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2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T Review by Steve Purdy +VIDEO

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By Steve Purdy
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau/i

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Gracing our driveway this week is one of my favorite mid-size crossovers in a lovely shade of Frost White Pearl. This 5-passenger Hyundai Santa Fe Sport crossover (or CUV) is just about the same size as my daily driver, a Lexus RX 330. For me, and many other folks, this kind of vehicle is just the right size for just about every need – not too big, not too small, not too pricey, not too cheap. For the price it would be hard to beat the style, content, performance and quality of this crossover.

As it happened we spent some recreational time with a group of friends this week, one of whom bought a loaded new Santa Fe Sport just over a year ago replacing a leased Buick LaCrosse. I pressed him on how he liked the car and whether he had any complaints at all. He continued to insist he and his wife love it. Though he finally acknowledged he felt a bit overwhelmed by some of the electronic features many of us older folks struggle with. Otherwise I could not elicit any criticisms at all from him.

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Our “tester” a loaded AWD 2.0T shows a base price of $33,000. That includes a good level of content including leather seating 18-inch alloy wheels, all-wheel drive, trailer prep package, Blue-Link telematics, electroluminescent gauges, power front seats, lots of airbags and other safety stuff, power lift gate, push button start, keyless entry, and enough other standard features we must laud it for content. We also have on this one the “Ultimate Package” with 19-inch wheels, HID headlights, LED taillights, panoramic sunroof, 8-inch touchscreen navigation system, premium sound with 12 speakers, memory seats, rear parking sensors, heated steering wheel, special door sill trim and carpeted floor mats. With the $895 destination charge we’re looking a $38,370 on the sticker’s bottom line.

Pricing for the basic Santa Fe Sport with 2.4-liter, normally aspirated engine and front-wheel drive begins at around $25,000. Most reviewers thought that one underpowered with worse fuel mileage than competitors, but still well equipped at a decent price making it still a good value.

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Powering our tester is a modestly powerful 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder with direct injection making 265 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque mated to a conventional 6-speed automatic transmission. Other than a bit of turbo lag and a less-than-positive throttle response I found it a competent, powerful-enough powertrain in spite of a tepid 0-to-60 mph time of 8.1 seconds. The EPA estimates mileage at 18 mpg in the city, 24 on the highway and 21 mpg combined. That is just about what we experienced in our week of testing.

With the turbo engine and the standard Trailer Prep Package the Santa Fe Sport can tow up to 3,500 pounds and has a payload capacity of nearly 1,400 pounds. Unloaded, the car weighs in at a comparatively lithe 3,600 pounds.

Though one’s assessment of style and design can be a rather subjective, I find the Santa Fe charming, up-to-date and attractive without being overdone. This most recent design is just a few years old and sports crisp, swoopy character lines, a bold, two-tone trapezoidal grille, fog lights and headlights integrated into the front fascia with a bit of drama and just enough chrome for accent. Our optional 19-inch alloy wheels add to the bold visual statement from any angle. From any angle this is a vehicle with substantial visual character.

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Inside we find an upscale cabin with excellent fit, finish and materials well laid out for convenience, comfort and aesthetic appeal. Ingress and egress are easy even for a big guy like me, but that is to be expected for an upright crossover. A deep bin at the base of the center stack makes handy storage. The 8-inch multi-function touch screen is mostly intuitive and works well. Rear HVAC vents keep our rear seat passengers happy.

Rear seatbacks fold down easily with the pull of a release handle on the side of the seat base but to put them up is a two-handed job. Not the best design for sure, but not the worst by far. We have an impressive 71.5 cubic-feet of cargo area with seatbacks folded and 35.4 cubic-feet behind the rear seats. New for 2015 is the option of an automatic tailgate where you just stand near the tailgate for a few seconds to have it open – even slicker than Ford’s foot-activated system.

The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and its big brother the 7-passenger Santa Fe are both built in the company’s West Point, Georgia plant with just less than half its content being shipped from Korea. Hyundai’s new car warranty covers the crossover for 5 years or 60,000 miles and the powertrain for 10 years or 100,000 miles.

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In terms of overall driving dynamics we can say the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T is competent and pleasant in every way. It is not particularly entertaining, but neither is it boring. The conventional suspension design is well balanced for comfort and a firm sense of control. The cabin is admirably quiet even at extra-legal speeds. (Don’t ask how I know.) Seats fit this big guy nicely and my tiny wife as well.

Hyundai is now firmly positioned in the near luxury class of automobiles having started out less than two decades ago somewhere below cheap and tawdry. Their rise to respectability has been amazing. Across the product line they have become known for providing great value in terms of content per dollar. Now they are less a bargain in most cases but still a good value.

That is the case for this Santa Fe Sport. Better put it on your shopping list.

©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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