For the first few miles, I thought Hyundai’s all-new Santa Fe Sport felt like most of the other compact crossover utility vehicles, but when I pulled out onto the freeway and rolled into the throttle, the thrust from the turbocharged 264-horsepower engine put a grin on my face.
By TOM STRONGMAN
It’s not often that a crossover vehicle feels like a sports sedan, but this one did, at least in terms of acceleration. Then I noticed that it seemed to hug the road a little tighter than most of its competitors. My eyebrows went up. Maybe Hyundai really has been successful in transforming the Santa Fe.
The look is bright and fresh. Hyundai calls it Fluidic Sculpture. Crisp lines punctuate the sides, and upswept side windows create an aggressive profile. Rear three-quarter visibility is hampered by the rising beltline, but it was not really an issue because most CUVs require careful use of the outside mirrors.
The new model was initially offered as the five-passenger Santa Fe Sport, but now there is a longer seven-passenger model known simply as the Santa Fe. I have not driven one of those.
The Santa Fe Sport is a giant step forward in terms of styling, dynamics and creature comforts. Hyundai is applying the same formula that has made the Sonata and Elantra so attractive and competitive: bold design, solid handling, lots of standard equipment and a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Engine choices include a 2.4-liter, 190-horsepower direct-injection four cylinder or a 2.0-liter, 264-horsepower turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. Prices for the five-passenger model begin at $24,450 and top out at $29,450.
The just-released seven-passenger model has a 3.3-liter V-6 with 290 horsepower and its prices range from $28,350 to $34,850.
One of the neat things about the turbocharged engine, aside from its performance potential, is the relatively flat torque curve and the lack of turbo lag. Acceleration is linear from dead stop to well past the legal limit. The six-speed automatic transmission, with manual shifting if you choose, is the perfect partner.
The all-wheel-drive system can be locked into permanent all-wheel mode at low speeds for pulling out of deep snow, mud or gravel. Active cornering control works with the stability control system to keep the vehicle stable in turns.
I was also impressed with the test vehicle’s premium package and technology package. Items such as heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, navigation system, rearview camera and rear window sunshades are all things found on most luxury crossovers.
The test vehicle’s leather interior was sumptuous and pleasant. The instrument panel has attractive and readable gauges. The navigation system uses an eight-inch display.
The second-row seat slides and reclines to accommodate varying cargo demands.
Standard safety features include front, side and side-curtain airbags as well as anti-lock brakes, vehicle stability control and traction control.
The base price of the test car was $29,450. Options included the technology package and premium package. The sticker price was $35,925.
Five years or 60,000 miles, with a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and five years of roadside assistance.
Tom Strongman’s email address is email@example.com.