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When Hyundai launched the Santa Fe back in 2001, it was the first SUV from the Korean brand and competed with the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, and Toyota RAV-4. An important segment for the brand, Hyundai was determined to make its mark once again, and so, when the opportunity to attend the Middle Eastern launch of the all-new Santa Fe 2019 came up in my inbox, I didn’t hesitate at all.
Media colleagues and I travelled to Jordan as we were eager to experience the all-new model. After all, Hyundai does refer to the 2019 Santa Fe as setting a new standard in its class and that we wanted to experience firsthand. The three-day excursion began at the Queen Alila Airport, from which we proceeded to the lowest point in the world and unwound at the Movenpick Dead Sea.
Up and nice the next day, we started with a detailed press conference that walked us through the new Santa Fe and what differentiated it from the previous model. Part of the presentation also focused on how the Santa Fe outperformed competitors in the same class, before seeing us depart on a 12-hour journey from Petra to Aqaba.
The fourth-generation model receives a major upgrade in the looks department and looks more aggressive than ever before. When compared with its predecessor, the changes are noticeable with the LED headlights moved lower down and separated from the LED Daytime Running Lights that sit above them. The prominent grille, which takes up prime location on the anterior, is embellished with a bold chrome strip that dresses the top and stretches below the headlamp clusters. On the other hand, the length of the car has also been increased and can be noticed by the size of its windows and adoption of 19-inch alloy wheels.
Inside the cabin, it’s difficult to ignore just how comfortable the seats are, and all the steps Hyundai has taken to ensure all controls are within easy reach of the driver. Beautifully designed, the cabin has leather accents on the dashboard, door panels, and seats, and the color of it all adds to its prestige. Spacious in terms of headroom and legroom, the Santa Fe offers ample amounts of space for the driver and six passengers, along with numerous cubby holes and cupholders in all rows.
As is the case with all Hyundai models, the new Santa Fe is packed to the brim with technological and safety features. An 8-inch infotainment screen provides navigation, media and connectivity options, with added support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Speaking of screens, there’s also a new high definition 7-inch TFT color display located between the dials in the instrument cluster. To ensure occupants’ phones are always charged, the Santa Fe also provides a wireless inductive charging pad (QI standard) for mobile phones, and of course other technological specifications such as a Head-Up display, dual-zone air conditioning system and electronic braking brakes.
As for safety features, the Santa Fe 2019 comes equipped with the brand’s new SmartSense package, which includes Blind-Spot Alert, Collision Warning, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with pedestrian detection, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Rear Occupant Alert, Safety Exit Assist and Speed Limit Info function. Those technologies are in addition to six airbags that make their way around the cabin. The Santa Fe also adopts a new system called Rear Occupant Alert, which warns drivers that they may be leaving a child unattended in one of the rear seats, and Safety Exit Assist, which is designed to prevent children stepping out of the vehicle into the path of passing traffic.
Middle Eastern versions of the all-new Hyundai Santa Fe will receive a choice of two engines: a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder or a 3.5-liter V6. Certain markets may also benefit from the all-new 2.2-liter turbo engine. The 2.4-liter unit chucks out 172 horsepower through a 6-speed automatic gearbox and can be had with front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive options. The larger 3.5-liter V6 pushes 280 horsepower through a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic to all four wheels. To heighten the experience behind the wheel, the 2019 Santa Fe is fitted with four drive modes (Normal, Eco, Smart, Sport) as well as a locking differential for the rear wheels.
After driving the Santa Fe through some of the toughest roads and terrain in Jordan, I can confidently say that this new SUV is equipped with everything that one would look for and more. The design is beautiful, and in fact, it might even be closer to the prettiest offering in its class, the Mazda CX-5. The onboard technology is impressive and is also some of the first in its segment. The power is plentiful and is always available whenever needed.
Upon interacting with some members from the Hyundai Middle East team, they revealed that the previous generation model struggled to keep up with newer competitors and in turn this reduced the model’s market share to just under 20%. With the new model, they are confident to win back a larger chunk of the market and after experiencing the Santa Fe firsthand, I’m certain they will. Well done, Hyundai!