The 2017 Santa Fe Sport is a Stand Out in a Crowd of Family Crossovers (Review)

The 2017 Santa Fe Sport is right in line with the large, continuing move to crossovers and mid-size SUVs. We’ll call it a “crossover” here.

The Sport is smaller than the regular Santa Fe and thus less roomy, but it provides a sportier driving experience and provides comfortable room for four tall occupants.

Folding rear seatbacks greatly enlarge the cargo area, and my test Sport had a convenient power hatch.

The Sport is a four-door hatchback offered with front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD).  Hyundai says nearly 350 individual parts have been updated.

List prices range from $25,350 for the base FWD Sport 2.4 with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder 185-horsepower engine  to the $38,250 Sport 2.0T Ultimate model with AWD and turbocharged 2-liter 240-horsepower engine.

Don’t want FWD? The entry AWD Sport costs $27,100. The 2.0T Ultimate with FWD is $36,500 for those who don’t want AWD.

My test Sport 2.0T Ultimate AWD’s turbo engine provided fast acceleration off the line, with no turbo larg, and quick passing maneuvers on highways.

Steering was precise, and handling was secure. The ride was supple, and the brake pedal’s linear action helped allow smooth stops.

However, the turbo engine’s estimated fuel economy is just a so-so 19 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on highways. The Sport with best fuel economy is the base FWD non-turbo model, at 21 city and 27 highway.

Engines work with a responsive six-speed automatic transmission. The automatic has a good manual-shift feature.

My test Sport was well-equipped, but Its $38,250 list price jumped to $41,355 with a $895 freight charge and mostly worthy options including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane departure warning.

The Sport 2.0T has a quiet cabin with a panoramic sunroof, an easily read electroluminescent gauge cluster with a color LCD Multi-Info display, push-button start, heated front/rear seats and steering wheel, leather seating surfaces and multi-view camera system.

Shorter folks will appreciate the power height-adjustable driver and front passenger seats, and everyone should like the dual automatic temperature control. Besides folding, rear seats slide and recline to help relieve the strain of long drives.

An 8-inch touchscreen navigation system can help you find your way, and ears are treated to  Quantum Logic Surround Sound and Clari-Fi Music Restoration Technology.

With a Chevy Corvette you “fall in” to enter. With the Santa Fe Sport, you must take a moderate step up to get in a seat. The bonus here is that occupants sit a bit higher than regular auto traffic.

Safety items include  parking sensors, vehicle stability and traction control systems, air bags and side curtains.

The new Sport  looks sharper. Its redesigned front fascia has a brushed-appearance front grille and new headlight design. An enhanced rear fascia features new taillights and a new dual exhaust outlet design.

There also are newly designed 17-, 18- and 19-inch alloy wheels and a new rocker panel rim design with integrated silver accents.

However, the rear-end styling hinders rear vision, so the outside mirrors help a lot here–although they stick out a little too much from the Sport’s body.

With the growing crossover/mid-size SUV markets and Hyundai’s increasing recognition among vehicle buyers, the new Santa Fe Sport is in a good position to benefit.

Price: $25,350-$38,250