The Hyundai Santa Fe mid-size crossover utility was all-new for 2013, built on a new lighter-weight, higher-strength platform. The 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe comes in two handy family sizes: regular (long-wheelbase) and the smaller Sport.
The two-row, five-passenger Santa Fe Sport, about the same size as the previous-generation (2012) Santa Fe, competes in the fast-growing field of domestic and import compact crossovers that includes the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Edge, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V.
The larger, three-row, six- or seven-passenger 2014 Santa Fe is 8.5 inches longer overall, on a 3.9-inch-longer wheelbase, to take on the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Mazda CX-9.
Both Santa Fes (and the smaller-yet Tucson) are crossover utility vehicles, or CUVs. That means they're car-based sport utilities, essentially tall wagons, which offer more car-like driving dynamics and fuel efficiency than truck-based SUVs.
Most revisions for 2014 apply to optional equipment. Blind Spot Detection is now available on all trim levels, while rear parking assistance is included in Technology Packages. HID (high-intensity-discharge) headlights and LED taillights are available for 2014 in the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T and Santa Fe Limited Technology Packages. New 18-inch wheels are standard on the Sport 2.0T. Rear side-window sunshades are part of the Santa Fe Sport Premium Package. Ventilated front seats with integrated memory are part of the Technology Packages. Also, 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sports equipped with a panoramic sunroof are now fitted with roof rails.
Two four-cylinder engine choices are available in the Santa Fe Sport: a 190-horsepower 2.4-liter non-turbo, and a turbocharged 264-hp 2.0-liter. The larger Santa Fe holds a 290-hp 3.3-liter V6. All three engines benefit from high-pressure gasoline direct injection (GDI) and drive through 6-speed automatic transmissions with SHIFTRONIC manual capability. All models offer available Active Cornering Control all-wheel drive.
EPA fuel economy ratings range from 20/27 mpg City/Highway for the base front-wheel-drive four-cylinder Santa Fe Sport, down to 18/24 mpg City/Highway for the 2.0T turbo Sport with all-wheel drive. That same 18/24 mpg estimate has been given to the larger Santa Fe with all-wheel drive. (Early Santa Fe Sports were rated as high as 21/29 mpg City/Highway, but Hyundai revised some fuel-economy estimates in late 2012.)
Hyundai's all-wheel drive continuously monitors driving conditions and enhances stability by managing brake and engine torque, vectoring one or the other toward or away from individual wheels to balance side-to-side and front-to rear traction. The result is improved cornering stability, reduced understeer (loss of front-wheel traction) or oversteer (loss of rear-wheel traction) to help the driver maintain control in tricky conditions. Standard Hillstart Assist Control minimizes roll-back on steep uphills, while Downhill Brake Control manages speed and enhances control on steep descents.
To our eyes, each Santa Fe is a handsome piece that's more distinctive than most of its compact CUV competitors. Styling follows Hyundai's recent fluidic sculpture design direction, though slightly toned down.
The 2014 Santa Fe's interior is modern and stylish, with an obvious focus on soft-touch materials and thoughtfully arranged, well-marked controls. The base Santa Fe Sport offers YES Essentials stain-resistant cloth seats, Hyundai Blue Link (similar to GM's OnStar) and a 40/20/40 split folding second-row seat. The Sport 2.0T and Santa Fe add more equipment.
The longer Santa Fe boasts 1.9 inches more second-row legroom and 5.6 cubic feet more total cargo capacity than the shorter Sport. Santa Fe comes with second-row climate controls and vents, and a 50/50 split folding third seat with 31.5 inches of legroom. The second row is a 40/20/40 split folding bench in GLS trim; twin Captain's chairs in the Limited.
We found our test Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T to be fully competitive and pleasant to drive. Performance was impressive when needed, the ride was smooth and controlled over most surfaces, braking was strong and stable, and handling was at least as good as most competitors.