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2016 Hyundai Santa Fe vs. Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: What’s the Difference?

Editor’s note: You may want to read more of Autotrader’s model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe review and the 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport review.

 

If you’re interested in buying a midsize SUV, you might be confused by the fact that Hyundai offers two models: the 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe and the 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. Are these two different in more than just their name? The answer is yes. If you’re curious about how they’re different, we’re here to tell you, as we’ve created a close comparison that highlights the differences and similarities between the Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport in several key areas.

2016 Hyundai Santa Fe    2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport interior

Exterior

On the outside, it’s a challenge to tell the Santa Fe apart from the larger Santa Fe Sport, but there are differences between them. The biggest difference is their size, as the Santa Fe Sport is 184.6 inches long compared to 193.1 inches for the larger Santa Fe — enough room for a third-row seat and some additional weight that requires standard V6 power. But aside from the stretched wheelbase, the two Santa Fe models are almost identical in appearance, offering the same basic design and styling, as well as the same sporty character lines and basic overall profile. See the 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe models in your area

2016 Hyundai Santa Fe interior   

Interior

The Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport are just as similar on the inside as they are on the outside. That means that they have identical dashboards, gauge clusters, steering wheels, center control stacks, switches and buttons. The only real difference is seating. While the Santa Fe Sport only offers two rows of seats, the full-size Santa Fe touts three rows. For some shoppers, that alone is enough to convince them to choose the full-size Santa Fe over its Sport baby brother, or vice versa. See the 2016 Santa Fe Sport models in your area

2016 Hyundai Santa Fe   2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Mechanicals

The biggest difference between the Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Sport is under the hood. That’s because the Sport only uses 4-cylinder engines, while the full-size Santa Fe comes standard with a V6.

In the Santa Fe Sport, the base-level powertrain is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that makes 190 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. Drivers looking for more power can upgrade to a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which boasts a muscular 265 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. Maximum fuel economy is only slightly better with the smaller engine, at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway to 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy with the 2.0T.

As for the Santa Fe, there’s only one engine: a 3.3-liter V6 that makes a muscular 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque. It offers up to 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy.

2016 Hyundai Santa Fe   2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Features & Technology

Much like other aspects of the Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport, features and technology are practically identical — save for the aforementioned engine differences and the third-row seat. The only real difference is trim levels, as the Santa Fe Sport’s models are differentiated by engine size while the Santa Fe offers SE and Limited models. Otherwise, features are roughly equivalent, including the available power lift gate, blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, LED taillights, a navigation system, an 8-inch touchscreen, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and more.

2016 Hyundai Santa Fe   2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Driving Experience

On the road, you’ll notice a few differences between the Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Sport. That’s especially true if you go with the base-level Santa Fe Sport with the 2.4-liter engine, as it feels positively sluggish compared to the 2.0T. Upgrade to the turbo, however, and you still won’t quite get the punch of the Santa Fe’s 3.3-liter V6. You will, however, get a nimbler feel in the corners, which makes the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T the best driver’s car of the lot.

Aside from handling and performance, however, driving experience is largely identical between the Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Sport. Both models offer visibility that’s good but not great, along with strong brakes and light, easy steering. We have no major complaints about the driving experience in either Santa Fe.

2016 Hyundai Santa Fe interior   2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport interior

Safety

In crash testing carried out by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Santa Fe Sport earned a perfect 5-star overall score. The larger Santa Fe hasn’t been tested, though we suspect it would earn a similar rating. Meanwhile, the Santa Fe Sport hasn’t yet been tested by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, though the larger Santa Fe earned mostly Good ratings, save for a troubling Marginal score in the front small-overlap test.

As for safety features, the Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe are a bit behind the times. While they come standard with the necessities (side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes) and tout a few modern gadgets as options (a blind spot monitoring system, a backup camera and rear cross-traffic alert), the Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport lack many of today’s latest safety features, such as lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning and automatic braking.

Conclusions

It’s best if you don’t think of the 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe and the 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport as different models. Instead, these are the same models — just in different sizes. The Santa Fe is larger and more family-friendly, while the Sport is smaller and a little more fun to drive. The one you want will be determined by your passenger-carrying priorities. Find a Used Hyundai Santa Fe for sale  

 
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I have a 2018 Santa Fe Sport and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I love it, get great fuel mileage, and can carry a lot in the back. The seating is comfortable, the driving is fun and easy.  I don’t need the 3rd row, so thats fine, and even though I have the 4 cylinder motor, I can make it kick just fine. Even the cruise control, when raising speed (going up hills, etc) has a punch to it.  I drove the turbo at the same time as I test drove mine, and yes it has great power (I pushed the salesman way back in his seat and his comment was…wow didn’t expect that!), but I can put you back in your seat with the car I have…therefore having the ability to move out of the way of something if need be, with very little effort.

  2. I have a 2018 Santa Fe Sport and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I love it, get great fuel mileage, and can carry a lot in the back. The seating is comfortable, the driving is fun and easy.  I don’t need the 3rd row, so thats fine, and even though I have the 4 cylinder motor, I can make it kick just fine. Even the cruise control, when raising speed (going up hills, etc) has a punch to it.  I drove the turbo at the same time as I test drove mine, and yes it has great power (I pushed the salesman way back in his seat and his comment was…wow didn’t expect that!), but I can put you back in your seat with the car I have…therefore having the ability to move out of the way of something if need be, with very little effort.

  3. On the outside, it’s a challenge to tell the Santa Fe apart from the larger Santa Fe Sport………………

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