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2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.4 SE: Comfortable utilitarianism

By Chris Chase

May. 5, 2017

Hyundai has refreshed its mid-size Santa Fe crossover for 2017 with updated styling and a few new features, but little of substance has changed since this third-generation model arrived as a 2013 model.

But that’s okay, because this crossover’s substance is good stuff, as evidenced by this model’s status as one of the best-selling cars in its class for the last four yeras.

Pros & Cons

  • + Interior space
  • + Trunk space
  • + Value for money
  • - Folding seats difficult to adjust
  • - Not particularly powerful
  • - Smartphone integration only offered in upper trims
Read the full review
  • Walkaround

    Our tester’s 17-inch wheels (which are also standard on the base model) look a lot less flashy than the 19s found higher up in the Santa Fe range. In fact, we’ve become accustomed to the lower-profile look of larger wheels on crossovers, as these formerly utilitarian vehicles continue to take on more and more car-like styling cues.

    Our SE AWD test vehicle is fourth up the Santa Fe trim ladder, and its sub-$35,000 price puts this version in the lower half of the model’s price range, positioning it as one of the strongest values among the nine available trims.

  • Interior

    Notably, the SE trim brightens up the Santa Fe’s interior with a panoramic sunroof, a feature not often found in a sub-$40,000 crossover. Other niceties include a heated steering wheel and leather upholstery on heated seats (front and rear) that are comfortable all around, though the front buckets might felt a little narrow. SE also inherits a 12-way power driver’s seat from the less-expensive Premium model.

    In Santa Fe speak, Sport denotes a five-seat interior packaged in the shorter of two available wheelbase lengths. The longer span goes to the three-row Santa Fe XL. The Sport may be smaller, but it’s hardly small: interior space is generous for people and cargo.

    We liked the simplicity of the Santa Fe’s instrument panel which, in the SE, features dual-zone automatic climate control and a five-inch touchscreen for sound system and infotainment functions. Quite frankly, the straightforward design in here is refreshing.

    There isn’t much to knock. On the user-friendliness front, folding the rear seats requires bending down to pull a lever mounted low on the side of the bottom cushion. The best crossover designs put seatback release levers just inside the tailgate opening.

  • Tech

    At this price point, the Santa Fe comes with a backup camera with rear parking proximity sensors and blind spot warning with rear cross traffic alert. We appreciate all of this because small rear side windows create notable blind spots that hinder visibility.

    However, this 2.4 SE model misses out on a passive keyless entry system, which appears in the next-step-up 2.4 Luxury AWD trim. You’ll also have to spend more to get Android Auto smartphone integration and the Santa Fe’s more advanced safety features.

  • Driving

    We wish we could say the SE left those items out in favour of a sweet driving experience, but any pretense of performance is left to the more powerful turbocharged 2.0T models.

    In versions like ours, the 2.4-litre four-cylinder is actually adequately powerful in most situations. Just don’t expect much in the way of passing power on highway grades or when hauling a quartet of adults.

    What the Santa Fe does well is essentially disappear as it carts you around, thanks to the comfortable ride and decently-attenuated mechanical soundtrack.

    In winter driving, we saw average fuel consumption of 12.5 L/100 km, against estimates of 12.0/9.1 (city/highway).

  • Value

    Japanese brands are finally challenging the Koreans on value, and one of the strongest challenges comes from the new-for-2017 Honda CR-V. It comes in an EX-L trim that includes more active safety kit and matches the Santa Fe’s list of convenience items and adds a power tailgate at a price $300 in a vehicle only nominally smaller.

    If you want a less-expensive Santa Fe, the 2.4 Premium AWD model is nearly $2,000 less but still comes with the power driver’s seat, automatic climate controls and heated front seats and steering wheel.

    8.3Very good
  • Conclusion

    This Santa Fe design has aged very well, so much so this 2017 update was hardly even necessary, but no matter, because it certainly didn’t take anything away. It may no longer be alone at the top of the crossover value ladder, but this Hyundai crossover remains easy to like for its easy-going drive, spacious interior and desirable convenience features.

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