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2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Ultimate Review By Steve Purdy

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Review by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Hyundai freshened both the Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport for 2017 updating them stylistically and adding a few features and options. The updates are modest and you’d not notice the styling updates unless you had the old and new side by side.

Both Santa Fes were already extremely competent, good looking and a good value when compared feature-to-feature with the competition. Performance, handling, safety, comfort and convenience all keep up with the competition like Ford Edge, Mazda CX5, Nissan Murano and a half dozen others.

First, we should clarify where it fits in the market. Santa Fe Sport is a 5-passenger, front-wheel drive (all-wheel drive optional) crossover that fits somewhere between small and mid-size – closer to mid-size, I contend. The regular Santa Fe is a 3-row crossover on the larger side of mid-size. Both are on the same platform underpinning a variety of vehicles from both Kia and Hyundai.

The West Point, GA-built Santa Fe Sport comes in three trim levels beginning with the base version showing a starting price of $25,350. Then comes the 2.0T featuring the turbo four-cylinder engine and more standard equipment and features. That one starts at $31,700. Our test car is the loaded, top-of-the–line, 2.0T Ultimate starting at $36,500. All three can be had with all-wheel drive for around $1,750 extra. Our Ultimate with AWD and the “Ultimate Tech Package” shows a bottom line on the sticker of $40,820 including the destination charge. This one comes with plenty of premium content.

While the exterior styling will not turn many heads it certainly is attractive and up-to-date. It looks rather like the much pricier Audi Q5 in styling details. The understated sculpting gives the relatively boxy CUV just enough panache. HID headlights and LED accents front and rear along with slick, 19-inch alloy wheels help with the aggressive look that characterizes most modern vehicle designs. The rear roof pillars are a bit thick for good visibility, but otherwise we find nothing to complain about.

Similarly inside, the Santa Fe Sport is attractive, conventionally styled, functional and comfortable. Hyundai has achieved ergonomics that are better than many by eschewing some of the more trendy design elements like eliminating all knobs. Knobs, in this reviewer’s opinion, have a unique functionality that electronic controls cannot match. Materials, fit and finish are excellent and could be mistaken for a luxury CUV. The 8-inch multi-function touch screen and the functions managed thereon are all designed and organized better than most. I spent less time searching for what I wanted than with most test vehicles that end up in my driveway.

Among the best new features on this vehicle is the 360-degree camera system we find on more and more cars these days. Another is the hands-free lift gate that does not require balancing on one foot. Instead, you just stand for three seconds close to the rear with the fob in your pocket and it will lift. It also has what they call a “light-bending” system, but it really doesn’t bend the light. It just turns the headlights as the steering wheel turns. This was a popular feature, by the way, on ultra-luxury cars of the 1930’s.

The leather seats are a bit firm for my tastes but that is a purely subjective preference. Our test car has heated and cooled leather front seats with good adjustability. The outboard rear seats are heated as well. Both front and rear seats should be lowered a bit for better head room and improved ingress and egress, I think. Our rear seat passengers were surprised and impressed with the rear window shades and panoramic sunroof but they thought it was a bit less quiet than expected back there. Rear seatbacks fold flat with the jerk of a handle making for a generous 71.5 cubic feet of cargo space. With the seatbacks in position we have a good 35.4 cubic feet. This compares well to the competition.

Two engines choices can power the Santa Fe Sport lineup – a 2.4-liter, normally aspirated 4-cylinder making 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque powering the base car, and our test car’s 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder making a decent 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Both engines get the same 6-speed automatic transmission. I must report that under most circumstances our 2.0-liter turbo did not feel particularly strong and it had a tendency to bog occasionally as it hesitated to downshift. The EPA rates the 2.0T at 20 mpg in the city, 28 on the highway and 23 mpg combined on regular fuel for this 2-ton CUV. Figure on just one click less with AWD. We averaged just over 22 mpg in our week with it. The 17.4-gallon fuel tank gives us a good cruising range.

With conventional layout and tuning the Santa Fe Sport’s suspension makes for a confident and comfortable driving experience. Steering feedback is minimal but certainly not disconcertingly so. Throttle response is smooth and positive, and transmission engagement and disengagement are smooth as we pop it out and back into gear at stoplights. Both of these elements contribute to that feel of quality and thoughtful engineering. Those who wish to fling it around corners and blast through the twisties may be disappointed, but few will want to do that with a mid-size crossover.

Hyundai’s warranty is among the best in the industry covering the whole vehicle for 5 years or 60,000 miles and the powertrain for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Scores in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Surveys attest to the impressive quality.

With each redesign Hyundai products (like all brands) move ever upscale and higher in price but they remain a good value when compared feature-to-feature with the competition. This $40,000+ Hyundai will make that point.

If you’re shopping in that segment of the market, we’d recommend you take a look at this one.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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