Driven: 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T (FWD)

Behind the wheel of Hyundai’s larger, but not largest crossover.

Here a crossover, there a crossover. The market is flooded with car-based utility vehicles, offering excellent room, superior body rigidity and decent fuel mileage nearly across the board.

Hyundai has two offerings in the crossover department — a compact Tucson (reviewed here last month) and the Santa Fe. A third model, the larger Veracruz, was cancelled a few years back. To fill in the void created by the Veracruz’ demise, a stretched wheelbase version of the Santa Fe is now available. The standard version is called the Santa Fe Sport; the stretched model is simply known as the Santa Fe. Got it?

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T (FWD)

Hyundai has two things going for it when it takes on its competitors: value and excellent warranties. In value, Hyundai pricing is competitive and its products generally offer more equipment standard. Even so, the competition in the midsize utility vehicle segment is fierce with every manufacturer offering at least one model. With warranties, there is nothing that beats a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain coverage.

Competing Hyundai Santa Fe models include: the Ford Edge and Flex, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave, Toyota Highlander and 4 Runner, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Tribeca, Honda Pilot, Dodge Journey, and several others. Standard five-passenger seating gives way to room for six or seven when the stretched wheelbase model is selected.

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T

As for the model line at hand, the 2014 Santa Fe Sport is priced from $24,950 and comes equipped with a 2.4-liter, 16-valve four cylinder engine rated at 190 horsepower. That compares with the 2.0T priced from $30,650 and making 264 horsepower. Both models offer standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive and are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with a shifting option. No paddle shifters, just a stick that can be moved like a manual gearbox.

For a $5,700 price premium, you better receive much more than a 74-horsepower boost. No worries: Hyundai delivers the goods and in spades.

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T (FWD)

The upgrade begins with the wheels as the standard 17-inch alloy wheels are replaced with 18-inch wheels. Because the test model had a navigation package ($1,750), top-of-the-line 19-inch wheels were present. Those wheels come encased in Continental ContiProContact tires, all-season tires that typically grace some of the finer European sedans. They are run-flat tires too — there is no spare tire with the Sport 2.0T.

Other exterior upgrades and embellishments for the Sonata 2.0T include: roof rack side rails, heated side mirrors with embedded turn signal indicators, a windshield wiper deicer, automatic headlights, fog lights and a proximity key with push button start.

Comfortable and Roomy Interior

Inside, the cabin is roomy, bright and comfortable. As I pulled myself behind the steering wheel I kept thinking “Azera” as in Hyundai’s larger sedan, what sits in the brand’s sedan product line between the midsize Sonata and the larger Genesis. Nicely bolstered and comfortable seats up front; comfortable seating to the rear.

The Sport 2.0T adds in several features not found or perhaps offered optionally in the base edition. This model provides an 8-way power driver’s seat with 4-way lumbar support; a 4-way power seat is for the front passenger. The front seats are heated; ventilated front seats and heated rear seats are optional. Leather seating is standard with the Sport 2.0T, replacing the stain-resistant cloth seating in the base model. Leather wraps the steering wheel which includes secondary driver controls and cruise control.

Standard air conditioning is upgraded to dual zone climate control in the Sport 2.0T. All models come equipped with second row HVAC vents, power windows and door locks, front seat back pockets, a split-folding rear seat, front and rear cup holders, in-door beverage holders and storage, illuminated vanity mirrors, and a tilt and telescopic steering wheel column.

The Sport 2.0T also brings in rear side window sunshades, sliding and reclining second row seats, a rear view camera and an electroluminescent gauge cluster. Safety features include: blind spot detection, rear parking assist, hill start assist, downhill brake control and active front head restraints.

Nifty Smartphone Tray

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T (FWD)I gave the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T high marks in a few areas including its front storage tray, designed to hold your smart phone and places that compartment within easy reach. Located at the bottom of the center stack, that section also includes a pair of 12-volt outlets as well as USB and auxiliary ports. I find that this design is highly useful and trumps the covered center consoles often found elsewhere.

The Hyundai BlueLink infotainment system is another plus, one that offers touchscreen access along with accompanying switches and knobs. Directions are easy to enter and can be put in place while you are driving unlike some competitors — then again, that ability can be a huge distraction — it would be better to pull over first or have a passenger handle the input. The 8-inch screen, part of a navigation package, was clear and the voice commands pleasant as well as accurate.

On the road, the Santa Fe 2.0T provides generous amounts of power. So much so that you will feel a slight amount of torque steer as you step on the accelerator. All that power concentrated over the front wheels gives a familiar and expected tug — I am curious how that plays out in the all-wheel drive model.

That spirited drive comes in handy, especially on the highway. Not once was I left begging for more power. Instead, the Sport 2.0T enabled me to blow past slower vehicles and move away from stop lights with ease.

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T (FWD)

About That Suspension.

The one demerit I must give this model is for the front end — specifically, the front suspension is equipped with “compact and light MacPherson struts” according to Hyundai (multi-link to the rear). One problem became evident as I was driving along a familiar road and navigating an expected railroad crossing at 45 mph — I was greeted with a jarring and entirely unexpected clunk that shuddered through the crossover.

The reaction surprised me although it had no effect on my control of the vehicle. I thought it might have been an isolated incident, but a few days later on a different road and one with a pronounced dip, the sensation was repeated — although not to the extent of what I had experienced at the railroad crossing. Potential buyers living in areas where roads that are rough should keep this in mind when test driving the vehicle.

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport FWD 2.0T

View manufacturer details and pricing

Overall handling is average and braking is good. Even so, this crossover could live up to its Sport 2.0T name with a few improvements in both areas that would set this model apart from its competitors. Given that the segment is so tough, such changes might put the Santa Fe at the top of buyer’s lists.

The Santa Fe shines in another area: rear storage. That compartment offers 35 cubic feet of storage space or enough room to bring ample gear for a week on the road with your family of five. Underneath the floor is a compartmentalized storage area, an ideal place to keep your first-aid kit, hide your valuables or squirrel away anything else that you don’t want to have within easy view. The rear storage area size doubles when the back seats are folded, although they do not fold completely flat.

Hyundai Santa Fe

If you are considering the 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe, you get an additional four inches between the wheels and nearly nine inches in added length overall. You also get the Azera’s 3.3-liter V-6 engine making 290 horsepower. Available in GLS ($29,900) and Limited ($33,800) trim, the stretched model rivals vehicles like the Toyota Highlander in size while undercutting its price.

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport FWD 2.0T

  • Sticker price from $30,650
  • Price as tested: $33,385
  • Seats 5 occupants
  • 2.0-liter 16-valve turbocharged four cylinder engine
  • 264 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
  • 269 foot-pounds of torque @ 1,750 to 3,000 rpm
  • 86mm bore by 86mm stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 9:5-to-1
  • Six-speed automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
  • Length: 184.6 inches
  • Width: 74 inches
  • Height: 66.1 inches
  • Passenger volume: 108 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 35.4/71.5 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: 1,650 to 3,000 pounds
  • EPA: 19 mpg city, 27 mpg highway
  • Regular grade gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 19.2 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 3,569 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: Good
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 10 years/100,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 7 years/Unlimited miles
  • Vehicle assembly: West Point, Georgia

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2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine. All rights reserved.

New York: 2015 Hyundai Sonata on Display

A midsize sedan with a large interior.

The New York Auto Show is all about technology so it seemed fitting that the 2015 Hyundai Sonata would use that venue to showcase whats new from this Korean car manufacturer. The seventh generation Sonata was unveiled this week, a model replete with new and updated technologies including the latest version of its BlueLink infotainment system.

2015 Hyundai Sonata

2015 Hyundai Sonata

The changeover from sixth to seventh generation is much less dramatic than the one that moved this large sedan from its fifth to sixth generation. The large categorization is how the EPA sees this vehicle, measuring interior capacity that leads the midsize segment.

For marketing and comparison purposes the 2015 Hyundai Sonata is a midsize sedan. Its many competitors include the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler 200, Subaru Legacy, Mazda 6, Volkswagen Passat and its corporate cousin, the Kia Optima.

Cleaner, More Sophisticated Lines

The Sonata’s exterior represents the latest iteration of its design language or what Hyundai calls Fluidic Sculpture 2.0. The new design includes a larger and sleeker grille along with a wider air intake.

From front to back the sedan features character lines that push back along the hood, extending from the headlamps to the front pillar, running from the top of the front wheel wells to the trunk, and offering a creased presentation just above the rocker panels.

The rear treatment includes wrap around tail lights with LED touches. With the 2.0T edition, a rear diffuser with quad exhausts tips and 18-inch alloy wheels gives this model a special look.

Chris Chapman, chief designer, Hyundai Design North America noted, “With the 2011 Sonata, Hyundai took the mid-size sedan from a meal to a gourmet dinner. The evolution to Fluidic Sculpture 2.0’s more taut, modern lines reflect the improvements in refinement and driving dynamics for 2015.”

Smarter Interior Layout

Inside, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata offers a cleaner and more sophisticated layout with the automaker noting that controls are grouped logically and are conveniently placed for the driver. The audio and navigation displays were moved to optimize driver visibility.

Every Sonata model provides generous amounts of technology including SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, auxiliary input jacks, and iPod/USB ports. An 8-inch navigation system is available, providing improved touch, better mapping, and a music split screen.

Hyundais Blue Link system has been updated to include the latest features such as destination search powered by Google, remote start, and a driver app for scheduling service at a Hyundai dealership.

Quieter Interior

Hyundai claims that it has reduced noise by increasing the amount of sound deadening materials in the dashboard and changing the size of the bulkhead openings. Its engineers also tuned the engine notes and added additional sound absorption materials in the floor plan.

The underbody tray itself is now made of a fibrous glass expansion board that has the dual purpose of containing sound and improving aerodynamics. And as for aerodynamics the 2015 Hyundai Sonata comes in at a slippery drag coefficient of 0.27, lower than any sedan in its class except for hybrid models.

Powertrain Choices

As before, Hyundai continues with its two four cylinder engine strategy, offering a reworked 2.4-liter four cylinder engine standard. Hyundai engineers shifted the power band downward and added new electronic intake continuously variable valve timing to reduce emissions. This engine is rated at 185 horsepower and 178 foot-pounds of torque.

An available 2.0-liter turbocharged four returns, what powers the Sport 2.0T models. For 2015 a smaller turbine and wheel compressor were added to increase torque and engine responsiveness. This engine is rated at 245 horsepower with an output of 260 foot-pounds of torque. Both engines are paired with six-speed automatic transmissions with manual shift capabilities.

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata hits showrooms by early summer. All US models are built at Hyundais factory in Montgomery, Alabama.

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2015 Hyundai Sonata photos courtesy of Hyundai.