Hyundai waited six years to overhaul its best-selling Santa Fe crossover, giving it a bevy of new features with only a slight increase of $550 in the base trim’s price.

There are enough updates/features in this fourth-generation model to already acquire best-of auto industry awards from New England to Texas to California, helped by strong, cutting-edge safety driver aids.

Other changes for 2019 include increased cabin and storage space, a redesigned and much bolder looking exterior and additional convenience technologies.

We traveled more than 1,400 miles in our Ultimate 2.0T all-wheel test drive – top trim above base SE, SEL, SEL Plus and Limited. The Sport designation has been dropped. There is also an XL three-row trim.

Our ride was comfortable with the revised suspension system reducing lean-in turns, and handling was pleasingly responsive in comfort, sport or SmartSense drive mode. However, the stop/start feature often hesitated when seeking quick acceleration. Off-road Santa Fe can hold its own on gravelly and muddy roads and rolling pasture.

An impressive upgrade was the 8.5-inch heads-up display (HUD), a valuable safety aid on Interstates dealing with speeding vehicles and lumbering tractor-trailers.

Using technology similar to airplanes use, HUD showed speed, speed cruise settings, navigation cues, blind-spot warnings, collision avoidance/assist, speed limit, lane departures and audio data – all projected 7 feet beyond the windshield.

Its only drawback was poor visual recognition wearing sunglasses. Its virtue was keeping your eyes frontward on the road. It's among the best of today’s heads-up-displays.

Other unique features were a Safe Exit Assist that blocks opening a door when oncoming traffic is detected, and a rear occupant alert detecting rear seat movement if a child or pet is left in the car, sending a message to your smartphone. A foot swipe opens the trunk door to an ample cargo area. A segmented cargo tray and spare tire reside beneath the floor mat.

Outside, thinner headlights, a rising beltline and larger windows, tastefully placed chrome trim and redesigned front fascia all help create a more striking, predatory stance.

Inside, the well-designed, family oriented, ergonomic cabin included USB ports front and back with leather seats heated, cowled gauges legible in bright sunshine, rich touch-screen data and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay that compensate for an eliminated CD player.

Equipped with Hyundai’s SmartSense suite of safety features, Santa Fe is expected to receive top safety scores. Visors extend.

LIKE: Mileage, versatility, visibility, spacious cabin/cargo area, heads-up-display, good voice recognition.

DISLIKE: No CD player, start/stop delay.

BOTTOM LINE: Ups the driver safety ante in hotly the fiercely competitive mid-size SUV market.

FACT FILE

HYUNDAI 2019 SANTA FE ULTIMATE 2.0T AWD

Base price w/destination fee: $38,925 ($39,905 as tested)

Curb weight: 4,085 lbs.

Wheelbase: 108.9 inches

Length: 187.8 inches

Width: 74.4 inches

Engine specs: 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder turbo

Horsepower: 235-hp @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 260-lbs.-ft. @ 1,450- 3,500 rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/Shiftronic

EPA rating: 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy

Range: 18.8-gallons, regular gas

Performance: 0-60 in roughly 7.5 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.