Both Cars has its own take on what’s best for everyday driving. Overall, we think the 2019 Forester’s combination of value, interior space, and fuel economy edges it ahead in our ratings.
However, the 2019 Santa Fe has a luxurious interior and a stronger turbo-4 engine, which tips the balance in its favor for some needs.
The 2019 Forester comes in five trim levels, all of which have all-wheel drive and a 2.5-liter flat-4 engine rated at 182 horsepower paired to a continuously variable transmission. The flat-4 provides good acceleration at city speeds but can feel out of breath during highway passing or when climbing long grades.
We feel the same way about the 2019 Santa Fe’s standard 2.4-liter inline-4, which is rated at 185 hp. The optional 235-hp turbo-4 in the Santa Fe delivers better acceleration, but it’s costly and thirsty.
No matter how you spec one out, the Forester is rated at 26 mpg city, 33 highway, 29 combined. The Santa Fe disappoints at just 21/27/23 mpg with all-wheel drive. Turbocharged Santa Fes are thirstier yet at just 19/24/21 mpg with all-wheel drive. True, the Santa Fe is available with front-wheel drive, but even the most miserly is rated at a mere 25 mpg combined.
Both crossovers have a soft, compliant ride. The Forester better isolates rough roads than the Santa Fe, but the difference is only apparent when they’re driven back to back.
We prefer the Santa Fe’s curvaceous styling to the upright, boxy Forester. That said, the Subaru’s tall windows, low window sills, and narrow roof pillars mean it delivers far better outward vision.
The Forester’s interior is thoughtfully arranged, with comfortable front seats covered in either tough cloth or solid leather upholstery. Its rear doors open especially wide for terrific access – an asset for parents with children in car seats, for instance.
And the Forester’s cargo area holds as much as 76 cubic feet of luggage with the rear seats folded.
Passengers will find a more imaginative design with unique materials and surface graining in the Santa Fe, but it’s not as spacious. Maximum cargo capacity stands at just 70 cubic feet and the Hyundai’s door and tailgate openings are not as wide as those on the Subaru.
The Santa Fe starts at about $26,500, which and for that price it includes active safety tech such as automatic emergency braking, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts. The Forester costs $25,400 to start. It trades the Hyundai’s blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts for all-wheel drive.
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