Contemporary Style in an Affordable Midsize SUV
Hyundai tells us the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is a carry-over from the 2017 model, but this isn’t a bad thing in any way. Hyundai has sweetened the offering in 2018 on this well-received SUV, with the addition of interior and exterior convenience features. To increase the value, Hyundai discontinued one trim level (Limited) and added a new option package (Pop) so buyers can get a more complete Santa Fe Sport with the most popular features standard.
The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport comes in either FWD or AWD, with the base engine a 2.4-liter non-turbo four-cylinder. Clean Fleet Report’s test car was equipped with the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder DOHC engine with direct electronic fuel injection. Our AWD Santa Fe, running on unleaded regular, put-out 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque through Hyundai’s electronically-controlled, six-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic shifting. This drivetrain combination is EPA rated at 19 city/24 highway/21 combined.
We knew these numbers could be beat, so in 489 miles of 75-percent highway/25-percent city driving we averaged 26.7 mpg. In two, 100-mile freeway runs with the Smart Cruise Control set at 65 mph, we averaged 28.8 mpg. This is oh-so-close to the magic 30 mph Clean Fleet Report feels all AWD cars should get. The 2.0T is quite peppy, with peak torque kicking-in at a low 1,450 rpm and strong pull strong through 3,500 rpm, so highway onramps and passing big rigs was a breeze.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Our Santa Fe Sport AWD handled well, with its 3,949 lbs. well-suited to its length, width and height. Maneuvering was easy thanks to the Kuhmo Crugen 235/55R all-season tires on 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, the independent front and rear suspension with stabilizer bars, dual damper shock absorbers and active cornering control. The 2.0T has a tow rating of 3,500 lbs.
Clean Fleet Report is seeing more cars equipped with eight- and nine-speed automatic transmissions. For the Santa Fe Sport, Hyundai opted for a six-speed automatic. The shifts were smooth and there was no hunting for the correct gear when climbing hills or accelerating hard. To get the most performance from the engine, you have choices of Eco, Comfort and Sport settings. Eco can be used on long stretches of road to squeeze-out every last drop of fuel, where Sport holds the transmission in each rev band a bit longer, using more gas. Comfort is right in the middle for the cushiest ride. The Santa Fe Sport AWD is not a sporty vehicle, regardless of its name and having a Sport transmission setting. Comfort or Eco will be the way to go for most of your driving.
Stops were solid and consistent with a power-assisted braking system consisting of vented front and solid rear discs, anti-lock brake system and electronic brake-force distribution. The latter adjusts brake proportioning to compensate for added weight from passengers or cargo, and even adjusts as fuel is consumed. This is invisible and instant to the driver and passengers, making for a comfortable and controlled ride.
Driving Experience: Exterior
Hyundai says its “fluidic sculpture design” lends to a sleek front end and an athletic attitude. The stylish design starts with a curved front fascia including a pleasant three bar grille. The high-intensity discharge headlights and LED fog lamps lead to the sloping hood and a nearly flat roof, with a panoramic sunroof and rack rails. The body-color shark fin antenna sits above a rear window spoiler, finishing-off with a hands-free power liftgate, LED tail lights and twin, chrome exhast tips.
Driving Experience: Interior
The “Sport” in Santa Fe Sport refers to it being smaller than the larger Santa Fe, which offers a third row of seating. The well-designed interior has heated and vented, power front seats with leather surfaces. Finding a comfortable driving position was aided by the tilt and telescoping steering column and the nicely appointed heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel that had audio and telephone controls.
The Santa Fe Sport seats five adults with the outbound rear leather trimmed seats heated. Leg and head room were adequate, but a nice touch was the reclining and sliding rear seat. Storage space behind the rear seat was good, but when the 40/20/40 split-folding seat was in the full down position, the storage space could handle pretty much whatever you like. The multiple cubby storage areas were appreciated, including the underfloor cargo storage. So when it comes time to do the jigsaw puzzle of loading luggage for that road trip, the Santa Fe Sport is up to the task of accepting a place for all your gear.
Up front, the soft-touch material dash has a simple layout, starting with the deep-set analog tachometer and speedometer gauges that are easy to read with white lettering on a black background. Operating the sound system was easy and met Clean Fleet Report’s minimum requirement for a driver-friendly system, as it had knobs for the channel and volume functions. Our Santa Fe Sport Ultimate came with an 8.0-inch HD color display panel with a capacitive touch screen, incorporating navigation and a multi-view camera system.
The powerful and great sounding Infinity surround-sound high definition audio system, with ClariFi, came with an external amplifier, subwoofer and 10 speakers. SiriusXM satellite radio is included (three-month trial subscription) as is the AM/FM/CD/MP3 radio, USB ports with iPod connectivity, Aux-in jacks and Bluetooth streaming audio with voice recognition. The Blue Link connected services include being able to remotely start and lock/unlock the doors on the Santa Fe.
Adding to the interior comfort and convenience was a leather-wrapped shift knob, remote keyless entry with push button start, dual zone automatic climate control, power windows with one-touch up/down, power door locks, power heated outside mirrors with turn indicators, carpeted floor mats, auto dimming rearview mirror with compass and Homelink, outside temperature display, map lights and rear map pockets, multiple beverage holders, 12-volt accessory outlets and 110V power inverter.
The 2018 Santa Fe Sport comes with a long list of safety features, including eight air bags, lane departure warning, blind spot detection, back-up warning, tire pressure monitoring system, smart cruise control, automatic stop/start and electronic stability control.
The 2018 Santa Fe Sport has earned a US Government National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score, where 5 Stars is their highest safety rating.
Pricing and Warranties
The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport ranges from a base price of $24,950 to $37,200, depending on the engine, drive system and trim level. Clean Fleet Report’s Santa Fe Sport 2.0T AWD Ultimate, had a MSRP of $39,210, which included $2,010 in options. All prices are before the $950 freight and handling fee.
The 2018 Santa Fe Sport comes with these warranties:
- Powertrain 10 years/100,000 miles
- Basic Five years/60,000 miles
- Roadside Assistance Five years/60,000 miles
- Anti-perforation Seven years/Unlimited miles
Observations: 2018 Santa Fe Sport 2.0T AWD Ultimate
The Santa Fe Sport 2.0T AWD Ultimate offers clean, contemporary styling, and a comfortable interior with convenient and desirable seating and storage flexibility. The features list is long and deep. Having choices of front-wheel and all-wheel drive means everyone looking for a small SUV will find something to fit their needs.
The Santa Fe Sport is sized right for parking, has a ride that is quiet and calming, but also has respectable handling. The Santa Fe’s high safety rating is also a plus. Clean Fleet Report would like to see higher fuel economy numbers, though.
The 2018 Santa Fe Sport is a very capable SUV and should be on your shopping list.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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