The automotive world doesn't get much more competitive than the compact crossover class, but even amid impressive rivals, Hyundai's recently redesigned Santa Fe Sport stands out. Scads of interior space and a pair of puissant powertrains distinguish the five-passenger soft-roader (which is also offered as the seven-passenger, midsize Santa Fe), as does a ritzy cabin that wouldn't look out of place in a premium model.
The Santa Fe Sport received its mid-cycle refresh for the new model year. Changes include new front and rear styling, a host of safety and entertainment upgrades, and a new trim level - the 2.0T Ultimate.
These days, most "compact" crossovers belie their segment nomenclature with generous exterior dimensions, and the nearly midsize Santa Fe Sport only advances that trend. Inside, it's especially roomy, with plenty of space for both front and rear occupants along with 35.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. Fold the rear seats down, and there's a generous 71.5 cubes to be had.
The cabin also boasts plenty of high-quality materials in addition to Hyundai's distinctive "pinched" center-stack design, with both elements conspiring to create a contemporary and classy ambience. All Santa Fe Sport models come standard with the automaker's Blue Link telematics service, which offers voice-activated text messaging, point-of-interest web search download, automatic collision notification, remote start, restaurant and gas station search capability, maintenance reminders and more.
Performance and Handling
The Santa Fe Sport can be spec'd with the buyer's choice of two engines, both of which team with a standard six-speed automatic transmission.
The entry-level motor is a 2.4-liter direct-injected four-cylinder that produces a class-competitive 190 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 21/29 city/highway mpg with standard front-wheel-drive and 20/26 mpg with optional all-wheel-drive. Those figures mean the base engine Santa Fe Sport is significantly less efficient than many rival crossovers.
Those looking for more get-up-and-go power can opt for a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which pumps out 264 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. It returns 20/27 mpg with FWD and 19/24 with AWD.
The base engine is rated to tow 2,000lbs. The 2.0T is rated to tow up to 3,500 lbs.
On the handling front, the Santa Fe Sport is the first non-luxury crossover to offer a torque vectoring system. Dubbed Torque Vectoring Corner Control, it's included as part of the AWD system and reduces understeer by braking the inside rear wheel in turns.
The 'ute also offers driver selectable steering system, which offers three operating modes (comfort, normal and sport) with varying degrees of steering resistance.
Overall, the Santa Fe Sport provides composed and responsive -albeit not highly engaging - driving dynamics.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Santa Fe Sport is available in three trim levels--Base, 2.0T and 2.0T Ultimate.
The Base offers standard hill start assist, downhill brake control, remote keyless entry, heated and power-folding side mirrors, automatic projector headlamps with LED accents, a 40/20/40-split-folding rear bench seat, 4 12V outlets (two front, 1 rear, 1 cargo), underfloor cargo storage, power windows with front driver/passenger auto up/down, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and an AM/FM/CD/MP3/USB/Satellite audio system with six speakers and a 5" display.
A Popular Equipment package available exclusively on the Base model adds a 7-inch display with Android Auto compatibility, dual-zone climate control, BlueLink connectivity, a power driver seat with lumbar support, LED DRLs, front fog lights and roof side rails.
The Premium package adds several safety features (blind spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, lane change assist), power side mirrors with integrated turn signals, a hands-free smart liftgate, a proximity key with push button start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, leather seating with heated front seats, a power-adjust front passenger seat, sliding rear seats with cargo area releases, an electroluminescent cluster with LCD information display, an auto-dimming interior mirror, and rear sunshades. This package requires the Popular Equipment package to be selected as well.
A Tech package adds a panoramic sunroof, an 8" touchscreen navigation system, a multi-view camera system, Infinity premium audio, rear parking sensors, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and driver's seat and side mirror memory. This package requires the Premium package (and thus the Popular Equipment package) be equipped as well.
Stepping up from the Base to the 2.0T means not only a powertrain upgrade but several additional standard features that require packages on the Base, including a power eight-way driver's seat and power 4-way passenger seat, sliding second-row seats, a leather wrapped wheel and shift knob, an auto-dimming mirror, and an upgraded audio system with HD Radio and a 7-inch display as well as Android Auto compatibility, among others.
The 2.0T Ultimate incorporates just about all of the options available in Base model packages as standard equipment. The only optional equipment on the Ultimate is an exclusive Tech package which adds smart cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, an electronic parking brake and automatic dynamic bending headlamps with high beam assist.
All Santa Fe Sport models come standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to a driver's knee airbag, stability and traction control systems and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
Advanced safety features, including blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane change assist, including smart cruise control with stop/start, automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, an electronic parking brake with auto-hold and dynamic HID headlamps with high beam assist are available in packages.
Rivals to the Santa Fe Sport and numerous and well-credentialed. The Honda CR-V offers a high level of practicality and numerous standard features; the Ford Escape impresses with efficient EcoBoost engines and available technology features; and the Mazda CX-5 is the sports car of the segment, providing agile and engaging driving dynamics.