Hyundai builds two different versions of the 2014 Santa Fe crossover SUV, and each model serves completely different purposes. The smaller one, called the Santa Fe Sport, carries five people while the larger one, simply called the Santa Fe, carries seven people. Both are sized between the compact and midsize segments of this explosively popular vehicle class, making them hard to classify but easy to like.
Pictured and reviewed here, the 2014 Santa Fe Sport is the 5-passenger model that competes against vehicles like the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, GMC Terrain, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, and Volkswagen Tiguan. In most respects, this Hyundai makes an excellent case in favor of purchase, with a single, critical exception that has the potential to aggravate the owner for years to come.
2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Crossover SUV Review: About Our Test Car
When choosing a 2014 Santa Fe Sport, there are two ways you can go. The least expensive model is simply called the Santa Fe Sport, and it starts at $25,825, including a destination charge of $875. Add the optional all-wheel-drive system, and the price rises to $27,575. Check every option box, and you’ll be looking at a window sticker amounting to more than $37,000.
For this review, I drove a Santa Fe Sport 2.0T with front-wheel drive ($31,525). This model commands a $5,700 premium over the base Santa Fe Sport, but it includes a long list of upgrades including a terrific turbocharged engine, leather seats that are heated up front, dual-zone automatic climate control, Proximity Key entry with push-button starting, automatic headlights, heated side mirrors, a Blind Spot Detection system, and a touchscreen audio system with a reversing camera. And that’s not even the complete list of extras.
To this, my test vehicle added the optional Navigation Package ($1,750), which includes a navigation system, a premium audio system, and these sweet-looking 19-inch aluminum wheels. Add a set of floor mats ($125), and my test vehicle’s price tag came to $33,400. All-wheel drive is also available, and costs an extra $1,750.
2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Crossover SUV Review: Styling and Design
When Hyundai introduced the redesigned Santa Fe for the 2013 model year, it referred to the crossover’s trapezoidal styling language as “Storm Edge” design. Now, two years later, some of these cues are evident on the redesigned 2015 Hyundai Sonata. Oh, and it looks like Ford has copied Storm Edge design elements for its new, ummm, 2015 Edge. Seriously. Take a look and tell me I’m hallucinating.
In any case, the Santa Fe Sport looks terrific, especially in 2.0T trim, and especially with these optional 19-inch aluminum wheels. I even like this Cabo Bronze paint, which appears to be a blend of brown and gray.
The one thing I’m not crazy about is the kicked-up rear quarter window treatment. It makes a reversing camera a requirement, especially when backing out of slanted parking spaces. But it definitely gives this SUV a sporty look.
Get Cabo Bronze paint and your only choice for the interior color is Beige, which in turn means that your only choice for the fake wood on the dashboard is a golden-hued burl pattern that looks like it came out of a 15-year-old Lexus ES 300. Clearly, I am not a fan.
Beyond my distaste for the wood trim, I find the Santa Fe’s 2-tone interior color scheme too busy. It would help if the headliner were darker, matching the top of the dashboard instead of the color of the seats.
2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Crossover SUV Review: Comfort and Cargo
When you upgrade to the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T model, you get leather and standard power adjustable and heated front seats. However, only the driver’s seat provides height adjustment and, as a result, only the driver can optimize comfort levels. Comparatively, the front passenger sits low and close to the floor in a chair that can be powered to adjust legroom and backrest angle, but no more. And that meant that my better half did not like riding in this SUV.
The Santa Fe Sport’s back seat is roomy and comfortable. The bottom cushion is mounted a little lower than I prefer, but that’s necessary to ensure a flat cargo floor when the seat backs are folded down. One nice feature that’s standard on the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T model is the manual side window sunshades, which are particularly useful to parents of babies and younger children to keep the sun out of their brand-new eyeballs. Air vents help to make sure everyone is comfortable, too.
Hyundai provides a generous 35.4 cu.-ft. of cargo room behind the back seat, and the space is both wide and deep, adding flexibility. I had no trouble putting a compact folding stroller lengthwise against the second-row seatback, which helps to save space when packing for a long trip. If you need even more room, the rear seats fold down to create 71.5 cu.-ft. of room, on par with key rivals.
One thing my wife really liked about the Santa Fe Sport is how the reconfigurable floor panels allowed her to securely carry plastic grocery bags and loose items from the big-box retailer. Also, note that the rear seat is a 40/20/40-split folding design, which means you can carry four people and their skis and poles to the slopes.
2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Crossover SUV Review: Features and Controls
The Santa Fe Sport’s controls are easy to find and use, which means that it’s not hard to figure this SUV out. Unlock the doors, and this Hyundai greets its driver with a pleasing welcome chime, and at night the switchgear glows in a soothing shade of dark blue. Both details promote a calming effect that any harried commuter can appreciate.
My test vehicle contained an optional touchscreen navigation system. The screen offers large buttons and is responsive to the touch, and it is easy to use the blend of virtual and actual controls to operate the Santa Fe Sport’s various functions and features. It is bundled with a decent premium surround sound system, but the bass does get muddy about halfway up the volume scale. Pairing a smartphone is easy, as is streaming music.
Hyundai includes one free year of Blue Link telematics service with the Santa Fe Sport. Activate the subscription, and take advantage of features like Automatic Collision Notification, SOS Emergency Assistance, and remote access to specific vehicle features. Blue Link also provides the ability to set speed, curfew, and boundary alerts, which are particularly useful with teenaged drivers in the house.
2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Crossover SUV Review: Safety Matters
In addition to those Blue Link settings, the Santa Fe Sport is available with a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, and a Blind Spot Detection system. Beyond that, you’ll need to pay attention to your driving in order to avoid accidents.
If one occurs, know that the Santa Fe Sport does a great job of protecting its occupants. In crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Santa Fe Sport earns a 5-star overall rating, the highest possible.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing, the Santa Fe Sport gets the top rating of “Good” in all tests for which it has been assessed, but as this review is written the IIHS had not conducted its small overlap frontal-impact test on this model.
2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Crossover SUV Review: Under the Hood
Hyundai offers two engines in the Santa Fe Sport. The standard motor is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder good for 190 horsepower. In a vehicle weighing close to 3,500 pounds, that’s merely adequate.
That’s why I prefer the turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine installed in the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T. It produces 264 horsepower and, more impressively, 269 lb.-ft. of torque. Not only does the turbo generate an extra 74 horsepower and 88 lb.-ft. of torque, it does so at lower rpm.
The result? Whooosh! Pretty much everywhere you go.
In my test vehicle, that power is put to the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission. The traction control system calmly steps in to limit wheelspin, and while some torque steer is evident, it’s not awful.
As far as fuel economy is concerned, the EPA rates my front-drive test model at 22 mpg in combined driving. I got 20.5 mpg, with the Active Eco button engaged about half the time, and despite regularly visiting Turboville. That’s not bad, if you ask me.
2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Crossover SUV Review: Driving Impressions
Hyundai engineers must spend lots of time playing video games, because that’s how the Santa Fe Sport’s steering feels. It has that same artificiality to it, and while three driving modes are available, none of them are particularly satisfying. Of the three settings – Comfort, Normal, and Sport – I found Comfort to be least offensive.
No matter which setting I selected, though, I couldn’t rid the SUV of the disconnected feel, or the resistance to minor steering corrections, which produced lots of wandering on freeways, 2-lane country highways, and gently curving Pacific Coast Highway.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Santa Fe Sport’s turbocharged engine is the best thing about driving this SUV, gathering speed quickly and benefiting from a transmission that is quick to respond in order to make proper use of the power.
Suspension tuning is on the soft side, unexpectedly so for a vehicle with “Sport” in its name. If you start tossing this Hyundai around on a twisty road, you’re going to find body roll, hobby horsing, and lots of understeer around hairpin corners. In fact, because I couldn’t see the hood from the driver’s seat, the Santa Fe Sport felt a little bit like driving a minivan on the twisty sections of my test loop.
Around town and on freeways, though, where most people will drive it most of the time, the Santa Fe Sport’s suspension delivers secure handling and a decent ride quality. The brakes work well, too, though temperatures near 90 degrees caused some fade on the mountainous portion of my test loop.
For me, though, none of that matters because the steering is a deal-breaker. It is a constant source of irritation that the driver never gets used to. That’s too bad, because the rest of the Santa Fe’s driving dynamics are enjoyable.
2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Crossover SUV Review: Final Thoughts
Stylish, roomy, practical, safe, and loaded with value, the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport has plenty going for it. Once Hyundai fixes the steering, I’d recommend one without reservation, especially the 2.0T model for its entertaining turbocharged engine.
2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Crossover SUV Review: Pros and Cons
- Yummy turbocharged whooshiness
- Lots of thoughtfully configured space for people and stuff
- Stylish exterior design
- Impressive safety scores
- Blue Link connectivity and services
- Poor steering feel and response
- Lacks height adjustment for front passenger’s seat
- Rear quarter visibility, especially when reversing from slanted parking
- Not a fan of fake wood with Beige interior
- Sport is part of the name, not the suspension tuning
Hyundai provided the 2014 Santa Fe Sport 2.0T for this review
2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T photos by Christian Wardlaw