• Review 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0

Road Trip: Hyundai Santa Fe to Seattle

The Ultimate 10,000 Km Test Drive

Rob Beintema By: Rob Beintema October 29, 2019


    • What’s Good: Capable, comfortable with ample ambiance and amenities.
    • What’s Bad: Be nice if the optional 2.0-litre engine was available in lower trims. At the risk of sounding picky, additional wish list for Ultimate trim would include longer telescopic steering, remote start and 110V AC outlet.


We received a request, the kind of invitation only your kids would put out.

“Come for a visit and, umm, while you’re here, could you look after the dogs while we go to Hawaii?”

There’s another catch. They live in Seattle.

“Road trip?” I mused aloud.

Coincidentally, we were in the process of exchanging our lease-end Elantra for a roomier mid-size sport ute.

Sifting through choices, we settled on a 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe that offered a Goldilocks-like “just-rightness”.

Review 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0

Hyundai’s Santa Fe first debuted at the turn of the millennium and proved a popular choice in a burgeoning SUV/CUV market.

I watched them pull the sheet off of this latest, bigger and better fourth-gen version at the 2018 New York Auto Show and it was proving equally impressive a year later.

A top-of-the-line Ultimate model was on display at the local dealer’s door.

You expect any Hyundai to come with more inclusive content than its competitors but, man, this baby was loaded with all the goodies, standing on handsomely huge 19-inch wheels, well-appointed with twin LED headlamps bracketing a new “cascading grille”.

It was tarted up with tow-tone contrasting cladding, a panoramic sunroof, and shone resplendent in eye-catching Lava Orange, the “go-to” colour in most of the promo pics.

The 2019 Santa Fe lineup ranged from $29,199 to $45,199 and, although top-trim desires seemed expensive, when an almost identical price-reduced demo model with only 15,000 km came available, we snatched it up.

Along with HTRAC all-wheel-drive and corresponding traction techs, our nearly new Ultimate also featured rain-sensing wipers, high-beam assist, a Smart Power liftgate, heated and ventilated powered seats with driver extendable cushion, head-up display, an 8.0-inch.  tablet-style touch-screen display with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with a slew of other driver apps, a wireless cellphone charging pad, a 630-watt 12-speaker Infiniti premium audio system and more than I could possibly list in this story.

Still trying to figure out all the bells and whistles, we set off, heading up to ferry out of Tobermory before starting west across the seemingly endless expanse of Canada.

There’s a kind of public health peace of mind that comes with staying north of the border and, with the overwhelming first impression of the Santa Fe’s “smooth cruising” ride, we soon got into the relaxed rhythm of the cross-Canada trek to come.

Review 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0

The Santa Fe lineup starts with a 2.4-litre GDI Theta II four-cylinder (185 hp, 178 lb/ft) but the Ultimate’s smaller but more powerful 2.0-litre turbocharged GDI Theta II four-cylinder (235 hp, 260 lb/ft), provides more passing punch and a respectable 3,500 lb tow rating.

The motor barely breaks a sweat about town, shifting quickly to keep revs low while the idle start-stop system saves gas at the stoplights. Even a 100 mph return run on empty stretches of 80 mph-mandated Montana-Wyoming freeways only nudges the tach up to 2,500 rpm.

Umm, or so I’ve heard, officer.

A smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic allows for SHIFTRONIC manual control, handy for downshifting into engine-braking on mountain descents.

Adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping combine for an almost autonomous cruising experience, especially across ruler-straight plains highways.

We were comfortable up front on variable-density sculpted seats, ensconced in luxurious appointments within a quiet cabin.

Review 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0

The rear seats seemed just a place to toss jackets until we got to our Seattle and Vancouver destinations where the reclining, sliding and heated second row with sunscreens at the windows and the airiness of panoramic glass above added adjustable ambiance and versatility for family shuttling.

Notable kid-safety techs include the usual child locks along with safe exit assist that prevents doors opening with approaching traffic, and rear occupant alert that sounds a warning should you leave something, or someone precious in the second row.

And behind that second row, 1,016 litres of ample storage room is accessed through a hands-free power tailgate that lifts after sensing the key fob in purse or pocket.

No kung-fu kicking moves required. We opted for a tonneau cover and cargo net, although underfloor storage bins serve perfectly for grocery bags and loose items.

Side wall switches flop the 60/40 rear seats forward for a maximized 2,019 litres of luggage room.

I had an inkling to drive the Santa Fe to Santa Fe but we did manage to cross the prairies, climb the Rockies, stay at bed and breakfasts and a western ranch, drive the west coast and return through the Badlands and Yellowstone before heading back up into Canadian fall colours – a six week road trip.

Review 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0

And after doing the math, combining Canadian totals with the translated gallon and price values of our U.S. return, our 10,633 km trip cost $1,025 (CDN) for 924 litres of fuel, resulting in an 8.7L/100km (comb) fuel econ average based on mixed, but mainly highway driving – better than the Santa Fe Ultimate’s official 12.3/9.8L/100km (city/hwy) rating.

While 2019 versions are still on sale, new 2020 models are arriving with a $200 price bump across the board and only minor content and trim tweaks.

Satisfied customers like us would recommend a road test.

Preferably a long one . . .


2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0 

DRIVE METHOD: Front engine, HTRAC all-wheel-drive
ENGINE: Ultimate 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder (235 hp, 260 lb/ft)
CARGO: 1,016 litres, 2019 litres with second row folded
TOWING CAPACITY: 1,588 kg (3,500 lb)
FUEL ECONOMY: 12.3/9.8L/100km (city/hwy); As tested 10,000 km trip – 8.7L/100km (comb)
PRICE: Ultimate $45,199.
WEBSITE: 2019 Santa Fe Ultimate