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by Tony West and Sommer Thornton
Hyundai’s Santa Fe SUV has come a long way from its days as a mundane scrawny segment underdog. Now the SUV is brawnier, taller and boast a leather and wood trimmed cockpit and three engine options. Much of the Santa Fe Sport’s best features are standard setting it up for a worthy showdown against the Ford Escape, the Honda CR-V and the Chevy Equinox. The new Santa Fe Sport only falls short with cargo space.
The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe is available in 5, 6, and 7 passenger seating with new LED lighting inside and out, advanced safety features and boundless infotainment.
For 2018, the Santa Fe lineup includes a base SE, Sport, and Limited models with available Ultimate trim, front-wheel or all-wheel drive and three engine variations. We reviewed the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD, 7-passenger with an efficient V6. The SUV’s resilient and robust performance excelled in the harsh Chicago winter.
Updated Design Enables High Functionality
The Santa Fe’s new style is an elevation of comfort and safety. The 2017-2018 Santa Fe has a bigger 5-bar grille and intakes, LED daytime running lights and headlight accents, big 19 inch wheels, dual exhausts and power-folding side mirrors. HID headlights are available with the Ultimate Trim.
Hands-free power liftgate is standard on the V6 Santa Fe Limited as is the dope panoramic sunroof and push button start. Other stylish features include the manual sunshade in the 2nd row and premium side sills and lower trim.
The bigger, stronger Santa Fe looks longer and taller allowing for more head, hip room and cargo space. I like how the bigger side mirrors and less raked A-pillar allow for a much smaller blind spot. And with roof side rails and robust traction and suspension, I can take the Santa Fe on a weekend adventure camping, to the beach or high in the plains.
Drivetrain & Performance Lead the Pack
The Santa Fe’s road rep’ has always been as a reliable little SUV. All three engines perform great with high-pressure direct injection and dual continuously variable valve timing.
The 2018 Santa Fe is available with a 2.4 liter 4-cylinder engine with 185 horsepower or a turbocharged 2.0 liter 4-cylinder with 240 horsepower. The Santa Fe Limited we reviewed featured a 3.3 liter Lambda II V6 engine with 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque.
The trio is matched to a 6 speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic that accelerates to each gear quickly and seamlessly.
And AWD with Active Cornering Control has the big-body planted as it eats up the road and swerves in adverse weather.
For a full-size SUV the Santa Fe and its Sport companion has an impressive balance of efficiency and athleticism. The 2.4 liter 4 cylinder all-wheel drive boasts a 22 mpg combined EPA (26 mpg highway/ 20 mpg city). The turbocharged 2.0 T 4 cylinder on the AWD Santa Fe Sport has a 26 mpg highway EPA, and the Santa Fe Limited has a 21 mpg combined EPA (19 mpg city/ 24 mpg highway.)
The 2017 model introduced the nifty Drive Mode Select present in most of its competitors. It will adjust the drivetrain to Normal, Sport and efficient Eco modes. Eco mode, along with Start/Stop technology, with the Ultimate trim helps the Santa Fe to save a ton of fuel and maintain low emissions.
The whip maneuvered awesomely in slick ice and deep snow. The big-body proved to be a winter warrior and a great summer tourer with its tough suspension, higher stance and panoramic sunroof for ventilation and rays. And the interior with its effective dual-zone climate control offers heated and cooled seats and heated steering wheel for added comfort.
Standard safety features on the 2018 Santa Fe includes Vehicle Stability Management, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Electronic Stability Control, robust traction control, as well as Hill-start Assist Control, Downhill Brake Control, ABS and EBD. The $2,100 Ultimate Tech Package offers a Lane Departure Warning that beeps pretty loud, High Beam Assist, Dynamic Bending Lights, Smart Cruise Control and an electronic park brake. Automatic Emergency Braking features Pedestrian Detection, which very gently applies the brakes if I’m in danger of hitting someone. Lane Change Assist is also available.
The rearview camera is standard, but I love the multiview camera with an aerial view and front view that comes on automatically while parallel parking.
Valued Cabin Comfort and Infotainment
The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is said to have over 350 redesigned components. The interior features many of them. For 2018 the Santa Fe Limited has standard leather seats, shifter and steering wheel with wood and silver accents and a 7-inch display is featured with the Value Package. A 12-speaker Infinity Logic7 audio system is bangin with QuantimLogic Surround and Clari-Fi restoration.
An 8-inch touchscreen is available. Big curved air vents help the Santa Fe heat up fast. The 2nd row also has heated seats.
The driver’s instrument cluster has also been updated to include digital multi-info display with stats and info and warnings for safety features. And the steering wheel has control for audio, phone, voice command cruise control and the digital display.
Hyundai Blue Link Connected Care, Remote and Guidance packages are free for three years. Features with these three bundles include everything from Automatic Collision Notification and Emergency Assistance to On-Demand Diagnostics and Service Link. Blue Link can also assist the police in locating and recovering a stolen vehicle
The Remote Package allows Blue Link accessibility via smartphone, smartwatch and virtual assistant devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home. It also features Remote door lock, Remote Start with Climate Control, Stolen Vehicle Immobilization, Curfew Alert, Speed Alert, Valet Alert, Geo-Fence and more. Destination Search by Google® and complimentary Navigation updates are available in the Guidance Package.
While the leather-trimmed cabin has abundant infotainment and connectivity plus added comfort from features like heated 2nd row seats and a clean air ionizer, legroom is scarce in the 50:50 split 3rd row seat. And cargo room is small with the 3rd row folded.
The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport rep a new versatile SUV robust and great for adventure in any weather. The Santa Fe is moving to the top of its segment and stepping on Nissan and Chevrolet’s SUVs on the way. The base 2017 Santa Fe SE FWD is on sale for $30k. While the top of the line 2018 Santa Fe Sport AWD Ultimate is priced at very competitive $37k.