The early Hyundai Santa Fe, a midsize SUV, was rather frumpy, noisy and thirsty, but it did have its virtues. For one thing, it had a great power-train warranty. Plus, it was cheap, it had a long list of features other automakers charged extra for, and at a very basic level, it could do most of what its more refined competitors could do. But that isn’t how Hyundai and its popular SUV roll nowadays. The negatives are gone, but the base price exceeds the likes of the Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV-4, Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox and Honda CR-V.
Of course, “base price” is a relative term. As always, Hyundai serves up a long, diverse menu of standard features. Our test car, a Mineral Gray 2015 Santa Fe Sport with all-wheel drive and the more powerful of two available engines, had a base price of $33,000. If you want everything on Hyundai’s lengthy “Included” list, but you don’t want a Hyundai, you’ll be paying extra for many of these features, if they’re available at all.
The Santa Fe Sport is a light-duty SUV with just 7.3 inches of ground clearance. With all-wheel drive, it’ll handle inclement or snowy weather, as well as mild off-road terrain. It’s designed for comfort for four or five passengers, and its cargo bay is big enough for most situations at 35.4 cubic feet. And put any nightmare visions of the misshapen early Santa Fe models aside. The 2015 Santa Fe’s design may not be daring, but this SUV is stylish and nicely proportioned.
The base Santa Fe Sport, with a 2.4-liter, 190-horsepower inline Four and front-wheel drive, starts at just under $25,000. It delivers respectable fuel economy of 27 mpg on the highway, compared with our test car’s 24 mpg – with all-wheel drive and a turbocharged 2.0-liter, 264-horsepower Four.
The test car was loaded with comfort features and technology, including heated seats, leather upholstery, power liftgate, rear side window sunshades, leather upholstery, cross-traffic and blind-spot warning, rear-view camera, push-button start and satellite radio. The Ultimate Package added a navigation system, 8-inch touchscreen, audio upgrade, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel and other enhancements. So equipped, the Santa Fe is a legitimate near-luxury midsize SUV at $38,350.
Hyundai did not skimp on interior materials, and this West-Point, Ga.-built SUV appears to have been assembled meticulously. The engineering is also of a high order, especially where safety is concerned. The Santa Fe earned the top 5-star rating in government crash tests.
In addition to the Sport, Hyundai offers an extended model simply called the Santa Fe. It comes equipped with a 3.3-liter, 290-horsepower V-6 engine and a third seat, enabling it to transport six or seven people. The extended Santa Fe’s base price is $30,150. For those who would prefer something smaller and a few thousand dollars cheaper, Hyundai also offers a compact SUV called the Tucson. The base model starts at $21,650.
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline Four, 264 horsepower, 269 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,706 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 19×7.5-in. alloy
Tires: P235/55R19 all-season
Ground clearance: 7.3 in.
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 35.4 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 71.5 cu. ft.
Towing capacity: 3,500 lb.
Fuel capacity: 17.4 gallons
Fuel economy: 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline