2015 Santa Fe New Car Test Drive
The Hyundai Santa Fe mid-size crossover utility was all-new for 2013, built on a new lighter-weight, higher-strength platform. The 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe comes in two handy family sizes: regular (long-wheelbase) and the smaller Sport.
The two-row, five-passenger Santa Fe Sport, about the same size as the previous-generation (2012) Santa Fe, competes in the fast-growing field of domestic and import compact crossovers that includes the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Edge, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V.
The larger, three-row, six- or seven-passenger 2014 Santa Fe is 8.5 inches longer overall, on a 3.9-inch-longer wheelbase, to take on the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Mazda CX-9.
Both Santa Fes (and the smaller-yet Tucson) are crossover utility vehicles, or CUVs. That means they're car-based sport utilities, essentially tall wagons, which offer more car-like driving dynamics and fuel efficiency than truck-based SUVs.
Most revisions for 2014 apply to optional equipment. Blind Spot Detection is now available on all trim levels, while rear parking assistance is included in Technology Packages. HID (high-intensity-discharge) headlights and LED taillights are available for 2014 in the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T and Santa Fe Limited Technology Packages. New 18-inch wheels are standard on the Sport 2.0T. Rear side-window sunshades are part of the Santa Fe Sport Premium Package. Ventilated front seats with integrated memory are part of the Technology Packages. Also, 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sports equipped with a panoramic sunroof are now fitted with roof rails.
Two four-cylinder engine choices are available in the Santa Fe Sport: a 190-horsepower 2.4-liter non-turbo, and a turbocharged 264-hp 2.0-liter. The larger Santa Fe holds a 290-hp 3.3-liter V6. All three engines benefit from high-pressure gasoline direct injection (GDI) and drive through 6-speed automatic transmissions with SHIFTRONIC manual capability. All models offer available Active Cornering Control all-wheel drive.
EPA fuel economy ratings range from 20/27 mpg City/Highway for the base front-wheel-drive four-cylinder Santa Fe Sport, down to 18/24 mpg City/Highway for the 2.0T turbo Sport with all-wheel drive. That same 18/24 mpg estimate has been given to the larger Santa Fe with all-wheel drive. (Early Santa Fe Sports were rated as high as 21/29 mpg City/Highway, but Hyundai revised some fuel-economy estimates in late 2012.)
Hyundai's all-wheel drive continuously monitors driving conditions and enhances stability by managing brake and engine torque, vectoring one or the other toward or away from individual wheels to balance side-to-side and front-to rear traction. The result is improved cornering stability, reduced understeer (loss of front-wheel traction) or oversteer (loss of rear-wheel traction) to help the driver maintain control in tricky conditions. Standard Hillstart Assist Control minimizes roll-back on steep uphills, while Downhill Brake Control manages speed and enhances control on steep descents.
To our eyes, each Santa Fe is a handsome piece that's more distinctive than most of its compact CUV competitors. Styling follows Hyundai's recent fluidic sculpture design direction, though slightly toned down.
The 2014 Santa Fe's interior is modern and stylish, with an obvious focus on soft-touch materials and thoughtfully arranged, well-marked controls. The base Santa Fe Sport offers YES Essentials stain-resistant cloth seats, Hyundai Blue Link (similar to GM's OnStar) and a 40/20/40 split folding second-row seat. The Sport 2.0T and Santa Fe add more equipment.
The longer Santa Fe boasts 1.9 inches more second-row legroom and 5.6 cubic feet more total cargo capacity than the shorter Sport. Santa Fe comes with second-row climate controls and vents, and a 50/50 split folding third seat with 31.5 inches of legroom. The second row is a 40/20/40 split folding bench in GLS trim; twin Captain's chairs in the Limited.
We found our test Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T to be fully competitive and pleasant to drive. Performance was impressive when needed, the ride was smooth and controlled over most surfaces, braking was strong and stable, and handling was at least as good as most competitors.
The 2014 Santa Fe comes in two lengths and four powertrain/trim variations.
Santa Fe Sport, the compact two-row model, is offered in base four-cylinder ($24,750) or 2.0T ($30,450) turbocharged versions, the latter with more standard equipment. Santa Fe Sport comes standard with A 6-speed automatic transmission, which incorporates a fuel-saving Active ECO mode.
Santa Fe, the long-wheelbase, V6-powered, three-row version is offered in GLS ($28,350) and Limited ($33,100) trim levels.
All models are available with all-wheel drive ($1,750 additional).
Standard equipment on the Santa Fe Sport includes YES Essentials stain-resistant cloth seats; two-way power-adjustable lumbar support for the driver's seat; air conditioning with cabin air filter; power windows, locks and mirrors; electric power steering; trip computer; outside temperature display; tilt and telescoping three-spoke steering wheel with audio and cruise controls; Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity; AM/FM/CD/SiriusXM/MP3 six-speaker audio with iPod/USB/Aux input jacks and a three-month XM Satellite Radio trial subscription; 40/20/40 split folding second-row seat; rear window wiper, Hyundai Blue Link connectivity with up to a one-year free subscription; and P235/65R17 all-season tires on 17-inch alloy wheels. Each Sport has a multitude of handy storage bins, pockets and cup holders, under-floor storage in the cargo area, and four 12-volt power outlets.
Santa Fe Sport 2.0T adds an eight-way power driver seat with four-way adjustable lumbar, heated front seats and outside mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, front fog lights, chrome twin-tip exhaust, roof side rails, proximity key entry with pushbutton start, automatic headlight control, driver-selectable steering modes (DSSM), P235/55R18 tires on 18-inch alloy wheels, an electroluminescent gauge cluster and a trailer prep package. Also included are leather seating surfaces, power front passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, a windshield wiper de-icer, blind-spot detection, and a rearview camera. Saddle interior trim is available at no extra cost, and 19-inch wheels are available.
The seven-passenger Santa Fe GLS rides on 18-inch wheels and tires and offers most of the 2.0T's features, including 18-inch wheels, minus the proximity key and dual-zone automatic climate control. Premium and Technology Packages are available.
Santa Fe Limited adds leather-trimmed seats and door panels, twin second-row Captain's chairs, 19-inch wheels and tires, dual-zone front automatic climate controls with a CleanAir ionizer, HomeLink garage-door opener, roof rails, pushbutton start, heated power mirrors, eight-way power driver's seat, heated seats, sunroof, power tailgate, and a 4.3-inch color audio system touchscreen with a rearview camera.
Options for the 2014 Santa Fe Sport include the Popular Equipment Package ($1,150), which adds most of the 2.0T's features to the base 2.4L Sport. The Premium Equipment Package ($3,200) piles on the leather seating surfaces, proximity key, a power front passenger seat, sliding and reclining second-row seats, heated rear seats, a ventilated driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear side-window sunshades, 4.3-inch touchscreen audio display, blind-spot detection, rearview camera, and more. A Technology Package ($3,200) completes the feature list with satellite navigation using an eight-inch touchscreen, Dimension premium audio, a panoramic sunroof, and heated steering wheel. The Technology Package for the 2.0T Sport costs $1,150 more because it substitutes a 550-watt 12-speaker Infinity Logic 7 surround-sound audio system for the Dimension premium audio. Stand-alone options include a cargo net ($50), carpeted floor mats ($110), a cargo cover screen ($150) and remote engine start ($350).
Standard safety features include the mandated dual front airbags plus side-curtain airbags for head protection, side-impact airbags for torso protection and a driver's knee bag. Active safety features include Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist, Downhill Brake Control (DBC) and Hillstart Assist Control (HAC), a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Front Seat Belt Pretensioners, a windshield wiper de-icer, a rear window wiper, Lower Anchors and Upper Tether Anchors (LATCH) and Hyundai Blue Link connectivity with up to a one-year free subscription. All-wheel drive ($1,750) and a rearview camera are available, the latter as part of a Popular Equipment Package. Blind Spot Detection is included in the Premium Equipment Package. Not yet available are such state-of-the art features as lane departure warnings, active cruise control and collision avoidance systems.