2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T review: No foolin’

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate

OK, we fooled you. Though not really. The car driven and photographed for this review is actually a 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T, not a 2016 model year, as in the title. The truth is that it really doesn’t matter. It hasn’t changed.

Indeed, even the base price remains at $24,950. And outside of the unchanged price…nothing. It’s all the same.

We’ve already covered the 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport earlier this year, and the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport in late 2012, when the Santa Fe Sport replaced the Hyundai Veracruz, the name changing with a new generation of the five-passenger Hyundai crossover.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate interior

The interior styling of the 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate is dramatic to just this side of outrageous. (Click to enlarge)

We’ll point out again that the Hyundai Santa Fe sans Sport is a seven-passenger crossover, with Hyundai pirating its name to conflate the smaller crossover with the larger. We’ll also point out that Hyundai, if the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is still too big for your needs, makes a smaller crossover dubbed the Tucson.

The Santa Fe Sport, instead of having trim levels with engine options, gives a choice of engines, a 190-horsepower 2.4-liter four, or for the relatively power hungry, a 264-horse turbocharged 2.0-liter. The latter is fancier, with more features standard and of course a bigger price tag. A six-speed manual transmission is standard with either engine, and all-wheel drive is available with either engine.

Expect stuff with Hyundais and you won’t be disappointed. The Santa Fe Sport 2.0T includes as standard equipment blind spot detection, heated outside and auto-dimming inside mirrors, rear view camera, rear side window shades, proximity key with pushbutton start, heated front seats, leather on seats and steering wheel, sliding second row seats, and an AM/FM/CD/HD Radio/SiriusXM/MP3 audio system. Don’t need the turbo engine but still want this stuff? No worries. It’s all optional on the base Santa Fe Sport.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate interior

The 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate back seat is roomy for two, but three is a squeeze. (click to enlarge)

But what, no LED front accent lights? How will neighbors know your new Santa Fe Sport has the $4,350 Ultimate Package? Well, there’s the panoramic sunroof, the 19-inch wheels, and the “Ultimate” badge on the liftgate.

The package, which also includes HID headlights, LED taillights, 12-speaker Infinity audio, navigation with an eight-inch screen, the ever-important premium door sill plates, and the ever-so-delightful-in-winter heated steering, along with two-liter direct-injection turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive, makes a mockery of Hyundai’s advertising that $24,950 price of admission. Equipped—and quite nicely, we’ll add—as our test vehicle was, the bottom line comes to $38,350, competitive with the Ford Edge Titanium (recently tested at $44,530), Chevy Equinox (tested in 2012 at $30,980), GMC Terrain Denali (tested in 2013 at $40,425).

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate (click to enlarge)

The 2015—and 2016—Hyundai Santa Fe Sport retains, of course, the handsome looks inside and out, though we’ll complain that the side window/D-pillar shape limits rear three-quarter vision. And while we’re complaining, the rear seatbacks don’t fold down enough to make a flat cargo floor. Yes, we complain about this on just about every SUV/CUV we test. And for a real #firstworldproblem, the Santa Fe Sport comes with a smart liftgate standard, so it’s easy enough to get in, but the button to close the rear hatch is a full six-and-a-half feet high with the hatch open. Shorter folks will have trouble reaching.

The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is quiet and smooth at speed, and with the two-liter turbo, a class leader in acceleration.

And that, of course, is whether it’s a 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, or a 2016.

Specifications and window sticker on next page.