2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Review

Hyundai's SUV reaches for the sky.

By: David Merline

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: June 9th, 2014

It's not easy to stand out among midsize SUVs, or crossovers, or whatever the hell people are calling them nowadays. The main reason for this is their design. Somewhere, apparently, it is written that all small SUVs, like all minivans before them, must look identical. They may feel free to express themselves on the grille and in and around the tail lights, but that's pretty much it. Other than slapping a new different color of paint on it, there's apparently nothing automakers are allowed to do to give these vehicles any hint of uniqueness.

However, given those rather extreme limitations, the Santa Fe is about as stylish as it's possible for a midsize SUV to be. A couple of tasteful creases that run upward along the sides draw your eye away from the all-too-familiar silhouette, and the hood is likewise marked by parallel creases that appear to distort the obligatory high, sloping front end.

The interior is nicely styled with multiple angular lines giving it a slightly sporty feel. Hyundai's infotainment system is unremarkable, but well-designed and easy to use. Overall, the Santa Fe Sport makes very good use of a lot of lower-end materials. It's also extremely efficient in its use of space. In addition to the fold-flat second row, there are a couple of small padded compartments tucked under the liftable rear floor panel.

Despite being less tall, less wide, and less long than the standard Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Sport is plenty roomy enough. In fact, we prefer the dimensions of the Santa Fe Sport, which feels much less minivan-like than the standard Santa Fe, which you should only opt for if you need a third row of seats.

We drove the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder GDI version of the Sport, which is the slowest of the three available engines (a turbocharged two-liter 4 and a 3.3-liter V-6 are optional), but the Santa Fe Sport never felt underpowered, though we wouldn't exactly call its performance "sporty."

We spent most of our time in the Santa Fe Sport with Eco mode on, which made for a comfortable, gas-saving ride. Although there are Sport, Comfort, and Standard modes, we found Comfort to be too soft and Sport to be too hyperactive. This isn't a car for track days, so there's no reason to try to pretend. Maximum utility and efficiency should be what this car is about, but getting a mere 20 mpg in the city isn't all that efficient, and it falls to 19 in the turbo and 18 in the V-6.

But with a starting price of $24,950 (our generously-optioned tester rings in at a still-reasonable $33,500), the Santa Fe Sport offers an extremely pleasing combination of utility, comfort and (non-sporty) performance.

It's hard to imagine not opting for the $3,000 Technology Package, with its impressive panoramic sunroof (which really helps make the Sport seem special) and upgraded touchscreen and sound system, but even if you can do without luxuries like heated side mirrors, leather seats, leather steering wheel, and a blind-spot detection system, Hyundai won't let you get the Technology Package without getting the other two optional packages.

At the base price, the Santa Fe Sport is a tremendous bargain, as long as you value utility over fuel-efficiency. It's spacious enough to give it a taste of luxury, configurable enough for the ever-changing needs of a young family, and stylish enough that you won't feel as though you've left your youth at the dealer's lot.

The thing is, that panoramic sunroof is really nice. It definitely takes this sensible family van into luxury territory. But is it worth paying nearly $10,000 extra for? Only if you'd rather own an extremely well-appointed Hyundai than a not-so-well-appointed car from a more prestigious brand.

  • Specs & Prices

    Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine

    Transmission: 6-speed automatic

    Drivetrain Layout: front engine, four-wheel drive

    Power Output: 190 hp / 182 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 20 city / 27 highway

    Price (base): $24,950

    Price (as tested): $33,500 (includes $875 destination charge)

    Available Features:

    Popular Entertainment Package: Heated side mirrors, windshield wiper deicer, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, power driver seat with lumbar control.

    Premium Equipment Package: Blind-spot detection, side-mirror-mounted turn indicators, 60/40 split second row seats (40/20/40 comes standard), auto-dimming rearview mirror.

    Technology Package: Panoramic sunroof, 8-inch touch screen navigation, premium audio system, heated-and-cooled front seats, heated rear seats, and heated steering wheel.

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