Before I start the review of the 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0, I need you to answer a question.
What do you want from life?
Do you demand luxury no matter what the costs (or payments)? Are you one of those people who settle for something cheap because “It’ll do”? Or are you that person in the middle. A value shopper who knows a great deal but won’t go cheap because you have standards?
If you’re in that third category, the Santa Fe Sport may be your SUV.
I need to point out that Hyundai makes two Santa Fe SUVs. The Sport has a big brother. It’s a seven-passenger SUV that is 8.5 inches longer. The Sport is the five-passenger model. They look identical except the Sport is shorter.
And let’s talk about those looks. I think the Santa Fe is one of the best styled cars in its class. The grill lines feed perfectly into the headlights which flow nicely past the hood and into the windows. Those side windows come to a nice angled point with an upward slant. The belt line body sculpting follows the same direction. It’s big without being clunky.
You have your choice of two engines. The base 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine has 190 horsepower. My test car had the 2.0 liter twin turbo four-cylinder which upped the output to 264 horsepower. While I’m sure the 190 horses would get you around town, 264 horses is something you can actually enjoy. I’ve driven SUVs with more, but frankly 260 is the sweet spot.
The engine is also responsible for one of the Santa Fe Sport’s weakest points: its fuel mileage. The two-wheel drive version is only good for 19 MPG in the city and 27 MPG on the highway with a combined number of 22 MPG (in fact I averaged 22.6 MPG for the week). Go for the 190 horsepower model and you only gain one mpg on the combined total. Compare that to competition like the Ford Escape (25 MPG combined), the Honda CR-V (26 MPG combined) or the Mazda CX-5 (29 MPG combined), and it’s pretty disappointing. If you get the turbo, you can at least console yourself (and your wallet) by knowing that you get a lot more power than the competition. Ultimately, you have to decide if it’s worth the lower MPG.
Driving the Santa Fe Sport is a pleasure. It gives you three options for steering input: normal, sport or comfort. You can decide what kind of steering wheel feel you want. Don’t get me wrong, the sport setting isn’t going to make you feel like you’re in a Porsche Cayenne, but it’s a nice to tune the car to your tastes. My test car had warnings to let you know if a car was in your blind spot. They worked well and give the car the kind of technology it needs to move up a notch.
The interior won’t disappoint. It doesn’t have the look or feel of a luxury car, but there’s nothing cheap about it. It’s well designed and finished properly. If you really want to splurge you can opt for vented front seats with 12-way adjustment. There is a single display on the dash (my car had the 8-inch screen compared to the 4.3 inch standard model) that works well. I was even impressed with the navigation system. It’s still not as good as my phone, but it’s a lot better than other cars I’ve tested. It requires fewer steps to get you where you’re going. We took some friends out to dinner one night and the back seat got solid reviews. The nearly 40 inches of leg room prompted my friend to say it was in the top 75th percentile of back seats he’s tried (OK, I’m not sure how many are on that list, but you get the idea).
Price and warranty are two big advantages for the Santa Fe Sport. In Arizona, the base price for the 2.4 liter, two-wheel drive model is $25,825. My test car with the turbo, all-wheel drive and the navigation package was $35,135. Drop the all-wheel drive and it’s around $33,000 which is a great value. There is a Technology package you can add for $4,350, but my test car didn’t have it and I can’t say I missed anything. And then there’s the warranty. Hyundai’s 10 year/100,000 mile warranty for the first owner is the best in the business.
So let’s get back to the question: What do you want from life? If it’s great looks, great power and no hint of cheapness, then the 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport could be your SUV.