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2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T Review By Carey Russ

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2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T


Review of 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T

When the third generation of Hyundai's popular medium-sized Santa Fe crossover arrived for model year 2013, it was more than a bit different from its forebears. Hyundai solved the common question of "how big should it be?" very simply -- by splitting the Santa Fe line in two. The five-passenger vehicle of the same size as previously became the Santa Fe Sport, while the plain Santa Fe name was used for the extended-wheelbase, three-row version. Which, depending on interior configuration, can seat six or seven.

Which means that the Santa Fe Sport slots where the Santa Fe always has been in the Hyundai lineup, and the Santa Fe proper replaces the larger, and late, Vera Cruz, as it is nearly identical in all dimensions.

All Santa Fe Sports get a four-cylinder engine, either the entry-level 190-horsepower 2.4-liter or optional namesake 264-hp 2.0-liter turbo of the 2.0T. The long-wheelbase Santa Fe gets a V6, 3.3 liters capacity with 290 hp. For a quick comparison, the Vera Cruz's 3.8-liter V6 made 263 horsepower -- and, because of structural redesign and greater use of lightweight materials, the new-generation Santa Fe, even in long form, is lighter than the old Vera Cruz by over 200 pounds. The Sport is similarly that much lighter or more than the previous-generation Santa Fe.

Less weight translates not only to better performance and handling potential, but better fuel economy as well. All of the Santa Fe powerplants utilize direct fuel injection for further improved efficiency. "Active ECO" mode changes throttle and transmission response for yet more efficiency in operation. All Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport models are offered in front- or all-wheel drive form. Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system is standard in all models, as is Bluetooth phone connectivity. Audio is AM, FM, and Sirius/XM radio (with a three-month free trial XM subscription) plus CD and jack and iPod connectivity. A navigation system is optional.

I never got into a third-generation Santa Fe or Santa Fe Sport last year, but made up for that last week with the premium version of the Sport, the 2.0T AWD. Loaded up with nearly all possible options, including both "Leather and Premium Equipment" and "Technology" option packages, the bottom line on the window sticker was close to $36,000. Entry-level luxury in a Hyundai? Yes, indeed -- as equipped, materials, appointment, and build quality are equal to the description. The turbo engine has no shortage of power, yet can be reasonably thrifty with fuel with careful use. Which is always a bit difficult with a turboÔ€Ž The chassis and brakes deal well with the engine's power. It's roomy inside for its external size and quite comfortable. The latest Santa Fe Sport is a fine example of how far Hyundai has come since it debut in the 1980s. Only the name is the same. And if you're thinking this is a Korean car, it only partly is. Final assembly is at Hyundai's facility in West Point, Georgia.

APPEARANCE: Hyundai calls its design language "fluidic sculpture". It works well here, with plenty of visual interest in a sleek and decidedly non-boxy take on the two-box crossover. Complex details are cohesive, and each part complements all others. Its overall look is bold and dynamic. The prominent chrome-trimmed hexagonal grille hardly needs the corporate stylized "H" logo for identification, and the projector-beam headlights with LED accents give an upscale look. Strategically-placed chrome trim is balanced by traditional crossover matte-black lower cladding. Is that a skid plate underneath? Hardly -- this is a 21st-Century crossover, not a 1990s SUV, so it's underbody air management.

COMFORT: The interior is as highly styled as the exterior, in a complementary manner. It's interesting but not distracting. At premium 2.0T level, materials are upper-middle class. Fit and finish is first-rate. YES Essentials« stain-resistant cloth is the standard upholstery, but with the Leather and Premium package comes, unsurprisingly, leather seating surfaces for a more-defined luxury touch. The driver's seat is power-adjustable to some extent in all versions; here the front passenger seat is as well, and each part of the 60/40 rear seat is adjustable (manually) fore and aft and has some back angle adjustment in addition to folding for cargo versatility. The driver's seating position is comfortably upright, with good forward and side visibility. A backup camera is a necessity in this kind of vehicle, and is included in the Premium package. In all, the steering wheel adjusts for both tilt and reach, and has audio, Bluetooth, and cruise controls. Electroluminescent instrumentation is complete and easy to see, and all models have a useful trip computer. The hard button and touchscreen interface for the navigation and audio system is well-designed and easy to use. The climate control system is controlled through standard rotary knobs. Storage and bottle holders are found in all doors, and there is some storage under the rear load floor as the space-saver spare tire is located outside and underneath. The panoramic sunroof lets light in in abundance, and its front part tilts or slides open. Rear-seat passengers get the best view out.

SAFETY: Hyundai's new structure for the Santa Fe utilizes a much greater amount of lightweight high-tensile steel for both an improvement in torsional rigidity and, with design, better collision energy management for passenger protection. Further protection comes from a full complement of airbags, including driver's knee and rollover side-curtain head protection. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes, with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA), are active components of the Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) systems. A sonar-based Blind Spot Detection (BSD) system is standard on the 2.0T. The new Santa Fe has received a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS. A number of packages available for the Blue Link telematics system allow various emergency, maintenance, and convenience services.

RIDE AND HANDLING: That new, stronger, more rigid unibody structure is also considerably lighter than that of the old Santa Fe. Even more weight saving comes from the 2.0T engine, compared to the previous V6. Less weight, less inertia, quicker response to driver inputs. The fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension is tuned more for comfort than sport, and a crossover sits higher than a sedan or coupe, so don't expect Genesis Coupe levels of roadholding. But in 2.0T trim, the Santa Fe Sport is sportier than the average small crossover -- and still comfortable and quiet on the highway. The Active Cornering Control AWD system is a full-time system that works with the VSM system to improve stability in corners and reduce over- or under-steer. It is transparent in operation.

PERFORMANCE: The promise of turbocharging is, allegedly, V6 power with four-cylinder economy. And no, this is neither a Hyundai-only promise nor a new one -- I heard the same the last time turbos were in vogue. Is it true? It depends if you don't use the turbo much, meaning if you accelerate gently and drive smoothly, you can get surprisingly good mileage out of a turbo car. Of course you've paid money for the turbo, so it will get used. Let's just say fuel economy is inversely proportional to the heaviness of your right foot Hyundai's lovely 2.0T engine uses an aluminum alloy block and head for light weight, a 16-valve dual overhead cam head for good breathing, and a twin-scroll turbocharger for maximum efficiency. Plus direct fuel injection for further efficiency. Maximum horsepower is 264 at 6000 rpm; more importantly, the torque peaks at 269 lb-ft -- more than the 3.3 V6's 252! -- between 1750 and 3000 rpm. Which is where the six-speed automatic will usually keep it. Meaning instant power for acceleration, whether for merging, passing, or Just Because. Self-control may keep the fuel use down, but good luck on that. EPA estimates are 18 mpg city, 24 highway. With mostly city and secondary road driving, I got 19 mpg.

CONCLUSIONS: The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T combines comfort, performance, and refinement and fuel economy, but only if you don't use the turbo. Where's the fun in that?

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T

Base Price			$ 29,450
Price As Tested			$ 35,925
Engine Type			turbocharged and intercooled DOHC
				 aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder with
				 direct fuel injection
Engine Size			2.0 liters / 122 cu. in.
Horsepower			264 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			269 @ 1750-3000 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic with manual-shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		106.3 in. / 184.6 in.
Curb Weight			3706 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		14.0
Fuel Capacity			17.4 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				P235/55R19 101H m+s ContiCrossContact
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				 ABS, EBD, BA standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				  full-time all-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		18 / 24 / 19
0 to 60 mph				8.6  sec
Towing Capacity			3500 lbs. with trailer brakes

Leather & Premium Equipment Package -- includes:
  side mirror-mounted turn signal indicators,
  leather seating surfaces, power front passenger
  seat, sliding and reclining second row with cargo
  area releases, heated rear seats, dual automatic
  temperature control with clean air ionizer, 4.3-inch
  color audio display, rearview camera, auto-dimming
  rearview mirror with Homelink® and compass,
  premium door sill plates				$ 2,450
Technology Package -- includes:
  panoramic tilt-and-slide sunroof (deletes roof side
  rails), navigation system with 8-inch touchscreen,
  XMNavTraffic® with 90-day free trial, 12-speaker,
  550-watt Infinity Logic 7® audio system, heated
  steering wheel, manual rear side window sunshades	$ 2,900
Carpeted floor mats					$   100
Cargo net						$    50
Cargo cover						$   150
Destination charge					$   825