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2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Hyundai Santa Fe, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Review

The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport carries on largely unchanged, with an all-new 2019 model set to arrive here at the end of the year. Facing off against such formidable rivals as the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 and the new Chevrolet Equinox and Mazda CX-5, the Santa Fe Sport has its work cut out for it. While it still offers class-leading features, room and power, the Santa Fe Sport is falling behind in the all-important gas-mileage game.

As expected from Hyundai, the Santa Fe Sport’s standard features are plentiful, including iPod/Bluetooth connectivity and the Blue Link telematics suite with features such as voice text messaging, a local-business search and turn-by-turn navigation. Less expected but certainly welcome is the optional turbocharged engine, which isn’t the most refined engine in its class but delivers plenty of passing power.

What’s New for 2018?

The Santa Fe Sport adds a new Value package. Contents include heated side mirrors, auto up/down power front windows, 7-inch display audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone automatic climate control, power driver seat with lumbar, heated front seats, Hyundai Blue Link Connected Car Services, fog lights, roof rails and Proximity Key with push button start. All models see a slight price drop this year. See the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe models for sale near you

What We Like

Upscale styling inside and out; spacious interior; tons of features; available turbocharged power; great crash-test scores

What We Don’t

Uneven power delivery from 2.0T engine; can get rather pricey for a Hyundai crossover; lackluster base engine; weak fuel economy

How Much?


Fuel Economy

All Santa Fe models come with a responsive 6-speed automatic transmission and are available with either front- or all-wheel drive.

Standard on the base Santa Fe Sport is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder rated at 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is a pedestrian 21 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive and 20 mpg city/26 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive.

The 2.0T boasts a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder that’s good for 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Happily, fuel economy doesn’t suffer much, checking in at up to 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with front-wheel drive (20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy for the Ultimate) and 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive (19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy for the Ultimate).

Standard Features & Options

The Santa Fe Sport is offered in base, 2.0T and 2.0T Ultimate trims. All offer 2-row seating with room for five passengers. Drivers who want three rows will have to step up to the larger Santa Fe (not the Sport), which is reviewed separately.

Feature highlights for the base Sport ($25,930, FWD; $27,480, AWD) include a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, 17-in alloy wheels, LED headlight and taillight accents, automatic headlights, a rear spoiler, air conditioning, power accessories, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, power-heated side mirrors, a trip computer, a rearview monitor, Drive Mode Select (adjusts steering feel and throttle response), Bluetooth and a 6-speaker audio system with a 5-in touchscreen, satellite radio and iPod/USB connectivity.

The Sport 2.0T ($32,330, FWD; $33,880, AWD) adds the high-powered 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, dual exhaust outlets, 18-in alloy wheels, a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change assist, fog lights, keyless entry with push-button start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an electroluminescent gauge cluster with a color LCD information screen, a 7-in touchscreen audio display with Android Auto, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, leather upholstery, a sliding back seat, dual-zone automatic climate control and power-heated front seats with driver lumbar.

The 2.0T Ultimate ($36,630, FWD; $38,180, AWD) adds 19-in alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, a multiview camera, HID headlights, LED taillights, a panoramic sunroof, memory for driver’s seat and side mirrors, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, an Infinity QuantumLogic sound system and an 8-in touchscreen with navigation.

The base Sport can be optionally equipped with the above mentioned Value package, or with the Sport Premium packages, which add most of the 2.0T model’s standard features. The Tech package adds the standard features from the 2.0T Ultimate.

Optional only on the 2.0T Ultimate is the Ultimate Tech package, which brings adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian recognition, lane-departure warning, an electronic parking brake and self-leveling adaptive headlights with automatic high beam.

On the hauling front, the Sport offers 35.4 cu ft. of cargo space behind the back seat and 71.5 cu ft. with the rear seatbacks folded. That’s a lot of cubes at this price point. Meanwhile, a properly equipped Hyundai Santa Fe Sport can tow up to 3,500 pounds.


The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, active front head restraints and seven airbags (front, front-side, driver-knee and full-length side-curtain).

In government crash tests, the Santa Fe Sport received a perfect 5-star rating across the board. Likewise, the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Santa Fe Sport its top rating of Good in all tested categories and, for models equipped with autonomous emergency braking, a Superior in the crash-avoidance and mitigation test. The 2018 Santa Fe Sport is an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

Behind the Wheel

In our interior evaluation, we found the Santa Fe Sport’s front seats to be pleasantly firm and supportive. The seats are mounted high, so you get the SUV-style commanding view of the road that many shoppers want. Thankfully, the Santa Fe Sport comes standard with a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, allowing you to adjust the wheel for reach as well as angle. There’s even some wood-grain trim sprinkled around the cabin that adds a touch of class.

The Santa Fe Sport’s dashboard is attractively angled and curved, while the deeply hooded gauges with available electroluminescent backlighting add to this crossover’s suaveness. We’re pleased to report that the controls remain straightforward and easy to use despite the stylized presentation.

The back seat has a nicely elevated bottom cushion and plenty of room for adult passengers. Hyundai emphasizes that the Sport is considerably larger than rivals such as the Ford Escape, and that’s evident from the airy feel inside. We’re also impressed that sliding back seats are available.

Under the hood, the base 2.4-liter engine is all most folks will need. Blessed with a broad power band and good manners, this is largely the same engine that we’ve lauded in the Sonata midsize sedan, but with a bit less power. Those wanting better acceleration and passing power should opt for the turbocharged 2.0T, which delivers a pretty serious punch, with one caveat: The power comes on rather suddenly around 2,500 rpm or so, with relatively modest get-up-and-go off the line.

On the road, the Santa Fe Sport is about as good as it gets for a crossover at this price. The highway ride is quiet and smooth, while bumps are dispatched with impressive poise. The handling isn’t bad either, and all-wheel-drive models even have what Hyundai calls Torque Vectoring Control, a system that can send either extra torque or braking power to individual wheels.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Ford Edge — The Edge plays in the same "in between compact and midsize" realm as the Santa Fe Sport. The Edge offers more power, but the Hyundai is less expensive.

2018 Kia Sorento — Distantly related to the Santa Fe, the Sorento lets you have V6 power in a 2-row package and 4-cylinder power in a 3-row package — two combinations that the Santa Fe Sport can’t match.

2018 Nissan Murano — If you’re looking for a Santa Fe Sport with bolder styling, consider Nissan’s unusual (but endearing) Murano. The Murano also offers muscular powertrains and a lot of technology.

Used BMW X3 — If you shop around, you can find a certified pre-owned X3 in the Santa Fe Sport’s price range. It’s a lot of crossover for the money — and it’s very exciting to drive.

Autotrader’s Advice

Despite its somewhat nonlinear acceleration, our pick would be the Sport 2.0T. The little turbo delivers big performance, and it comes with a lot of standard equipment to boot.

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  1. We have a 2018 Sport 2.0 T Ultimate (no tech package) and so far after 14 months of ownership and nearly 20,000 miles, we are very happy. Plan to drive as long as our 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor with nearly 329,000 miles and no issues. I use Mobil 1 synthetic every 5,000 miles (mostly highway). I change transmission fluid every 25,000 with synthetic.

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