A competent contender in its segment, offering all-wheel-drive and plenty of premium kit.
Many have written off the Hyundai brand as being either bland relatively, or overall anonymous with regards to automobiles. Things have changed significantly, including the introduction of sporty models like the new Elantra Sport (reviewed here), and the Genesis luxury brand. In the last little while, Hyundai has been pulling attention with some fresh material. The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport SE, otherwise known as the baby brother of the three-row Santa Fe XL, receives some well-appointed updates for this model year. While the changes are subtle, they very well bring some spice to mix. Will these changes be enough to keep the Santa Fe up to speed in the extremely competitive compact crossover segment?
First and foremost, for those who are not aware, the Santa Fe Sport acts as the five-seater variant of the line, while the Santa Fe XL adds an extra row of seating. Our U.S. counterparts simply refer to the seven-seater version as the Santa Fe, to quash any confusion. So what has changed? The front fascia is where the most significant improvement captures our attention, with a more detailed fog light arrangement, with new silver trim framing the light casing, along with new LED daytime running lights placed in a horizontal manner. Other minor upgrades include a silver trim piece found just above the lower rocker panels between the front and rear wheels, adding an extra touch of “sport” to the Santa Fe.
As far as the powertrain goes, everything remains the same as the 2016 model. While a naturally aspirated and turbo engine are available, both are four-cylinder motors, a 2.4L and the more powerful 2.0L turbocharged GDI motor. Our tester, the 2.4L SE AWD, puts out 185 horsepower at 6,000RPM and 178 lb-ft. of torque at 4,000RPM. The Santa Fe XL gets a 3.3L V6 for some added smoothness and comfort. Power is adequate, though this is the entry level motor and has been around for a while, surpassed in power delivery by the likes of the new Honda CR-V (reviewed here) and Kia Sportage with their turbocharged variants at a similar price point.
Fuel economy isn’t all that bad, right on par with the segment. Thanks to the six-speed automatic transmission, the Santa Fe Sport gets fuel ratings of 12.0L/100km city, 9.1L/100km highway, with a combined rating of 10.7L/100km. After a week of real-world testing, we averaged as high as 17L/100km in the city and 12.4L/100km overall, a little bit above the noted ratings. This is not to say the advertised numbers are way off, as these figures will vary respectively with driving style, temperature, and other variables. On the upside, filling the Santa Fe Sport requires only regular fuel. This holds true for the turbocharged motor as well, as both engines are rated on only 87-octane fuel.
The steering is light, making the car easy to manoeuver on the open road and in tight spaces, and ride quality is soft and cushy, especially with the smaller wheels on this volume-selling SE model. The Santa Fe Sport does everything adequately, but lacks a distinct personality. This isn’t uncommon for a family crossover, as it fits the mold quite well, but there isn’t really much standing out about it other than its modern, contemporary styling.
More changes can be found on the interior of the Santa Fe Sport, especially on the centre stack. A reorganized console from previous years and easy-to-use controls make for easier functionality. The SE AWD comes equipped with a host of luxury features, yet at the same with standard features that are required. The seats are heated and leather, including a heated steering wheel, and passengers are also treated to a full panoramic moonroof with a power sliding segment, a rear view camera and Bluetooth connectivity. Here’s where things gets a little weird, because while those luxurious features are present, things that you’d expect like push button start and an intelligent key are missing. This SE model also comes with the smaller screen for infotainment, which actually doesn’t fit in very well considering the Mazda CX-5 (reviewed here) and other rivals get a much larger screen as standard equipment.
The 2.4L SE offers the best bang for your buck in the Santa Fe family. The base Santa Fe Sport starts at $28,599. The SE with the 2.4L engine comes in at comes in at $34,899 with the described premium options on board. The next step up is the 2.4L Luxury AWD at $37,899, which adds an 8.0” screen with navigation, a power liftgate, and a few other features. While it would be nice to have push button start as a standard feature, using a key is not a deal breaker.
The Santa Fe Sport is a nice to get yourself around town on a daily basis, hauling the family around and running weekend errands. While it may not offer breath taking thrills or jaw dropping looks, it is certainly an improvement from its predecessor and it’s quite easy to see why it sells as well as it does. Oddly sized in its segment, a bit bigger than the CX-5, CR-V, and RAV4 yet smaller than the Highlander (reviewed here), Honda Pilot and Kia Sorento (reviewed here), it’s sort of on its own. The Santa Fe Sport is similarly sized to the Mitsubishi Outlander, though that vehicle is essentially obsolete at this point.
The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport SE is a competent contender in the compact to midsize crossover segment, offering all-wheel-drive and plenty of premium kit at an affordable price. If the direct Japanese competitors are forcing you to cut down on size, and a full three-row crossover isn’t something required, the Santa Fe Sport with its 2,700mm wheelbase is a good middle ground for reliable family transportation. It may not be the most interesting thing around, but Hyundai’s 5-year/100,000km powertrain warranty and excellent dealer support means it will be a great companion for years to come.
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport SE Gallery