See exclusive deals in your area
- Sharper styling all the way around
- Good standard features
- Still a good value, even in higher trims
- Easy-to-use cargo space
- Bigger engine doesn't penalize economy
- Base engine isn't exciting
- All-around gas mileage isn't great
- Steering feel isn't sharp
- V-6 only on long-wheelbase Sante Fe, not the Sport
The restyled 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport looks sharp, inside and out. We can't help but wonder what the model could do with a slightly improved powertrain lineup.
The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport received a substantial refresh this year that helps cement its status as Hyundai's go-to 'tweener in its SUV lineup.
Sandwiched between the bigger, three-row Santa Fe (which was also updated for 2017) and smaller Tucson, this year's Santa Fe Sport takes a little from each model to round out its position as Hyundai's popular two-row, compact SUV.
Last year, Hyundai announced it would shift production of some of its sedans in American plants to make room for more Santa Fe Sport models to meet surging consumer demand—and we're expecting even more buyers to flock to this newest iteration.
The Santa Fe Sport nets a 7.2 out of 10 overall on our scale for its good features and superlative safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Styling and performance
Despite being mechanically unchanged from last year, Hyundai said it changed roughly 25 percent of the Santa Fe Sport's parts in updating it for 2017. For this year, the Santa Fe Sport receives a new front fascia, headlights, trim panels, taillights, rear fascia—you get the picture, a lot has changed.
In total, the design language has matured in the Santa Fe Sport to something closer to the Tucson, which was all new last year. The Sport is still the best-looking of the Hyundai crossover-SUV trio, with a right-sized hexagonal grille bracketed in place with coordinated fog lamps and headlights trimmed with LED lighting. The side sills stand out in relief up and over the rear wheel wells, and the rear door handles sit well back of the rear wheel openings in a way we associate with Mazda's now-defunct CX-7. It's all summed up by a simple, balanced treatment of taillights and glass on the tailgate.
The interior of the Santa Fe Sport is further refined from previous generations. It carries a shield of controls at its center and flanks them with big air vents—a theme that's recurring pretty often in compact-car design. The dash surface undulates, dipping low in front of passengers and bubbling up for gauges and the center stack. Large knobs control fan speed and audio volume. Like many mid-cycle updates, Hyundai is stuffing the Santa Fe Sport with more available technology. An available 8.0-inch touchscreen commands attention and electroluminescent gauges toss in a few more subdued lumens.
The base engine is a aspirated 2.4-liter inline-4 that's used in other Hyundai cars such as the Sonata sedan. The engine makes 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. It's equipped with direct injection and paired with a 6-speed automatic that helps it achieve up to 28 mpg on the highway, according to Hyundai's estimates. Based on our previous experience with that engine, it's hard to ask much more than single-passenger commuting duty from the breathless, busy engine. It's price is the biggest draw, not necessarily its power.
Bundled with popular features on the 2.0T and Ultimate trims, we handily recommend the 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4, which is also shared with the Sonata. In the Santa Fe Sport, the turbocharged, direct-injected inline-4 makes 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Using the same 6-speed automatic, albeit with slightly shorter initial gearing, the turbocharged engine helps the Santa Fe Sport hustle down the road with more confidence and its gas mileage penalty is minimal: only a single mpg in most circumstances. An Active ECO mode blurs over shifts and throttle responses, saving very small amounts of gas at the same time. Since it's relatively lean, at 3,739 pounds, the turbo Santa Fe Sport is a solid straight-line performer, with acceleration to 60 mph in the seven-second range.
To Hyundai's credit, all-wheel drive is offered with both engines as a $1,750 optional extra.
Comfort, safety, and features
In terms of size, the Santa Fe Sport is firmly in the middle of the pack when compared to its rivals. The Santa Fe Sport is close in size to the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Jeep Cherokee, Mazda CX-5 and Chevy Equinox. It has a slightly longer wheelbase than the Ford Escape and sister Hyundai Tucson. It is 74 inches wide, 184.6 inches long, and has a 106.3-inch wheelbase.
The Santa Fe Sport has good leg room and knee room, with just enough for tall drivers if the optional panoramic sunroof is installed. The seats have sufficient bolstering on the bottom cushion, and have well-shaped backrests. A power seat is standard on most versions, while power for the passenger seat and heating for both is an option.
For 2017, Hyundai said it would improve on already good safety scores. The new model earned a five-star overall score by the feds and a Top Safety Pick designation by the IIHS. The only thing keeping it from near-perfection is a better rating for its standard headlights.
With front-wheel drive, the naturally aspirated 2.4-liter inline-4 returns 21 mpg city, 27 highway, 24 combined, according to the EPA. Those numbers drop to 20/26/22 mpg with all-wheel drive (AWD). The more potent, turbocharged engine manages 20/28/23 mpg in front-wheel-drive spec, and 19/26/22 mpg in AWD form, according to the EPA.