There are few crossovers that come close to being the perfect blend of car and sport-utility, yet are comfortable and affordable too – but Hyundai’s Santa Fe Sport is pretty darned close.
Hyundai remodeled its popular Santa Fe crossover lineup a couple years back and essentially split it into two models, the larger and heavier Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Sport, which is smaller and sportier. The latter, my friends, is the way to go.
My frost pearl white Sport looks and feels luxurious and is loaded with a ton of goodies, thanks to the Ultimate Package. But at its core it’s a high performing mid-size crossover for the family of four, or five. It handles well, rides well and has enough power to make it borderline fun.
The test unit was the Sport AWD 2.0T, the upper end Santa Fe Sport with a turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 and all-wheel-drive. It lists at $33,000, plus an $875 delivery fee. This one added the appropriately named Ultimate Package for $4,350, pushing it to $38,350. That’s getting up there, but as you might suspect, there is a base model starting at $25,845 including delivery. It touts a 190-horse 2.4-liter I4 and comes with front-wheel drive.
You can move up to an AWD model for $27,575, or get a front-drive version with the turbo for $31,250. Plenty of choices.
Value is high in the test unit. Here’s what you get.
The I4 comes with direct injection and a turbocharger to give you more power when you need it, but allow the four-cylinder to run more efficiently when you’re just running errands. That means you get 264 horsepower tromping the gas pedal when entering a highway, but more modest power around town.
The result is decent fuel economy. This model is rated 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway and I got 19.5 mpg in about a 50/50 split, yet 26 mpg in a straight highway run. There is an Eco mode button on the dash to help increase that mileage, and I used it fairly regularly around town. It slows your acceleration some. The base 2.4-liter I4 is rated 21 mpg city and 29 highway in front-drive configuration.
Unlike my first test in the Sport two years ago the turbo was more responsive and the power smooth and well handled by the 6-speed automatic transmission. This is a Shiftronic unit, which allows you to shift manually too, but you’ll likely find that unnecessary about 95% of the time. Shifts were smooth.
Ride also seemed better in this 2015 model. The Sport rides on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, about the perfect dimension to ensure a smooth ride and good handling. There are MacPherson struts in the front suspension and a multi-link system in back. Both have gas-filled shocks and stabilizer bars. The Santa Fe handled our area’s rough roads with authority, no chop or jarring to passengers.
Handling is on the sporty side with the crossover offering three driving modes that affect the steering effort. There’s Comfort, Normal and Sport, with only the Sport being particularly heavy. Both other modes are easy to control and fairly responsive, Comfort having the lightest touch. Santa Fe corners well too thanks to what Hyundai calls Active Cornering Control that uses torque vectoring and the ABS system to create more stability in corners.
There are stability control and traction control systems too and the AWD gives the Santa Fe better grip in snow and slush. I had more of the later during my drive as some of the side streets still were sloppy with week-old snow that never was plowed away properly.
Santa Fe’s interior is another Hyundai winner, with a well laid out dash, good seating and as mentioned earlier, a load of tech goodies.
The test ute had a two-tone brown over tan dash and door trim along with tan perforated leather seats. Trim around the brown console is matte silver, along with a few other trim bits and this one included fake wood inserts by the air vents on either side of the dash. Those actually looked a bit low-end, but the overall styling here is handsome.
The manual tilt/telescope wheel is wrapped in leather and has a variety of buttons for cruise, phone, radio and trip computer on the hub. There’s also a BlueLink system in the ute, which links up navigation, e-messaging and vehicle information. It’s accessible via a smart phone, the way most folks will use this.
Hyundai’s main gauges are easy to see and read, with blue rings in the center and all dash buttons glow blue at night, which is pleasant and easy on the eyes. All controls are easy to see and reach and push-button start is standard on this model.
Standard tech goodies on the 2.0T include blind spot detection that lights up in the side mirrors, a rear cross-traffic alert that warns if a vehicle or person is behind you, plus you get a rearview camera. Be sure to wipe the lens off though when weather turns sloppy or you won’t see much via the camera. Lane change assist also comes on this model.
Another plus is the proximity key that not only unlocks the vehicle as you approach it, but allows you to stand behind the power liftgate for just a second or two before it automatically powers up. No buttons to push and no waving of your foot under the rear bumper to activate the system as some other brands now offer.
There are other standard features on the 2.0T model, including side roof rails, fog lights, a dual climate control system and heated front seats, power driver’s seat with power lumbar support and a spiffy 40/20/40 split rear seat so you can fold it down in various configurations.
These features would be sufficient for many of us, but I admit the Ultimate Package does kick Santa Fe up a few notches. While pricey, it delivers 19-inch alloy wheels and 19-inch tires, HID headlights and LED taillights, plus a giant panoramic sunroof, 12-speaker Infinity Logic7 stereo with surround sound and an 8-inch touchscreen, which by the way, actually responds to your touch even when the user is wearing gloves. VERY FEW other automotive touchscreens are this responsive.
The package also includes ventilated front seats and heated rear seats, and (my favorite) a heated steering wheel.
Seating is well formed and comfortable in both the front and second row, plus the rear seats will slide about 5 inches forward to create more storage room. Those seats also recline. I like the manual side window sunshades in back too.
All told, the interior is plenty roomy for four or five average sized adults and there’s oodles of storage room behind the rear seat, even before it’s moved. Likewise there is a lot of under-floor storage in back, which can be particularly useful if you are traveling and feel the need to hide some of your luggage.
Bottom line? There’s much to like and little that’s off-putting with the Santa Fe Sport. This one may surprise you when you test drive it.
FAST Stats: 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T
Hits: Good ride, handling and power, plus AWD. Attractive exterior with power hatch. Comfortable interior with moveable second row seats, well laid out dash, heated/cooled front seats, heated second row seats and steering wheel, plus big sunroof. Three driving modes available.
Misses: Becomes pricy with the Ultimate package, but that package really delivers the goodies.
Made in: West Point, Ga.
Engine: 2.0-liter DI 4-cylinder Turbo, 264 hp
Transmission: 6-speed Shiftronic automatic
Weight: 3,706 lbs.
Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Length: 184.6 in.
Cargo: 35.4 cu.ft. (71.5 cu.ft. rear seat down)
MPG: 18/24 (EPA)
MPG: 19.5 mix/26 hwy. (tested)
Base Price: $33,000
Dealer’s Price: $32,162 (includes delivery)
Ultimate package (19-inch alloy wheels, HID headlights, LED taillights, panoramic sunroof, nav system w/8-inch touchscreen, 12-speaker Infinity Logic 7 surround sound system, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, rear parking assist, heated steering wheel, premium door sill plates), $4,350
Carpeted floor mats, $125
Test vehicle: $38,350
Sources: Hyundai, www.kbb.com