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The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe features nine advanced safety features in the Luxury and Ultimate trims.

Joanne Elves/The Globe and Mail

The latest commercial from Hyundai caught my eye. A child starts to open the back door of a 2019 Santa Fe but the sensors detect a passing cyclist and stop the door from opening. That was me, in real life, years ago – but I was the cyclist smashing into the door.

The remodelled Hyundai Santa Fe features nine advanced safety features in the Luxury and Ultimate trims. While some, such as forward collision-avoidance assist and blind-spot monitoring, are readily available in the sector, Hyundai adds pedestrian detection, that “safe-exit assist” that blocks the back door if bikes or autos are sensed, and a feature that parents and pet owners will like – the rear-occupant alert. If you (and the keys) walk away from the vehicle and it senses movement in the back rows anytime over the ensuing 96 hours, the lights flash, horn beeps and your phone will notify you via the BlueLink app.

Driving the Santa Fe is intuitive – buttons, dials and levers are where you want them. Zipping along the busy Trans-Canada Highway and onto the scenic Highwood Pass in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, allowed us a chance to test the sport mode on the hills and most of the safety features.

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“The trend in Canada is to buy SUVs, and the consumers are asking for improved safety,” says Steve Flamand, director, product and corporate strategy at Hyundai Canada.

Other features included improved visibility to the rear, two panes of skylights, and front ventilated/heated seats. The back-seat space was comfortable – even for a leggy adult; the heated seats are an option. The squared styling of the rear cargo space adds a little more cargo volume. A third row will be offered in a larger model to be released next year.

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More visibility through the back windows makes shoulder checks easier.

Joanne Elves/The Globe and Mail

This is the fourth generation of the Santa Fe. Dropping “Sport” from the name might symbolize the change to the more rugged SUV look. The cascading honeycomb grille, the stacked lighting on the front combined with the robust design say it’s not a hockey mom’s SUV. More like it’s a hockey-playing mom’s ride.

In the Luxury and Ultimate trims, the 2.0-litre turbocharged GDI (gasoline direct injection) four-cylinder engine generates 235 hp at 6,000 rpm. That provided more kick than expected, a pleasant surprise.

It will take a keen eye to notice the size difference, but the Santa Fe has been stretched and widened to handle the road better. Even a few millimetres makes a difference, Flamand says. “The wheelbase has increased five mm, and its 70 mm longer. That is enough to plant it on the road better offering better handling capabilities.”

If I have to complain about something, the sound system linking to my phone lost some punch and maybe the fuel consumption is not as stellar as hoped.

Overall, the Santa Fe’s new design, spacious interior and advanced technology improve the overall driving experience.

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The updated design features a cascading honeycomb grille and stacked lighting on the front.

Joanne Elves/The Globe and Mail

Tech Specs

Base price/as tested: $28,999/$44,999

Engine: 2.0-litre turbo GDI four-cylinder with idle start-stop

Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic/front-wheel (all-wheel is available)

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): Essential: 11.2 city, 8.7 Hwy; preferred: Ultimate and Luxury: 12.3 city/9.8 hwy

Alternatives: Ford Edge, Nissan Murano, Subaru Outback, Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Blazer

Looks

The 2019 Santa Fe will make a statement on the road. It has matured in this model to a more rugged, wider, longer stance. Head-on view presents a larger honeycomb grille surrounded by eye-catching twin headlamps. The paint palette expands to nine coats starting with a wispy Quartz White through the non-committal beiges to standout colours of “Scarlet Red, Stormy Sea, Lava Orange” and “Twilight Black.”

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The front seats offer extendable seat cushions and 10 different positions.

Bill Petro/Hyundai

Interior

My first impression was how much more visibility through the back windows the new Santa Fe has – way better for making those shoulder checks. The comfortable front seats offering electric extendable seat cushions and 10 different positions. The choices for interior fabrics are black, gray and beige but there are options to bling that up with two-tones and interesting accents. The dash is clean and easy to read, and the infotainment screens are coated to reduce glare. The backseat crowd will love the improved leg space and the pull-up shades.

Performance

The new eight-speed automatic turbocharged GDI is peppy and smooth using the 235-hp to glide to cruising speed quickly. With the in-house created HTRAC all-wheel drive system, the Santa Fe cornered crisply and charged aggressively on the hills. The added sound-absorbing material under the dash, the hood and the fenders made for a quiet ride.

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If you walk away from the car and it senses movement in the back rows, the vehicle will send you an alert to your phone through the BlueLink app.

Bill Petro/Hyundai

Technology

The nine features on the safety-technology team cost extra on the Essential trim. Cyclists and moms of overly anxious children will appreciate the safety assist. The surround-view monitor is great for those who fear parallel parking. Head-up display is offered on the Ultimate, as is the wireless charging pad. Under the hood without you even knowing, 50 vehicle-input signals are calculated 100 times per second to improve your ride.

Cargo

Not only did the back seat gain leg room, by making the back a bit boxier the Santa Fe added volume to the back.

The Verdict: 8.0

This SUV is fun to drive and comfortable even after many hours winding through the mountains. The safety features won me over and are features many parents will be considering when they let the teens take the keys.

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval,

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