of all is a change from a torsion beam rear suspension design to a new independent multi-link setup, which should theoretically improve comfort as well as high-speed stability over uneven road surfaces. We’ll be sure to cover this and plenty more in our upcoming road test review, but until it gets published make sure to check out our comprehensive photo gallery above…

The Santa Fe is one of the crossover SUV sector’s most popular entries, and it’s entirely new for 2019. We’ve got it in our garage this week, and without saying too much we’re impressed.  First…

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The redesigned Hyundai Santa Fe takes on an entirely new look for 2019, appearing best in top-line 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The Santa Fe is one of the crossover SUV sector’s most popular entries, and it’s entirely new for 2019. We’ve got it in our garage this week, and without saying too much we’re impressed. 

First off, let’s clear up some confusion. The Santa Fe started life as more of a compact SUV than anything truly mid-size, but like so many other vehicles it has grown over the generations to the point that it now leans more towards mid-size than compact. Despite coming close to matching the length, width and height of a five-passenger mainstays like the Ford Edge, some industry insiders still call it compact and therefore muddle the marketplace, so I’m here setting the record straight. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The regular five-occupant Santa Fe is longer than it was before, now unquestionably in the mid-size camp. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

To be even more 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 as such and call it a day. This becomes even clearer when factoring the size of the three-row Santa Fe XL, which I’ll cover in a future review. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The Santa Fe gets some sophisticated exterior detailing that elevates the look to premium levels. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

This being a Garage piece, I won’t go into too much detail about the Santa Fe’s interior quality, fit, finish, styling, etcetera, or my experiences behind the wheel. Anyone who has read my reviews of previous Santa Fe Sport models, the vehicle this model replaces, will know I was a fan, so suffice to say this one is better in every respect. I’ll leave it there for now. 

Like the outgoing model this new one uses the same powertrains, although both receive new variable valve timing for improved response and fuel economy. The base engine remains the well-proven 2.4-litre four-cylinder making 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, while the top-line turbocharged 2.0-litre four increase power to 235 and torque to 260 lb-ft. Astute readers will notice the upgraded engine is down 5 horsepower, and patient readers will come back to find out if that’s noticeable when I cover it in my review. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
LED headlights, LED fog lamps, 19-inch alloys… the Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD has the goods. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

For now, take solace that the outgoing Santa Fe Sport’s six-speed automatic has been replaced by a much more advanced eight-speed auto with standard auto start/stop that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling 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 10.7 L/100km in the city, 8.2 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 that 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 can be seen as a positive. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
This two-tone interior theme adds a rich elegance to the Santa Fe interior. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Like the outgoing Santa Fe, the new one features a fully independent suspension with MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the back, plus stabilizer bars at both ends for improved handling. The steering is motor-driven powered rack and pinion, 

Some other changes worth mentioning here in this Garage story include new trim lines, starting with the base Essential, and then upgraded with Preferred, Preferred Turbo, Luxury, and finally the as-tested Ultimate I’m driving this week. First, kudos to Hyundai for ditching the name “Limited” for a trim line they’d sell as many as they could if consumers would buy them, and more praise for not following the status quo and naming their top-line model “Platinum”. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
It’s got style, but is the quality there? Come back for the full review and we’ll let you know what we think of the new Santa Fe’s interior. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I like the name Essential for a base model, especially one that includes standard heatable front seats and a standard heated steering wheel, not to mention 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a backup camera, dual USB charge ports, Bluetooth, illuminated vanity mirrors, auto on/off projector headlights with LED accents, fog lamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, 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, 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 (go to CarCostCanada for detailed pricing, plus rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Luxury and Ultimate trims include this 7.0-inch TFT LCD multi-information display within the primary instrument cluster. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Ante up $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. 

All-wheel drive costs $2,000 with Essential trim or comes standard with Preferred trim, at which point the SmartSense package is included as well, plus 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 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, for a total of $35,099. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Ultimate trim adds this larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation plus traffic flow and incident data via HD radio. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Additional Preferred features include 18-inch alloy wheels, turn signals added to 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, rear fore and aft sliding seats, and more. The 2.4-litre base engine is still standard in Preferred trim, but the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine is now a $2,000 option. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
As comfortable as they look? Find out in the upcoming review. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Moving up to $41,899 Luxury trim adds the turbo engine and AWD as standard, 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, a 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 seats, rear side window sunshades, a proximity actuated smart liftgate, and more. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The rear seats slide back and forth and recline. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

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, larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment with navigation and traffic flow including incident data via HD radio, 12-speaker 630-watt Infinity audio with QuantumLogic Surround sound and Clari-Fi music restoration technology, a wireless charging pad, and more. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
This longest ever five-passenger Santa Fe makes for the roomiest ever Santa Fe. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The five-seat Santa Fe boasts interior volume of 4,151 litres (146.6 cubic feet) and cargo capacity measuring 1,016 litres (35.9 cubic feet) behind the second row and 2,019 litres (71.3 cubic feet) with the rear seatback laid flat, a process that is made easier via powered release buttons on the cargo wall. 

Being that this Garage review has turned into a comprehensive buyer’s guide, let’s cap it off here for now and leave something for the upcoming review. Make sure you come back soon for the good, bad and ugly experiential commentary…