What’s in a name? | 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

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November 2013 View more

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© 2013 Hyundai Motor America

The Oxford Dictionaries online recently enshrined a social media catch phrase in its pages: FOMO, or “fear of missing out”—the worry “that an exciting or interesting event may be happening elsewhere.”

While this particular addition to the lexicon was widely mocked among serious writers, the FOMO concept can be applied to a lot of our experiences—not just our reaction to seeing friends’ fabulous Facebook posts.

N2013_11_01_007ROADTake the smartly redesigned 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, for example. It does not have an Acura or Lexus logo on its shiny front grille, so some owners might worry that they are missing out. But their fear would be unfounded. With this complete refresh of a model that first arrived on the market in 2001, Hyundai has proven once again that it can build luxuriously comfortable vehicles as well as those other brands can.

In this case, the vehicle in question is a compact crossover with seating for five, available in front- or all-wheel drive. Hyundai sows a bit of confusion by selling the Santa Fe Sport as a separate model from the Santa Fe this year. The new Santa Fe Sport is roughly the same size as last year’s Santa Fe, while the new Santa Fe is a few inches longer and seats up to seven.

The Santa Fe Sport really distinguishes itself by fitting in so well. In a crowded field of competitive models, its smooth shape and LED-accented headlights ensure that it is sitting solidly on the bell curve of modern crossover design. Inside, the cabin’s materials and design are just as modern and just as pleasing. The controls are intuitive, the seats are comfortable, and the rear cargo area makes excellent use of its space. Optional heated rear seats and dual-zone climate control make the Santa Fe Sport feel richer than its window sticker.

N2013_11_01_008ROADBuyers have a choice between two competitive four-cylinder engines, both mated to six-speed transmissions: 190 horsepower without the benefit of turbocharging, or 264 horsepower with it. Unfortunately, neither engine wins praise for its fuel economy. The more powerful turbocharged engine is expected to return 19 miles per gallon in city driving and just 24 on the highway. A driver-selectable “Active Eco” button dials down the engine response to save a bit of fuel.

In everyday driving, the turbocharged engine provides plenty of smooth power. The Sport nomenclature refers more to the new model’s sporty size than to its driving characteristics, which definitely lean toward the comfortable. The transmission may not always kick down a gear when you want it to, for example, and you may notice a bit of understeer when you try to beat oncoming traffic by accelerating into a left-hand turn. Drivers can select among three different modes—comfort, normal, and sport—to adjust the level of steering effort required.

N2013_11_01_008ROADThe 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport starts at $24,700 with the base engine or $27,950 with the more powerful turbocharged engine. Adding all-wheel drive to either model increases the price by $1,750. At $2,900, the optional Technology package is a reasonably priced way to treat yourself to such niceness as a heated steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof, and a 550-watt stereo.

If you regularly need more room than the Santa Fe Sport offers, then the larger Santa Fe or its less comely corporate cousin, the Kia Sorento, are fine options to consider. The all-wheel-drive, V6-powered Kia starts at $31,700, a $4,000 Touring package adds luxury essentials like a power rear liftgate, a truly panoramic sunroof complete with power sliding shade, and a blind spot detection system.