2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Introduction

The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is a five-passenger crossover SUV, smaller then the seven-passenger Santa Fe and powered by a choice of two engines. Attractive styling mixes with an abundance of standard features to make the Santa Fe Sport a contender against some of America’s best-selling vehicles, led by the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Ford Escape.

Slotted between the recently redesigned Tucson at the compact end of the scale, and the larger three-row Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Sport gets our vote as the best of the three Hyundai models. Santa Fe Sport was launched as a 2013 model, along with the longer Santa Fe. Little has changed for the 2016 model year.

The 2016 Santa Fe Sport comes as one trim level, with a choice of two engines. A normally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder makes 190 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. The turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder produces 264 horsepower and 259 pound-feet. The turbo delivers capable acceleration, with little loss in highway gas mileage.

Fuel economy for the standard 2.4-liter engine is EPA-rated at 20/27 mpg City/Highway, versus 19/27 mpg for the turbo. For drivers who relish performance even in a utility vehicle, the turbo offers an acceptable trade-off.

Each direct-injected engine mates with a well-behaved 6-speed automatic transmission. Front-drive and all-wheel drive layouts are available. All-wheel drive exacts a gas mileage penalty: 19/25 mpg City/Highway for the 2.4-liter, and 18/24 mpg for the turbo. An all-wheel-drive Honda CR-V, in contrast, is EPA-rated at 31 mpg Highway driving.

Crossovers need to emphasize space and utility, and the Santa Fe Sport complies. Space is ample for five passengers. The available sliding second-row bench can move 5.2 inches fore and aft, increasing either cargo or passenger space, as in a Chevrolet Equinox.

The front seats offer good support. The 40/20/40 split second-row seat reclines and folds, to carry longer objects.

Ride quality may be the Santa Fe Sport’s prime attribute. On the highway or around town, it’s nearly always calm and collected. Three-mode steering isn’t so helpful. We prefer Normal or Sport, because Comfort responds too slowly.

Powertrains are well-muted, and the driving experience is largely smooth and effortless. At times, the automatic transmission responds slowly when gear changes are called for.

Hyundai’s standard BlueLink telematics system incorporates Bluetooth streaming for apps, and turn-by-turn navigation, working in conjunction with a smartphone.

Crash-test scores from the federal government are good. The Santa Fe Sport earned a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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