Let me cut through the confusion here: There are two Hyundai Santa Fes. Let me explain.
A year-and-a-half ago, Lavender reviewed the bigger, three-row version of the Santa Fe. Now, we received the smaller, two-row Sport model just as Hyundai announced its plans to create a three-crossover strategy, including the new 2016 Tucson coming this summer.
The differences between the two Santa Fes go beyond how many rows of seats are available. The three-row version is powered only by V6 engines, while the two-row Sport are only powered with four-cylinder engines.
Does it make any difference which Santa Fe to get? And, which one would fit our lifestyle better?
Though the bigger Santa Fe is more purposeful and handsome, the Sport is a better looking vehicle. It simply looks sporty. Size-wise, it fits being a two-row active crossover. The rear end has a rakish slope to it, befitting its purpose. Throughout the exterior, there is a tightness to the Sport — gym-toned and ready for action anywhere.
This image is enhanced by the tasteful amount of chrome found on this AWD 2.0T Ultimate package model. Though sporty, the chromed grille, door handles, and accents bring out an upmarket style to this sporty go-anywhere machine. Brighter 19-inch wheels complement this white vehicle, again feeding into the upmarket style outside.
The upmarket feel continues inside. A beige/brown two-tone is accented by satin-chrome and blonde wood finishes. Perforated leather invites us to enjoy the Ultimate package and its luxurious cabin, something that reminds us of the current Genesis sedan. Familiar Hyundai switches, instrument gauges, TFT information screen, and the touchscreen on the center stack invite the Santa Fe Sport owner to truly relax and enjoy this ride.
The seats are on the firm side and lack deep bolstering. However, they are fine for running around town and beyond. Power adjustments are available for lumbar, recline, rake, and height to provide better comfort for most drivers. Rear seat room is also adjustable for rake and recline. I found that if you push the seats back, you can get five adults to ride along in the Santa Fe Sport. Cargo room is expansive; yet tall, square boxes would have to work with the slope of the roof at the rear. For basic luggage carrying, it is quite accommodating.
BlueLink anchors an infotainment/telematics system that is quite good. A backup camera is available with rear parking assist sensors. Navigation is accurate and Bluetooth pairing is very quick. Infinity offers a Logic 7 surround sound system buoyed by 12 speakers making the Santa Fe Sport into a concert hall.
The finishing touch is the available panoramic roof. Believe me when I say this: it really makes the smaller Sport cabin a lot more airy and light when the shade is pulled back. Again, this feeds into the upmarket feel of the Santa Fe Sport.
As mentioned before, Sport models come strictly with four-cylinder engines. Choosing the 2.0T model offers up a turbocharged 2.0liter engine designed for getting anywhere a bit quicker. With 265 horsepower on tap, the Turbo turns the Sport into a mile-grabbing machine. Add a six-speed automatic transmission and the all-wheel drive system, and it simply is a smooth driving vehicle. There is turbo lag present on occasion — passing maneuvers and on-ramp climbs — but not enough for the Santa Fe Sport to be carved up by a weaker vehicle.
Though the Sport may be smaller in dimensions than its larger three-row brother, it actually rides as nice as the three-row Santa Fe. It is smooth, with some road feedback on rougher surfaces. However, the dampers are excellent in keeping things balanced on any surface. It is a nice riding two-row crossover. Handling reveals a tinge of roll and lean through the corners. On subtler turns, it corners near flat.
Steering is quite good. The trick to keeping the on-center feel perfect is to switch the Driver Selectable Steering Mode button to Sport. Otherwise, the turns are good and response is precise. Brakes are also good, with solid stops in normal and panic situations.
One thing to consider in a crossover is fuel economy. Even with the turbo, I was able to manage 22.8MPG on the average. That is better than the combined figure Hyundai said is Santa Fe Sport 2.0T would get.
The Santa Fe Sport is actually priced well for its class, starting at $24,950 for a front-drive model with the standard 190-horsepower 2.4liter engine. Step up to the turbo, and that price jumps to $31,250. This all-wheel drive Ultimate 2.0T tester came with a sticker price of $38,350.
The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is really a good two-row crossover. It is handy for every situation: the daily commute, road trip out of state, and a night out on the town. Not to mention, the Santa Fe Sport is a stylish machine that fits with our lifestyle quite nicely.
That pretty much answers which Hyundai Santa Fe fits our lifestyle. Most GLBT consumers of crossovers and SUVs are mainly looking for two-rows of seating and expandable cargo space for anything and everything. They also want a mix of ample performance, fuel economy, ease of drive, and something that gets around without too much burden. Taking all of this under consideration, it sound like that we want the Santa Fe Sport.
That was an easy decision.