Hyundai Santa Fe Sport — Popular crossover refreshed

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Hyundai's popular Santa Fe Sport SUV got a complete makeover in 2013 lifting it into the top tier of the crossover ranks in styling, performance, interior comfort and usability. Now, four years later, the Santa Fe has been refreshed in several areas keeping it relevant in the exploding segment.

The Santa Fe now comes in two sizes differentiated as the Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Sport. The bigger Santa Fe is about eight-inches longer and fits into the upper reaches of the mid-size segment with three rows of seating. The more popular five-passenger Sport version, which we think offers a tidier and nicer looking — albeit smaller package — is the subject of this review. If you are interested in the increased space the Santa Fe offers, be advised that it, too, has received upgrades for the 2017 model year.

Inside the Sport you’ll find yourself housed in elegant, classy surroundings, and the leather seating surfaces found in our test vehicle rival those of European luxury vehicles. The seats hold their occupants firmly and comfortably. Rear seats are comfortable and adjustable easing long drives.  Material quality is above its pay grade and the instrument cluster and bright panel lighting are among the more driver-friendly displays in the industry.

There’s plenty of front-seat storage space with a large center console, intuitive HVAC center stack, and a choice of audio systems. And we are happy to report that the touchscreen functions are augmented by traditional knobs and switches. Both seven and eight-inch touchscreens are available for 2017 with the larger carrying navigation. Note that Android Auto is now available, but Hyundai has yet to add Apple CarPlay.

And full disclosure about the navigation software — we programmed it to go to an address in a small city and it took us to street which turned out to be about a mile from our intended destination.

Under the hood, Hyundai has retained its two-engine strategy with the base engine a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that produces 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. It should satisfy the owner who carries a minimum number of passengers and light loads. What we recommend is the turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder making 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It's by no means a performance juggernaut, but it gets the job done in a satisfying manner measured at 7.6 seconds from 0-to-60 and 15.9 seconds at 89 mph in the quarter mile.

Gas mileage for both engines is below the current segment average, measured at 21 mpg city, 27 highway and 24 combined for the front-drive 2.4-liter. Add AWD and mileage suffers slightly to 20/26/22. The turbocharged engine produces nearly the same mileage, EPA estimated at 20/28/23 in front-wheel drive and 19/24/21 with AWD. Regular grade gas is recommended for both engines.

We drove the 2.0-liter turbo and found that it defied the so-so numbers feeling especially quick off the line. And it handled passing and merging chores in an expeditious manner. All Santa Fe Sport models have a Driver Selectable Steering Mode with three settings: comfort, normal and sport. We couldn't detect much difference in steering feel, especially between norm
al and sport, with decent, but not exactly precise road feel in either setting. The Sport handles the corners as well as most crossovers with no tippy feeling, and the ride is smooth.

Extremely important to us is that all Santa Fe's now come with a standard rearview camera. Blind spot warning with cross-traffic alert is standard on the turbocharged models, optional on the base model. Most of the newest safety features available are optional including forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control with pedestrian detection.

The Santa Fe Sport comes in three trim levels — base, 2.0T and 2.0T Ultimate. All models come with such standard equipment as 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, six-speaker sound system with CD player and satellite radio, full power accessories, and such safety features as backup camera, traction and stability control, side curtain airbags, and an emergency system that provides such services a
s remote access, theft recovery and geo-fencing.

The base model starts at $26,245 including destination charge. The 2.0T begins at $32,595 and the Ultimate at $37,395. All-wheel drive can be added to any trim level for $1,750. Our 2.0T Ultimate AWD carried a bottom line of $40,820 with the optional Ultimate Tech Package that includes adaptive cruise, automatic emergency braking and dynamic bending light.

A footnote: In order to meet increased market demand in 2017, production of the two-row Santa Fe Sport model will be added to the Montgomery, Ala., manufacturing facility, alongside the Sonata and Elantra sedan models.

Base price: $26,245; as driven, $40,820
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 240 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 260 pound-feet @ 1,450 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 185.0 inches
Curb weight: 4,107 pounds
Turning circle: 35.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 35.4 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 71.5 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
Fuel capacity: 17.4 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 19 city, 24 highway, 21 combined
0-60: 7.6 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5

The Good
• Stylish feature-laden interior
• Generous rear-passenger space
• Energetic turbocharged engine

The Bad
• Apple CarPlay unavailable

The Ugly
• Gas mileage below average