Test Drive
2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD Turbo
Entry Price: $24,950
Price As tested: $39,875

This week, we’re driving the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport all-wheel-drive (AWD), with a “2.0T” designation. This “2.0T” stands for 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine, meaning this Hyundai packs a solid punch from its small engine dimensions.

Built in West Point, Georgia, Santa Fe Sport is a five-passenger small to mid-size SUV that competes in one of the most populated classes, overall, for consumer approval. Specifically, there are more compact and midsize SUVs running the highways these days than corresponding two- and four-door sedans. Years ago, these realities were reversed as we now live in a nation that loves its SUVs, pickup trucks and crossovers thanks to the population’s multi-tasking needs.

A non-turbo Sport entry model starts at $24,950 and comes with a normally aspirated, 185-horse fuel injected 2.4-liter four, while our top class Sport Turbo Ultimate AWD begins at $37,200. A mid-level Sport 2.0 Turbo starts at $27,600 and might be the best choice of the three models price wise.

Along with its larger sibling Santa Fe V6, which rides on a 3.9-inch longer wheelbase, Santa Fe in either code of dress offers consumer satisfaction and reliability. Both models receive recommendation nods from the respected Consumer Reports magazine, which gives important consumer information on anything from cars to washing machines. So be it the smaller Sport or bigger, three-row 7-passenger Santa Fe V6, passengers will enjoy ample to generous interior roominess and enough cargo space to accommodate any business trip or family need.

Worth mentioning is a new generation 2019 Santa Fe scheduled to debut this July. Ahead of this new generation are Hyundai dealers now are offering some nice 2018 incentives of $3,750 off Sport’s final price and $2,750 off the V6 models. Since word has it the new 2019 Santa Fe generation upgrades are more cosmetic than mechanical, sans the addition of more safety and high-tech equipment as standard fare and a new eight-speed automatic, it might pay long-term dividends to take a serious look at the discounted 2018s for obvious reasons.

As for our tester Santa Fe Sport, it’s a roomy SUV that’s easy to drive and a great multi-task vehicle, especially with the AWD mechanicals. Our top-line Ultimate features so many amenities I can’t list them all, but rest assured you will be highly pleased. Things like two rows of heated leather trim seating, auto-open rear liftgate, ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel and all the latest “techie” gadgetry like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard.

Our tester arrived fully loaded with just two options, a recommended $1,800 Ultimate Tech Package and $125 for carpeted floor mats. The Tech option adds the desired “higher-tech” safety items like smart cruise, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, electronic parking brake, dynamic bending light with high beam assist, and auto leveling headlamps.

Under the hood, our Santa Fe Sport features the aforementioned 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, developing 240-horsepower and 260 lb. ft. of torque. In addition to offering good acceleration thanks to the turbo (expect zero to 60 in about eight seconds) the fuel mileage for this AWD is decent at 19 city and 24 highway, versus 20 city and 27 highway for the front drive Ultimate. The 2.0 non-turbo delivers 21 city and 27 highway in front drive form while the AWD takes one-MPG off both city and highway.

All Sport models rely on Hyundai’s Shiftronic six-speed automatic with an active Eco button that calibrates transmission shift points and throttle response for better fuel mileage. The suspension is a MacPherson strut front and a multi-link rear design while the AWD is an Active Cornering Control with an AWD lock and drive mode select.

On the highway, Santa Fe Sport delivers a decent, albeit sometimes rough, ride and impressive handling for a midsize SUV. Although the entry and mid-level Santa Fe Sports come with either 17- or 18-inch tires on alloy wheels, respectively, our high class tester came with standard 19-inch tires on special Ultimate trim lightweight alloys. Also standard on the Ultimate model are an eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, Infinity Premium surround sound with Quatrum Logic 12-speaker setup, Hyundai’s driver assisting Blue Link telematics, hands-free Bluetooth, panoramic sunroof, elite instrument cluster and much more.

Santa Fe also touts a government crash tested “5-Star Safety Rating” thanks to all the air bags, vehicle stability management, traction and hill start controls, four-wheel ABS disc brakes, blind spot detection, rear backup safety camera, downhill brake assist and more.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 106.3-inches, from 35.4 to 71.5 cubic feet of cargo space, 35.8 ft. turning diameter, 4,107 lb. curb weight, 3,500-lb. tow capacity and a 17.4 gallon fuel tank.

Hyundai continues to sit atop its perch as one of the leading midsize SUVs thanks to its emphasis on safety, structural integrity and mechanical competence. Add in the 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, and the benefit of Hyundai Santa Fe ownership comes clearly into focus, be it leftover 2018 or the upcoming 2019 models. (I can’t believe we’re already talking 2019 models coming in July!)
Likes: Owner satisfaction, great interior, fuel mileage, warranty.
Dislikes: Upper level safety options not available on entry Sport, ride a bit stiff, a few more ponies would be nice.

NEXT WEEK: 2018 Volkswagen Golf Station Wagon

— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other GateHouse Media publications.