2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate Review
by Randy Stern
When companies talk about a “three-vehicle strategy” in a particular segment, one thing comes to mind: The story of “Goldilocks and The Three Bears.”
To show you how “interesting” (Minnesotan for “he’s a bit odd…”) I could be, this analogy actually was made a bit more humorous, thanks to connecting my Pandora account through this crossover’s audio system with the late Robin Williams’ retelling of the fable in the voice of the late William F. Buckley.
At the New York International Auto Show recently, Hyundai announced that it will market its crossover products as a trio. The part of Baby Bear will be played by the all-new 2016 Tucson. Mama and Papa Bear will be the two Santa Fes.
It all makes sense, really. Customers seem to forget that there are two Santa Fes in the Hyundai lineup. The bigger, three-row version is powered only by V6 engines and offers plenty of space for growing families. The smaller Sport is a two-row version that still offers of plenty of space, but enough for smaller, active families to enjoy. Sports are only powered with four-cylinder engines.
This train of thought begs the question: Which one will Goldilocks choose? The answer is quite obvious at this point: The Santa Fe Sport.
Having just driven a 2015 Santa Fe Sport 2.0T with the Ultimate package, I can understand why she would pick it over the Tucson (in particular, the run-out 2015 model) and the larger three-row Santa Fe.
Though the bigger Santa Fe is more purposeful and handsome, the Sport is a better looking vehicle. It simply looks sporty. Size-wise, it fits being a two-row active crossover. The rear end has a rakish slope to it, befitting its purpose. Throughout the exterior, there is a tightened to the Sport – gym-tone and ready for action anywhere.
This image is enhanced by the tasteful amount of chrome found on this AWD 2.0T Ultimate package model. Though sporty, the chrome grille, door handles and accents bring out an upmarket style to this sporty go-anywhere machine. Brighter 19-inch wheels compliment this white vehicle, again feeding into the upmarket style outside.
The upmarket feel continues inside. A beige/brown two-tone is accented by satin-chrome and blonde wood finishes. Perforated leather invites one to enjoy the Ultimate package and its luxurious cabin – something that reminds one of the current Genesis sedan. Familiar Hyundai switches, instrument gauges, TFT information screen and the touchscreen on the center stack invite the Santa Fe Sport owner to truly relax and enjoy this ride.
The seats are on the firm side and lack deep bolstering. However, they are fine for running around town and beyond. Power adjustments are available for lumbar, recline, rake and height to provide better comfort for most drivers. Rear seat room is also adjustable for rake and recline. I found that if you push the seats back, you can get five adults to ride along in the Santa Fe Sport. Cargo room is expansive, yet tall, square boxes would have to work with the slope of the roof at the rear. For basic luggage carrying – it is quite accommodating.
BlueLink anchors an infotainment/telematics system that is quite good. A back-up camera is available with rear parking assist sensors. Navigation is accurate and Bluetooth pairing is very quick. Infinity offers a Logic 7 surround sound system buoyed by 12 speakers making the Santa Fe Sport into a concert hall.
The finishing touch is the available panoramic roof. Believe me when I say this – it really makes the smaller Sport cabin a lot more airier and lighter when the shade is pulled back. Again, this feeds into the upmarket feel of the Santa Fe Sport.
As mentioned before, Sport models come strictly with four-cylinder engines. Choosing the 2.0T model offers up a turbocharged 2.0liter engine designed for getting anywhere a bit quicker. With 265 horsepower on tap, the Turbo turns the Sport into a mile grabbing machine. Add a six-speed automatic transmission and the all-wheel drive system, and it simply is a smooth driving vehicle. There is turbo lag present on occasion – passing maneuvers and on-ramp climbs – but not enough for the Santa Fe Sport to be carved up by a weaker vehicle.
Though the Sport may be smaller in dimensions to its larger three-row brother, it actually rides as nice as the three-row Santa Fe. It is smooth, with some road feedback on rougher surfaces. However, the dampers are excellent in keeping things balanced on any surface. It is simply a nice riding two-row crossover. Handling reveals a tinge of roll and lean through the corners. On subtler turns, it simply corners near flat.
Steering is quite good. The trick is to keep the on center feel perfect is to switch the Driver Selectable Steering Mode button to Sport. Otherwise, the turns are good and response is precise. Brakes are also good, with solid stops in normal and panic situations.
One thing to consider in a crossover is fuel economy. Even with the turbo, I was able to manage 22.8MPG on the average. That is better than the combined figure Hyundai said is Santa Fe Sport 2.0T would get.
The Santa Fe Sport is actually priced well for its class, starting at $24,950 for a front-drive model with the standard 190-horsepower 2.4liter engine. Step up to the turbo, and that price jumps to $31,250. This all-wheel drive Ultimate 2.0T tester came with a sticker price of $38,350.
Why This Ride?
– I would actually agree with Goldilocks. The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is just right. The footprint alone is right for many situations, making it more maneuverable, balanced, and agile. Choosing the turbo would be good for performance alone.
– Where this choice comes into play is in the cabin. True adult seating for five and enough cargo space for an extended weekend away is exactly what anyone needs. Not to mention a good starting price for one…it is really “just right.”
– Let’s not carried away here. The Santa Fe Sport is all about balance here. Perhaps one of the most balanced crossovers in the market. And, in this case, balanced means good.