2014 Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0TPosted on June 23rd, 2014
Five-passenger crossover gains new safety features
By Nina Russin
There’s a reason Hyundai’s midsized crossover has been a fixture on American highways since it first rolled out for the 2001 model year: it offers more value than most competitors and has the versatility to fill a lot of squares.
The 2014 car is basically a continuation of the five-passenger crossover first introduced for the 2012 model year, but with some appealing new safety features. Blind spot detection is now available on all trim levels and technology packages come with rear park assist. The same option package now includes high intensity discharge headlamps, LED tail lamps, front seat memory and ventilated front seats. Eighteen-inch rims are now standard on turbocharged models.
The Santa Fe lineup is divided into two models: the five-passenger Sport and seven-passenger Santa Fe. The Sport is powered by either a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated engine or two-liter turbo. Of the two, the turbocharged block is the one to buy, with 264 horsepower and 269 foot-pounds of torque. Because turbocharged engines develop maximum torque at much slower engine speeds than naturally aspirated blocks, drivers will notice a considerable difference off the line.
All models come with a six-speed automatic transmission and a choice of front or all-wheel drive.
The all-wheel drive test car is priced from $32,400. There are two options: navigation that also adds premium audio and 19-inch wheels. Final MSRP including the $875 destination charge is $35,135.
Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona
This past week I drove the Santa Fe Sport around the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area as well as highways and surface streets in Chandler, Scottsdale and the Gila River Indian reservation south of town.
The Santa Fe Sport was an ALV winner when the model was first introduced in 2012, and it continues to be a good choice for buyers with active lifestyles that require four-season capability and a versatile cargo area.
The standard blind spot detection feature is an important upgrade, eliminating blind spots around the car’s perimeter created by its large rear pillars and relatively high beltline. I found it much easier to monitor vehicles in adjacent lanes on the crowded highway east of Scottsdale.
The turbocharged engine is a delight to drive. It has the power one would normally associate with a six-cylinder block but offers much better gas mileage. All-wheel drive typically reduces average fuel economy by two-three miles per gallon as compared to front-wheel drive. Gas mileage on my test drive was on par with the EPA estimate of 21 mpg: about 24 miles-per-gallon on the highway.
Because the engine develops peak torque as low as 1750 rpm, it’s easy to sail to the front of the pack when merging into high-speed traffic off a freeway ramp. The driver doesn’t have to dip too deep into the throttle to accelerate, reducing stress on long road trips.
The six-speed automatic transmission is nicely matched with the engine, progressing smoothly through the gears with no noticeable shift shock under normal driving conditions.
While I am not a huge fan of electric power steering, the unit on the Santa Fe Sport is well tuned, with decent on-center response. The advantage of these systems, in addition to their small size and efficiency is excellent low-end assist. The Santa Fe Sport’s 35.8-foot turning circle makes it easy to perform U-turns on wider surface streets.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the rear. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat while cornering. The car handles decreasing radius turns quite well for a high-profile vehicle.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Santa Fe in firm, linear fashion.
Visibility around the perimeter is somewhat limited by the car’s thick pillars and high beltline. The rear glass is also relatively small. Fortunately a standard rearview camera and blind spot detection help the drive to see obstacles that would otherwise be in his blind spots.
Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing road, engine and wind noise intrusion into the interior. Passengers in both rows should have no problems conversing or enjoying the audio system.
Hyundai product planners packed a lot of value into the interior, with standard keyless entry and start, leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth interface, dual-zone climate control, rear window sunshades, Hyundai Blue Link telematics and a tow prep package that boosts the Santa Fe’s towing capacity to 3500 pounds.
An eight-inch touchscreen replaces the 4.3-inch unit on the test car as part of the navigation system. Having used both, the larger screen is much easier to see the rearview camera image.
Living in Arizona, I would opt out of the leather upholstery and choose the cloth seats with Yes Essentials stain resistant fabric instead. I also found the gearshift lever to get pretty hot in the middle of a warm June day.
Second-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor, so the Santa Fe Sport easily meets our bicycle-friendly standard. Standard roof rails on the test car make it easy to add a rack or carrier up top.
The Santa Fe Sport received a five-star overall score from the National Traffic Safety Administration. With the addition of blind spot detection, it is now also an IIHS top safety pick.
Standard safety features include front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, hill start assist, downhill descent control and tire pressure monitoring.
Hyundai builds the Santa Fe at the West Point, Georgia assembly plant.
Like: A versatile, well equipped five-passenger crossover with important new standard safety features.
Dislikes: Gearshift lever is hot to the touch in very warm weather.
Model: Santa Fe Sport 2.0T
Base price: $32,400
As tested: $35,135
Horsepower: 264 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 269 lbs.-ft. @ 1750 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 18/24 mpg city/highway2014, Best Value 2014, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Hyundai, performance, pricing, standard safety
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