2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

By June 20, 2016

Significantly freshened, the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport compact crossover gets new front and rear fascias, headlights, taillights, and trim panels.

Sharp-looking inside and out, the refreshed 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport fits between the bigger Santa Fe and the smaller Tucson, borrowing a few details from each. We think the Santa Fe Sport is the best-looking member of Hyundai’s crossover SUV trio.

Nearly one-fourth of the Santa Fe Sport’s parts have changed for the 2017 model year, aiming to refine its cabin and improve ride qualities, though nothing has changed mechanically.

The standard engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with direct injection developing 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. Mating with a 6-speed automatic transmission, the 2.4-liter model is EPA-rated at up to 27 mpg Highway. Though passable for fuel-efficiency, the Santa Fe Sport falls short of gas-mileage estimates for some competitive models. While priced right, the 2.4-liter engine, also used in the Sonata sedan, can feel breathless and overtaxed, especially when carrying passengers.

We recommend the optional turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which yields 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. In that installation, the automatic gets slightly different gearing, to help quicken takeoffs a bit. Also shared with the Sonata, the 2.0-liter turbo comes in two trim levels, each adding popular features.

All-wheel drive is available with either engine. In each Santa Fe Sport model, Drive Mode selection has three settings: Sport, Eco, and Normal. Precise handling isn’t the Sport’s principal talent, demonstrated by less-than-sharp steering feel.

Crash-test scores have been excellent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Sport a rating of five stars overall, as well as for both frontal and side impacts. Rollover resistance brought a four-star result, which isn’t unusual. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave Good scores for its crash tests, including the small overlap collision, which simulates hitting a pole or tree. If equipped with optional forward collision warning, with automatic emergency braking, the Sport earned a Top Safety Pick Plus award.

Rearview cameras are newly standard on all 2017 models. Surround-view cameras, lane-keep assist, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control are optional.

Model Lineup

The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport ($25,350) comes with the 2.4-liter engine, cruise control, remote keyless entry, daytime running lights, LED-accented projector headlights, cargo cover, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The AM/FM/SiriusXM/CD player has auxiliary and USB ports, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and six speakers. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.) Optional Premium and Tech Packages add features.

Santa Fe Sport 2.0T ($31,700) upgrades to the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and leather seating surfaces, heated power front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel; dual-zone automatic climate control; hands-free power liftgate; keyless ignition; blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist; 7.0-inch display audio, Blue Link telematics, and 18-inch wheels.

Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate ($36,500) adds a panoramic sunroof, Infinity premium audio with 8.0-inch touchscreen, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, 19-inch wheels, HID headlights, rear parking sensors, and surround-view cameras.

All-wheel drive ($1,750) is available on all models. Front-wheel drive is standard.

Seven airbags are standard, including a driver’s knee airbag.

Exterior

Hyundai has managed to blend its styling themes quite expertly for the latest Santa Fe Sport, resulting in an appealing compact crossover, sharply styled all-around. Up front, the hexagonal grille is flanked by foglamps and LED-accented headlights. Side sills dominate the rear wheel wells. At the tailgate is a simply balanced layout of glass and taillights.

Dual tailpipes exit at the right rear, enhancing what might be considered the Sport’s masculine aura. Dimensionally, the Santa Fe Sport occupies the middle of its category, close in size to the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Chevrolet Equinox.

Interior

Blending practical features with high-quality materials, the cabin provides more space than most competitors. Leg and knee room are good up front. In a Sport with the available panoramic sunroof, tall drivers might have just enough head clearance. Bottom cushions are sufficiently bolstered, and backrests nicely-shaped.

Centered below the undulating-surface dashboard is a shield-shaped set of controls, flanked by large air vents. Big knobs adjust audio volume and fan speed.

The back seat not only splits and folds, but if leather-upholstered, it slides 5.2 inches fore/aft to accommodate passengers or cargo. Seatbacks recline, too.

With back seats upright, the Sport can hold 35.4 cubic feet of cargo. Fold them down, and volume grows to 71.5 cubic feet (10 more than Hyundai Tucson). Shallow under-the-floor storage can hold a laptop bag. A cargo cover is standard. The front passenger seat folds flat, when space is needed to carry long objects.

Driving Impressions

2017-santafesport-drivingWe found the standard 2.4-liter engine short on fervor, and recommend the 2.0-liter turbo.

Equipped with the turbo, a Santa Fe Sport can acceleration to 60 mph in around seven seconds, a respectable performance, and tow up to 3,500 pounds. While imparting greater confidence for highway passing/merging, the turbo exacts only a slight penalty in fuel economy.

With either engine, shift points for the 6-speed automatic transmission are logical and effective, helping to deliver smooth operation. A manual-shift mode may be actuated at the gearshift lever.

Optional all-wheel drive uses an open center differential to distribute power from the front wheels to the rears, to increase traction when necessary. The AWD system isn’t intended for off-roading by any means, but provides all-weather capability on paved surfaces. AWD models incorporate torque vectoring control, which can aid cornering. Ground clearance is 7.3 inches, which is taller than a Sonata sedan, but short of what you get in a Subaru Outback.

Gas mileage is about average, less than impressive with the base 2.4-liter engine, but almost the same with the turbo. With front-wheel drive, the naturally aspirated 2.4-liter engine is EPA-rated at 21/27 mpg City/Highway, or 24 mpg Combined. With all-wheel drive, the EPA estimate for the 2.4-liter drops to 20/26 mpg City/Highway, or 22 mpg Combined. The turbocharged Sport is EPA-rated at 20/28 mpg City/Highway or 23 mpg Combined with front-wheel drive, and 19/26 mpg City/Highway, or 22 mpg Combined, with all-wheel drive.

Santa Fe Sport Ultimate rounds down to slightly less thrifty EPA ratings due to its greater weight.

Final Word

With its sizable standard-features lists, the Santa Fe Sport comes across as good value, even in upper turbo trim levels, though the price differential is significant. Gas mileage doesn’t excel, and the less-costly base engine is somewhat lifeless, making the turbo a better choice, especially when you consider the additional features that are included.

Driving impressions by Aaron Cole, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.