2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Review

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2019
The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
June 16, 2017

Buying tip

At more than $37,000 for the Santa Fe Ultimate, the top end is getting a little too pricey. The 2.0T right in the middle is good value and comes

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.

Review continues below

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.

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2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Styling

The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport perfectly blends the automaker's SUV styling themes into a compact offering.

For 2017, Hyundai significantly updated the look of the Santa Fe Sport with 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. It's a handsome look, and one that'll be replicated in Hyundai factories across the U.S. as the automaker ramps up production to meet surging demand for SUVs.

The Santa Fe is good, inside and out—but certainly not great. It manages a generous 7 out of 10 on our scale for its looks. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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 8.0-inch touchscreen dominates the center stack and electroluminescent gauges toss in a few more subdued lumens.

The Sport is the best-looking of the Hyundai crossover-SUV trio, with a right-sized hexagonal grille bracketed in place with coordinated fog lamps and headlamps 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 opening 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.

Most of the outgoing model's resemblance to the Ford Escape is back is gone. The taillights and body lines have been sharpened, and dual tailpipes protruding from the right side of the vehicle cap off a more masculine look. It's altogether sharper, and it's a look that's repeated all the way around.

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6

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Performance

The Santa Fe Sport's base engine isn't much to write home to the folks about, so we're looking to the turbo to lead the lineup.

Two four-cylinder engine options are available in the 2017 Santa Fe Sport. Both engines have been carried over from last year.

The base engine is a normally 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 transmission that helps it achieve up to 28 mpg on the highway, according to Hyundai's estimates. 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 taller 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. The 2.0T is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds.

The base engine isn't up to the task, but a smooth shifting 6-speed evens the playing field. We like its ride and handling, which is how we arrive at 7 out of 10 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

With either engine, the 6-speed offers a manual shift mode that's actuated by the shift lever, not the paddles we prefer. But the transmission's shift points are well-chosen and well-sorted most of the time. Step into the gas fully from a light throttle, and after a brief pause, the automatic shifts down eagerly, with a mild rebound felt through the drivetrain. You don't have to concentrate on being a smooth driver for the Santa Fe Sport to behave smoothly, though.

Electric power steering has been a learning curve for all automakers, and Hyundai's path has taken it from the Sonata to the Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport with incremental improvements in feel and design. All these vehicles use a column-mounted motor, but the Santa Fe and Sport have the latest three-mode, driver-selectable steering that toggles through comfort, normal, and sport modes at the tap of a switch.

The Santa Fe Sport can be fitted with an optional all-wheel-drive system that uses an open center differential to distribute power from the front wheels to the rears when traction needs arise, and leans on anti-lock control to clamp down on wheelspin. It's not meant for ultimate off-road traction, but for on-road, all-weather capability. All-wheel-drive models also have torque vectoring control on the rear wheels via the same means; to aid cornering, the inside rear wheel gets some braking applied automatically. All the electronics can be shut off, for times when wheelspin is your ally. Ground clearance is 7.3 inches—not Subaru Outback territory, but not Sonata sedan, either.

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8

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Comfort & Quality

The 2017 Santa Fe Sport combines some good common-sense features with quality interior materials.

The Santa Fe Sport is the shorter of the two Santa Fe crossovers—so no third row here—but it has a few tricks up its sleeve nonetheless.

In terms of size, Santa Fe Sport is firmly in the middle of the pack when compared to its rivals. The 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 more room than most rivals. It offers 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.

Good room up front and in back, coupled with decent cargo space nets the Santa Fe Sport an 8 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Between the driver and front passenger, there's a deep console with two cupholders. Ahead of the shift lever, there's a big bin that can hold smartphones near the USB and auxiliary ports. The door pockets have molded-in storage for water bottles.

The rear seat splits and folds to flex its available space—and it slides, too. The seats fold down in three sections: 40/20/20, which means the middle section can give way to narrow objects and still leave two rear seats in place. On Santa Fe Sports with leather seating, the second-row seat also slides back and forth on a 5.2-inch track. It's a handy feature that allows variable storage or passenger space. The same sliding bench also has reclining seat backs, a great feature for long road trips and rear passengers.

When it's time to put the Santa Fe Sport to work, the front passenger seat folds flat to carry very long objects. With the rear seats up, the Santa Fe Sport carries 35.4 cubic feet of stuff. With the rear seats down it swallows 71.5 cubes of gear, about 8 cubic feet more than the Chevy Equinox and 10 cubic feet more than the Tucson. The Santa Fe Sport's cargo bin has shallow, under-floor storage that's perfect for holding laptop bags securely out of sight; it can be accessed only when the cargo area is empty. A cargo cover is also included, standard.

Hyundai said nearly 350 individual parts have been updated on the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport over last year to refine its ride and cabin.

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8

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Safety

The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport has excellent crash test scores from major U.S. agencies.

The 2017 Santa Fe Sport earned very good crash-test scores from federal safety officials. The NHTSA gave it an overall rating of five stars, with the same score on most sub-tests except rollover resistance, where it earned four stars. 

The IIHS gave the 2017 Santa Fe Sport all "Good" scores on all of its tests, including small overlap crash. The test simulates hitting a pole or tree. That rating is significantly better than the 2016's rating of "Marginal." Hyundai's scores on the IIHS test this year, and its optional forward collision warning system with automatic emergency braking, means that it earned the agency's coveted Top Safety Pick award and one of our highest scores.

The near-perfect run on safety tests earns a 8 out of 10 on our safety scale. It could do better with higher-rated headlights by the IIHS. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

All models have the usual standard front, side, and curtain airbags, as well as a driver knee airbag, for a total of seven. Hill-start and downhill assist also are standard, along with anti-lock brakes, stability control and traction control.

Rearview cameras are standard on all models this year. Surround-view cameras, lane-keep assist, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control are optional.

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8

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Features

It's getting progressively more expensive, but even at $30,000 the Santa Fe Sport is still good value for money.

For about $26,000 to start, the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport comes fairly well equipped for a compact SUV. All versions come with cruise control, keyless entry, daytime running lights, 17-inch wheels, projector headlights with LED accents, and LED taillights. For audio, the Santa Fe Sport comes standard with an AM/FM/XM/CD player with auxiliary and USB ports, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and six speakers.

Good base equipment, good options, and a solid touchscreen in all versions of the Santa Fe Sport is good enough for an 8 out 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Base, 2.4-liter versions of the Santa Fe Sport can add a surprising number of optional extras. A Popular Equipment package adds a 7.0-inch Display audio system, Hyundai's Blue Link telematics service, and power driver's seat. A Premium package adds leather seating, blind-spot monitors, hands-free liftgate, and keyless ignition. The base 2.4-liter can also add the rest of the higher trims' features, including an 8.0-inch touchscreen, surround-view camera system, heated and ventilated front seats, rear parking sensors, and more.

The price of entry for the turbocharged engine is more than $6,000, but that's not the only perk for such a steep increase. The so-called Santa Fe Sport 2.0T adds 18-inch wheels; power, leather, and heated driver and passenger seats; leather-wrapped steering wheel; dual automatic climate control; hands-free rear liftgate; keyless ignition; blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist; 7.0-inch Display audio; Hyundai's Blue Link telematics service; and pre-wiring for trailer towing.

Stepping up to the Santa Fe Ultimate tacks close to $5,000 on the bottom line and adds a panoramic sunroof, Infinity premium stereo with 8.0-inch touchscreen, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, 19-inch wheels, HID headlights, and a surround view camera system, among other amenities.

Only the Santa Fe Ultimate trim can add a Technology package that includes adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and electronic parking brake.

All trim levels can add all-wheel drive for $1,750 more.

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6

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Fuel Economy

The 2017 Santa Fe Sport still has middle-of-the-road mileage, but at least the penalty for the bigger engine is minimal.

The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport doesn't post impressive fuel economy figures in front- or all-wheel drive with its base 2.4-liter engine. For that reason—and because the more potent turbocharged version runs on regular gasoline anyway—it'd be hard not to recommend the turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 in almost every circumstance.

In front-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).

We're guessing that those will be the biggest sellers, and we've based our 6 out of 10 rating on those cars. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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.

The fully optioned Santa Fe Sport Ultimate—which is only available with the 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4—has its own EPA ratings due to its considerable heft over the rest of the range. The front-drive Santa Fe Sport Ultimate is rated at 20/27/23 mpg, and the AWD version is rated 19/24/21 mpg.

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June 25, 2018
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Automatic

Beautiful and prefect

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Beautiful and wonderful professional I like this car Perfect design I love it to have this car
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September 16, 2017
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.4L Automatic AWD

Nice Value Proposition at it's Price Point

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The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.4L AWD is a nicely appointed SUV when equipped with Popular Equipment Package and Premium Equipment Package (Option Group 03).Iy get you Leather Seating, Dual Zone Climate... + More »
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June 26, 2017
For 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Good crossover for the money.

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I love my 2.0T Ultimate model, is a quiet responsive engine, nice suspension and a lot of space for the passenger and cargo.
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November 26, 2016
For 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Awesome vehicle

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10+ is great in fashion. Roomy, pleasure to meet you and drive
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August 25, 2016
For 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

I love my new car!

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It was a great car and a great deal! The sales person Ian McHenry was awesome, best ever. Car is pretty and a good value
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Styling 7
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 8
Features 8
Fuel Economy 6
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