If you are one of the people who thinks the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is the performance version of the midsize Santa Fe SUV, I’m afraid you are mistaken. The Sport is actually a smaller compact crossover, and completely different. For some reason, Hyundai didn’t chose to give it a separate name. That’s a shame, because the Sport deserves its own identity.
The Sport has been around for several years now, and carries over mostly unchanged for 2018. That’s not a bad thing. The minor styling upgrades made last year enhanced what was already a very good looking SUV. The “Fluidic Sculpture” design, as Hyundai calls it, is highlighted by an upsweep of the side glass. Robust alloy wheels and gray cladding on the lower body panels add muscle to the look.
Inside, my top-of-the-line Ultimate test car looked upscale, with smartly finished wheat-colored trim on the dash that matched the leather on the seats. The dash itself is a clean design with a well-integrated center control panel that’s easy to operate. A large 7.2-inch touchscreen at the top projects a surround view, as well as rear view, when reverse is engaged.
The cabin of the Santa Fe Sport is spacious. Folks up front have plenty of room and chair-like seating, which provides a commanding view of the road. Those in the rear can slide their seats fore and aft, and recline the seatbacks to maximize comfort. Legroom is generous and headroom, even with the panoramic sunroof, is more than adequate. Behind the backseats, a large 35.4 cubic-foot cargo area features small storage compartments under the floor.
The Sport comes in three versions, base, 2.0T and 2.0T Ultimate. The entry model gets a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated, four-cylinder engine, and comes equipped with standard features, like a six-speaker audio system, blind spot warning and a power liftgate. New for 2018 is an available Value package that adds features such as heated front seats, automatic air conditioning and push-button entry/start.
Moving up the ladder, the 2.0T delivers a more powerful turbocharged engine, as well as the items it the Value package, as standard. The 2.0T Ultimate heaps on luxury with a panoramic sunroof, a 360-degree parking camera, navigation and more. Ultimate buyers can also get adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and automatic emergency braking via the optional Tech package.
The base Sport model’s 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine is rather lackluster with just 185 hp. The motor of choice is the turbocharged 2.0-liter four that pumps out 240. Both engines are teamed with a six-speed automatic gearbox. My Ultimate test car with the turbo delivered brisk acceleration, along with responsive shifts from the tranny. Front-wheel-drive is standard and AWD is optional. Gas mileage is about average for the class, ranging between 22 and 24 mpg, depending on which power train you have.
Although this Santa Fe is not as sporty as the name would imply, it does a credible job out on the road. The steering is taut without being heavy, and the Sport displays good balance negotiating curves. The ride on back roads is slightly firm, but not harsh. Freeway driving feels very secure. Furthermore, drivers can select either “eco” or “sport” modes, which alter the throttle and steering response, if they are not content with the default “normal” setting.
Pricing for the Santa Fe Sport has been reduced for 2018. It’s $400 less for the base model with front-wheel drive, now $25,845, and over $1,000 cheaper ($38,095) for the 2.0T Ultimate with AWD.