Test Drive: Hyundai’s Santa Fe Sport Ultimate offers near-luxury

auto-santafesport-int-9-15The Santa Fe, Hyundai’s biggest crossover utility vehicle (CUV), comes in two flavors – the five-passenger Sport and the stretch Santa Fe, which accommodates as many as seven in three rows. For couples and small families, the Sport makes the most sense because it costs less, delivers better fuel economy, and offers nearly as much luggage and cargo room as the full-sized Santa Fe.

We test-drove a full-sized, all-wheel-drive Santa Fe Ultimate a few months ago. Extravagantly equipped and powered by a 290-horsepower V-6, it was priced at $44,635. This month, we were presented with a Twilight Black 2017 Santa Fe Sport Ultimate. Although just as lavishly equipped as the predecessor Santa Fe, the Sport, also with all-wheel drive, was priced about $4,000 less. Ride, handling and refinement were similar in the two Hyundais.

The Sport, somewhat lighter and with a turbocharged inline Four packing 240 horsepower, beats the stretch Santa Fe by 2 mpg in city and highway driving. The V-6 does a better job of motivating the midsize Santa Fe, but the Four under the Sport’s hood was smooth, quiet and strong enough for every circumstance we encountered. In straight highway driving, we were able to exceed the car’s 24-mpg rating by an mpg or two.

Built in West Point, Ga., the base Sport SE starts at $25,350. Unlike our full-dress test car, the SE has a 185-horsepower, normally aspirated Four and front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive, desirable in climates like New England’s, adds $1,750 to the price at every trim level.

Hyundai’s CUVs have been selling exceptionally well this year. Sales of the Sport are up 21 percent, while Santa Fe sales are up by 69 percent. Dealers had moved a combined total of about 87,000 through August.

People who were lured to Hyundai and Kia showrooms in the past by the low prices, but driven off by the cars’ middling performance and inexpensive interior materials, will be in for a surprise if they try out the 2017 models. They have quality looks, road manners and feel, and there’s plenty of room for four or even five adults.

Equipped with the Ultimate package, the Santa Fe Sport qualifies as a near-luxury CUV. In addition to leather upholstery, power front seats, dual-zone climate control, heated front and rear seats, and ventilated front seats, our Sport had a blind-spot detection system, panoramic sunroof, rear-window sunshades, heated steering wheel, multi-view camera system, a full range of telematics including navigation, and power liftgate. The $1,550 Ultimate Tech Package added smart cruise control, lane-departure warning, auto-leveling headlights and other features.

Rear-view cameras are standard on all trim levels, while the blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic alert systems are standard on all but the SE.

The Sport received five-star ratings across the board in government crash tests, with the exception of four stars for front-seat passenger protection in a frontal crash. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the Sport a Top Safety Pick Plus.

 

Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Ultimate AWD

Price: $40,820

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline Four, 240 horsepower, 260 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Weight: 4,107 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 19×7.5-in. alloy

Tires: P235/55R19 all-season

Ground clearance: 7.3 in.

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity with rear seat upright: 35.4 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 71.5 cu. ft.

Towing capacity: 3,500 lb.

Fuel capacity: 17.4 gallons

Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 24 mpg highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline

 

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