Some crossovers have two rows and room for five; others have three rows and room for seven or more.
The Hyundai Santa Fe goes both ways: regular or XL. It's also available with three different engines, and all of them can be paired with all-wheel drive (AWD) — not just the more expensive ones.
What It Is
The Santa Fe is Hyundai's compact and medium-sized crossover SUV. The regular SF comes with two rows of seats and room for five. Or, you can buy the three-row Santa Fe XL.
Prices start at $25,750 for the two-row SF with front-wheel drive (FWD) and run as high as $41,400 for a three-row XL with AWD Ultimate.
There's a name change, for openers.
Last year's two-row SF was the SF Sport, while the three-row version was just the 2018 Santa Fe (no XL). This year, the two-row SF is just the SF, and the three-row became the SF XL.
There's also been some price shuffling. The two-row SF is slightly more expensive this year, while the three-row SF XL is slightly less expensive than last year.
This has to do with the two-row SF receiving a number of upgrades, including a new eight-speed automatic transmission (standard for both of its engines); revised suspension tuning; exterior/interior styling tweaks; and some new, but also standard, tech features, such as lane-keep assist and smart cruise control with stop and go.
The three-row SF XL gets discounted a bit, as it's pretty much the same as it was last year.
Pick your size — and your engines.
No upselling you an engine (or trim) to get AWD.
Price cut for the XL.
What's Not So Good
The two-row SF's optional 2.0-liter turbo engine isn't as powerful as it was last year.
It's about a $5,000 jump from the base-trim two-row SF to the base-trim three-row SF XL.
Under the Hood
Standard equipment in the five-passenger SF is a 2.4-liter, 185-horsepower, four-cylinder paired with FWD and an eight-speed automatic. The new transmission features tighter gear spacing and deeper overdrive gearing than last year's six-speed transmission.
The result is better performance and higher mileage.
You have the option to add AWD without having to upgrade to the optional 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, which has 235 horsepower this year — down from 240 horsepower last year. But it's still among the most powerful available engines in the segment.
The three-row XL comes standard with a 290-horsepower, 3.3-liter V-6 engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and your choice of FWD (standard) or AWD (optional). This version of the SF can pull up to 5,000 pounds.
On the Road
None of the SF's engines are underpowered, which is why AWD is available with any of them.
In some crossovers, you have to buy the optional engine to get AWD. This is because the standard engine doesn't produce enough power to comfortably handle the added weight of AWD.
Being able to pick two or three rows also means being able to pick smaller or larger.
If you don't need the extra seating, the regular SF offers a tighter turning circle and is an easier fit in tight parking spots.
At the Curb
Hyundai has tweaked the look of the two-row SF with a new, larger grill and new (smaller but brighter) projector LED headlights. Inside, the tablet-style display for the GPS and audio/infotainment system has been canted toward the driver, reducing glare and improving visibility.
The seven-passenger SF has 41.3 inches of first-row legroom and 40.4 inches of second-row legroom. The two-row SF is also pretty roomy inside — a bit more so for 2019. It now has the 44.1 inches of first-row legroom and 40.9 inches of legroom in its second row.
You can get a number of luxury amenities, such as a heated steering wheel, in any trim. A jet fighter-style heads-up display (HUD) is optional.
An all-new SF that will offer seating for up to eight is on deck for 2020, so if you need even more room, you might want to wait a few months.
On the other hand, because a new SF is almost here, you should be able to negotiate a very good deal on a new 2019 — especially as the year rolls along.
Regardless of year — or rows — Hyundai still offers unsurpassed warranty coverage, including 10 years or 100,000 miles on the engine, transmission and major drivetrain parts.
The Bottom Line
Whether you need room for five or seven, the Santa Fe's got you covered under the same label.
Eric's new book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.