By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
There are some cars that we equate to comfort food. We simply enjoy spending time in them. The Hyundai Santa Fe is one such vehicle — it’s comfortable, responsive attractive and has an elevated level of the features we want in a vehicle.
But it goes a step beyond those basic qualities, we like the intuitiveness of the controls and the way it responds. We drive two new cars each week, and on occasion, and with some brands there is a high learning curve because the manufacturer insists you do things a certain way. The Hyundai Santa Fe is exceptionally user-friendly, and it responds in a predictable manner.
The Hyundai SUV is available in two sizes, the three-row Santa Fe and the two-row Santa Fe Sport. The larger Santa Fe’s wheelbase is four-inches longer and it is eight inches longer making room for the third row of seating or as we like to call it, “the way back.” Like most third rows, this one is a challenge to get into for no other reason than the limited headroom when climbing back to the third row. Once ensconced in the third row it’s tight, and best suited for small agile people or children.
The Sport, which we tested, seats five adults and has 34.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seats. With the rear 40/20/40 split seats fully folded, the space can be increases to 71.5 cubic feet, which puts it about the average size in this category. We’ve discovered there are no vehicles that can mute the road noise derived from rough-surface highways in our area, but the Sport was quieter than most.
The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport shines with its innovative power Hands-Free Smart Liftgate with Auto Open. Rather than having to stand on one foot with both arms full of packages while trying to wave a foot under the rear bumper, the system opens the liftgate when someone stands for a few seconds within a few feet of the rear bumper with the key fob in a purse or pocket. To us, this makes a lot more sense than the balancing act required to open other liftgates automatically.
The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport comes in four trim levels: Sport, Sport 2.4 Value, Sport 2.0T and Sport 2.0T Ultimate. Our test vehicle was the later and included an extensive list of the latest safety technologies including Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Change Assist, Rearview camera, rear parking sensors and Multi-View Camera System. The Ultimate Tech Package (the only option on the 2.0T Ultimate model) adds Smart Cruise Control with an excellent start/stop feature, Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Electronic Parking brake with Auto Hold, HID headlights, headlights that turn the direction the vehicle is turning and High Beam Assist (auto high- and low-beam). The tech package, is a real bargain at $1,600 and we highly recommend it.
All the Sport models get a broad selection of communications and entertainment features including the Bluetooth, SiriusXM satellite radio, HD radio along with USB, audio ports and the Blue Link® connection system (optional on the Sport trim). Blue Link uses embedded telematics to gather vehicle Car Care information such as Monthly Vehicle Health Report and Automatic Crash Notifications. The system also uses mobile apps to allow the customer to remote start, stop, lock or unlock their Hyundai. It also can immobilize the vehicle if carjacked.
Hyundai engineers have done a first-rate job on the controls. We like that most all the controls are buttons and knobs. That makes them much more user friendly than touch systems that often require the driver to look away from the road to operate. We do like the large quick responding touch infotainment screen populated with large, easy-to-read icons. This is one of the most user-friendly systems we’ve used.
The base Sport model is powered by a 185-hp 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine which does a respectable job for the average driver. But for those of us that like a little more enthusiasm under the hood, the 2.0T versions have a smooth and powerful 240-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine which produces a nice step up in acceleration and passing power or a 0 to 60 mph run in about 6.5 seconds. For people living in the mountains or higher elevations, this is the engine for you.
The transmission is Hyundai’s very good six-speed automatic with Shiftronic® which allows the transmission to be shifted manually. The optional all-wheel drive system has an Active Cornering feature that transfers more power to the wheels with the best grip on a corner adding to the driver’s confidence. The Sport’s electric power steering has driver-selectable steering modes that allow her or him to select a steering feel between Sport, Eco and Normal settings.
Fuel economy is about average for the category with an EPA rating of 19 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. The trip computer recorded a 23.3 mpg fuel economy during our week behind the wheel.
Hyundai has trimmed the prices on the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport models which now range from $25,900, including the destination charge, for the front-wheel drive Sport and goes up to $38,150 for the all-wheel drive Ultimate.
The only thing lacking on the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate is some sort of prestige name badge. However, as more shoppers discover the excellent, comfort, safety, value and performance of the Hyundai models we think the Hyundai brand will become a prestige brand.