2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T AWD Tech
Totally worthy of its strong sales success
It’s hard to believe the Santa Fe is entering the final year of its current third-generation body style, because it still looks so good. That’s the sign strong design, and reason enough for such excellent continued sales. Hyundai sold 107,906 of its regular wheelbase Sport model and long-wheelbase XL during the last calendar year, while the mid-size crossover SUV shows little sign of slowing this year either.
I’ve been a fan of the Santa Fe since the second-generation arrived on the scene in 2006 as a 2007 model, and became an even more ardent proponent since this third-gen iteration hit the scene in 2012 for the 2013 model year. The original was a good SUV too, although I never warmed up to its stylin, but the design progression shown since is evidence of just how far Hyundai has come in all respects over the past decade.
My Santa Fe Sport 2.0T AWD tester is a knockout. First off the shorter Sport body style is the clear style leader thanks to its unique backend design that includes a gorgeous set of upscale multi-angled LED taillights that would look right at home on a premium brand, while the 2.0T model upgrades things further. At the other end the SUV’s sharp looking three-slat dark chrome grille sits front and center, with beautifully detailed projector beam headlamps at each corner, plus cool LED positioning lamps, chrome trimmed fog lights, LED turn signals set into the mirror caps, chromed door handles, slim roof rails arcing overtop, the latter ideally matching the shiny black roof caused by my tester’s upgraded panoramic sunroof, not to mention blackened rear privacy glass, a sporty rear spoiler, and metallic under-tray set into the lower front fascia continuing the premium theme right around the vehicle where a metallic diffuser-like rear bumper cap with twin chromed tailpipes emit yet more of a performance image. It looks particularly good in my tester’s Frost White Pearl paint. All-round the Santa Fe is one of the best looking in its class.
Walk up to the door, press the tiny black button on the handle and the key fob in your purse or pocket tells the proximity-sensing locks to let you in, the same process making ignition just as easy via pushbutton start. That feature comes as part of the $3,300 Premium Package, but before I get ahead of myself I should explain that the 2.0T gets a list of standard extras that normally requires a $1,350 payment for the Popular Equipment Package with the Sport model featuring the less powerful 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine. These include the fog lamps and roof rack side rails I noted a moment ago, as well as auto on/off headlamps, a windshield wiper de-icer, a 4.3-inch color touchscreen audio display, a rearview camera, the Blue Link connected car system, an eight-way powered driver’s seat with four-way powered lumbar, and heatable front seats.
Some of those items weren’t grandfathered up to my much more opulently equipped test model, the first of its packages the Premium one just mentioned that also adds the side mirror-mounted turn signals noted earlier, plus a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a superb looking electroluminescent gauge cluster with a color LCD multi-information display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated HomeLink universal garage door opener and digital compass, dual-zone auto HVAC with a CleanAir ionizer, a powered front passenger seat, leather upholstery, manual rear side window sunshades, 60/40 sliding second- row seats with cargo-area releases, as well as blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist.
Finally, my near full-load tester’s $3,500 Tech Package added the aforementioned panoramic sunroof as well as premium metal doorsill plates, driver seat and side mirror memory, a heatable steering wheel, ventilated front seats, heatable rear outboard seats, a larger eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, an upgraded audio system with an external amp and subwoofer, rear parking sensors, and a hands-free Smart liftgate that will automatically open if you stand next to the rear bumper for more than three seconds while the proximity-sensing key fob is in your pocket or purse.
My Santa Fe Sport 2.0T was a step above most competitors when it comes to premium-level plastics, switchgear quality and attention to detail, with soft-touch synthetic surfaces applied to the dash top, instrument panel, front and rear door uppers and inserts, plus beautifully designed stitched leatherette armrests with metallic trim, impressively finished leather wrapping around the steering wheel and shift knob, leather seats done out in perforated hides for better ventilation, gorgeous authentic looking and real feeling faux wood across the dash, a brilliant primary gauge package featuring electroluminescent Supervision dials plus a high-resolution color 4.2-inch TFT LCD multi-information display that’s well shrouded from exterior light, upscale metallic-edged illuminated power window switches, controls on the steering wheel and center stack that are at least as nice, especially the HVAC interface that includes its own interface while being displayed on the large easy-to-use infotainment touchscreen just above, and attractive blue ambient LED lighting under that center stack, not to mention those rich looking aforementioned metal doorsill plates greeting you before even climbing inside.
Hyundai says that the Santa Fe’s folding rear seatbacks are split 60/40, but they’re really selling themselves short because the folding center pass-through is large enough to be considered a 40/20/40 configuration. The setup allows a great deal more flexibility for passengers and cargo, while those in back will enjoy sharing window seats, especially if equipped with rear seat heaters, as was the case with my tester. Just the throw the skis down the middle and let everyone warm up on the way home; it doesn’t get much better than that. Additionally, under the cargo floor is a massive sectioned storage compartment for hiding valuables from prying eyes, another Santa Fe Sport bonus, while there’s no shortage of luggage space above with 35.4 cubic feet of volume behind those super-flexible rear seatbacks or 71.5 cubic feet available when they’re folded down.
For summer trips that include towing a trailer the Santa Fe Sport comes standard with a 2,000-lb tow rating, which gets upgraded to 3,500 lbs in 2.0T trim. Those who need to tow bigger loads can also opt for the Santa Fe XL that can manage up to 5,000-lb loads, not to mention more cargo capacity, but that’s another review for another time.
Either way the Santa Fe is wonderfully comfortable front and back, with excellent head, shoulder, hip and legroom. As noted, my tester’s rear seat heaters are a particularly nice upgrade for smaller folks in the family that always feel like their missing out (or two couples getting away from those smaller folks), as are the B-pillar mounted HVAC vents.
Even when completely loaded up with family and gear the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T delivers strong performance off the line, its twin-scroll turbocharged, 16-valve, DOHC, direct-injection 2.0-liter four-cylinder with dual-continual variable valve timing capable of 265 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque, my tester’s all-wheel drive fed through a six-speed automatic transmission with Hyundai’s Shiftronic manual mode holding gears when pushing it through corners.
If driven more moderately the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T is capable of achieving a very thrifty 18 mpg city, 24 highway and 21 combined with AWD or if you don’t need cold weather traction you can save more fuel with FWD, that model’s rating being 19 mpg city, 27 highway and 22 combined, which isn’t quite as good as the 190 horsepower base 2.4-liter engine’s 20 city, 27 highway and 23 combined with FWD, although it beats that model’s 19, 25 and 21 with AWD, while it’s also great compared to rival V6-powered SUVs with similar output. This is just another area where Hyundai has a lead over its Japanese rivals, as they all require a move up to big thirsty V6 engines to extract the same level of performance.
Speaking of fuel-efficiency, the Santa Fe’s AWD system sends 100 percent of engine torque to the front wheels to save fuel unless wheel slippage occurs, at which point up to 50 percent is automatically allocated to the wheels in the rear. A driver-selectable AWD lock button designates a pre-set torque-split when encountering extremely slippery situations or tackling the wild, something the Santa Fe is quite capable of as long as you don’t wander too far into Hummer territory. Back on the road, the Santa Fe’s AWD system is a class above some competitors due to Active Cornering Control (ACC), a technology that automatically redirects power to the wheels with the most traction, while a torque-vectoring effect occurs as the system automatically adds brake pressure to the inside rear wheel while simultaneously adding torque to the outside rear wheel,a process that reduces understeer and improves overall handling and feel.
Another Santa Fe bonus is Driver Selectable Steering, a feature that offers up three distinct operating modes including Comfort, Normal and Sport, with the latter being my personal preference. Together with the SUV’s fully independent suspension that includes a MacPherson strut/multi-link and stabilizer bar setup front and back, it always felt totally connected to the road while amply comfortable over rough pavement. Braking is good too, the Santa Fe coming standard with ABS-enhanced four-wheel discs incorporating electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist, while the safety suite also includes traction and stability control, vehicle stability management, downhill brake control, hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring, plus seven total airbags including a driver’s knee blocker.
Everything I’ve mentioned is fully backed by a comprehensive warranty that’s good for 10 years or 100,000 miles, and a powertrain warranty that covers it for five years or 60,000 miles, which as you’ll likely know is considerably longer than most automakers offer for their warranties.
What’s not to like? The only negative I can point to is a very small infotainment system in lower trims, something I’m quite certain Hyundai will rectify with the upcoming fourth-generation Santa Fe replacement expected sometime in 2016, but if you really must have big screen center stack graphics and can’t wait until the 2017 model, I recommend stepping up to the Tech package I tested here.
Truly, my 2016 Santa Fe Sport 2.0T AWD tester was wonderful in every respect, easily proving why it continues to be such a strong seller. So do yourself a favor and listen to that audience when you’re ready to buy a mid-size CUV or trade in the one you already have. With respect to the Santa Fe, all those buyers are spot on.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press Inc.