Positioned in a crowded crossover field, Hyundai's 2018 AWD Sante Fe holds its own with good value for the money
With crossovers being the top sellers today, Hyundai’s AWD Santa Fe Sport deserves a look. It comes with an extremely long list of standard safety features and functions, decent fuel economy, top government safety ratings and an unbeatable warranty.
Santa Fe Sport is offered in four trim levels of 2.4 (signifying the engine size), 2.4 Value, Sport 2.0T (turbo) and top line 2.0T Ultimate that we tested.
The Santa Fe Sport compact crossover carries a sporty stance with swept back headlamp assemblies, six running lights on each side and under each headlamp, a brush guard type front roll pan and a similar pan encircling the quad rectangular tailpipe tips at the rear. A stylish design fore and aft.
After a low 18-inch step-in into the cabin, the comfy, perforated and heated/cooled leather front seats offer just the right amount of lateral support. The nicely arranged vertical stack houses an 8-inch display serving several apps, Bluetooth, Pandora, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, audio, nav and rear/side/frontal camera views. The latter is selectable and helpful if squeezing into a tight spot.
On the dash is an AWD Lock switch that many crossovers don’t have. It’s an indispensable feature to get the vehicle moving in deep snow. Operationally, the lock feature deactivates at speeds above 19 mph, just enough to get the vehicle moving. It shifts into AWD Auto mode at speeds above 25 mph. If vehicle speed drops below 19 mph, the transfer mode shifts back into AWD Lock. Otherwise, Santa Fe’s system reverts to FWD. Hyundai notes in the owners’ manual that “These vehicles are not designed for challenging off-road use,” meaning no rock climbing. But mild back roads leading to a remote cabin, campsite, fishing/hunting site should not be a problem.
Back seat ingress/egress is easy thanks to wide opening doors. Leg and head room are adequate and the seats themselves are nicely padded.
A low 30-inch cargo load height exposes a spacious cargo area. With the rear seatbacks upright there’s 35.4 cubic feet of space. It measures 41.5 inches deep, 46 wide and 30.5 high. Flip the seatbacks and capacity expands to 71.5 cubic feet or 72 inches of depth, enough for an average size mountain bike.
Beneath the aft cargo floor are two bins, one for the jack and tools, the other for small item storage. Flip up the fore underfloor panel and there’s two sizeable storage bins, all atop the spare tire beneath it.
Power wise, the 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4 cylinder had a substantial amount of zip and lively acceleration especially when the turbo kicks in. For a 3,794-pound vehicle, the 2.0 with 240-hp and a healthy 260 lb/ft of torque moves the Santa Fe with gusto and comes with a tow rating of 2,000 pounds. Coupling this engine to the standard 6-speed automatic transmission gets EPA estimates of 19 city, 24-highway mpg. A Sport mode switch (there’s also Eco and Normal) changes throttle response for higher rev’s, longer shift points and tighter steering.
Handling is exceptional with Hyundai’s Active Cornering System that sends torque to the wheels with the best traction. It parks easily with a tight 35.8 foot turning radius.
Ride quality on 19-inch Kumho tires, is a bit taut on pocked marked roads but smooth and quiet on smooth surfaces.
As noted, the Santa Fe Sport Ultimate comes loaded with a very long list of standard features including a panoramic sunroof, Smart Liftgate smartly opens when the system senses the keyfob in a pocket when approaching the rear of the vehicle.
Other safety features are blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, Blue Link and much more. The test vehicle had but two extra cost options. The Ultimate package ($1,800) added Smart Cruise Control with Start/Stop, automatic emergency braking w/pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, auto leveling headlights and more. That plus carpeted floor mats ($125) and delivery ($950) took the base price of $37,200 to $39,875. This price comes with Hyundai’s generous 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
As for safety ratings, the government awarded Santa Fe a full five-star overall rating; five for driver frontal crash, four for passenger; five for front/rear seat side crash; and four for rollover. This, plus the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it its top safety pick.
While the compact crossover is a crowded market, Santa Fe Sport holds its own when comparing the choices.