My wife and I attended the Chicago Auto Show this year, and spent a lot of time at the Hyundai display drooling over the various Santa Fe models. We love our sedan, but always keep the idea of an SUV in the back of our minds as the kids get older (and bigger!). I was extremely excited to learn I would have the chance to review the Santa Fe not once, but twice! I also thought this would be a great opportunity to do a comparison review for those who might be interested in learning about two versions of this wildly popular vehicle - The 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Limited Ultimate Edition 2.0L AWD Turbo and the bigger Santa Fe Limited Ultimate Edition V6 AWD. Throughout the rest of the review, I will refer them as “Sport” and “Santa Fe V6” respectively.
Hyundai has redesigned and pushed hard to promote their latest Santa Fe models. They have done a fantastic job in creating a vehicle that looks like pure luxury, both inside and out, for a fraction of the luxury price. The two models I tested were fully loaded, with all of the bells and whistles you could possibly want. Generally speaking, the Sport is the smaller of the two, which would be the perfect step up from a sedan. It has a 5 passenger capacity, while the full size Santa Fe V6 holds 6-7 passengers depending on the configuration of the second row (bench vs. captains’ chairs).A first impression is everything, and neither of these disappoint. I really like the appearance on these models; both have a nice luxury look with a modern twist. The sleek HID projector headlights, chrome front grill and fog lights really give both models a head turning appearance right off the bat. They are near identical in exterior styling, with slight differences in the lights (fog, headlights and taillights), the side mirrors, and both the front and rear bumpers.
The simple split 19” 5 spoke wheels give a subtle look, along with the single or dual exhaust, depending on the model. Both models are equipped with the top of the line Limited Ultimate Edition AWD, and although they aren’t really meant for off-roading, I’m sure they could handle it.
The main differences in these models are the engine size, passenger capacity, and length. The Santa Fe V6 comes with a 290hp 3.3L GDI DOHC 24 valve V6 engine, giving an average mpg of 18 city & 25 highway. The Sport comes in two engine sizes – base and turbo. With the base model you get a 190hp 2.4L GDI 4 cylinder engine averaging 20 mpg city/27mpg highway. The turbo, or Sport 2.0T, has a 265hp 2.0L twin-scroll turbo GDI 4 cylinder engine giving you 19 city and 27 highway mpg. The Santa Fe V6 is little beefier since it hold 6-7 passengers, weighing in at 3,904 pounds with a 110.2” length. The Sport is slightly shorter at 106.3”, weighs 3,569 pounds and holds up to 5 passengers.
Like the exterior, the interior is almost identical between the two models. Both were top of the line and had all of the upgraded features, including a panoramic sunroof and 8” navigation screen. My entire family loved the panoramic sunroof, especially the kids. They loved being able to see everything around them, most notably the tall downtown buildings and the planes on approach to both nearby airports. Hyundai really put in the time to give the dash a modern look and feel, avoiding the pitfall of a sharp interior with a boring dash. You can certainly see the craftsmanship that was put into the design, which gave it the feel of a true luxury vehicle. The two tone design of both the dash and center console really sets off the interior. The touchscreen console is placed in the center of the dash, with easy buttons to navigate through all the features. The Sport has fewer controls than the V6, but those missing are mainly to control the rear ventilation.
Both my wife and I really liked the lower part of the center console, which has a large area to store cell phones, notepads, and anything that you might need to grab right away. This area also features 2 power outlets with aux and usb connections. As with most of today’s vehicles, Bluetooth is also available, which is great for hands free conversation while driving. The seats are really comfortable and roomy. The steering wheel felt very comfortable with many controls right at your fingertips. One feature I enjoy is changing the steering wheel response between Normal, Sport & Comfort. I prefer the Sport since I like the tight feel where my wife enjoys the Comfort smooth feel. It really felt comfortable sitting in front and really easy to navigate with all the features it offers. For those hot and cold temperature swings, the front seats are both heated and cooled, which would really come in handy with the unpredictable Chicago weather.
One of our focus areas when considering an SUV is the back seats. Since we are both tall, we look for leg room in the front and overall space in the rear. Having both infant and toddler car seats (and a toddler who likes to kick the seat in front of him), we typically sacrifice leg room in the front to make up for small back seats. Happily, this is not the case with either of the Santa Fe models. The Santa Fe V6 has three rows of seating, and in the model we tested, the second rows were captain’s chairs instead of benches. We absolutely loved this. It made it easy to get in an out, it was comfortable to sit in the chairs, and we could put the bigger kid all the way in the back. He loved having his own space and plenty of room to kick his feet without bothering anyone. It also allowed for a bit more room to store things, as we could place things in between the captain’s chairs instead of under or across. To make it even sweeter, the rear seats were heated, reclined, and could move forwards or backwards to give more room to the third row.
I sat in the third row and wasn’t too bad. It’s enough room to get comfortable, but as an adult, certainly not where you would want to sit for a long journey. The Santa Fe V6 has total space of 160 cu. Ft, with cargo room behind front seat of 80 cu. ft, behind second row 40.9 cu. ft. and behind third row is 13.5 cu. ft. The Sport has a total of 143.4 cu. ft. With the back seats folded down you have 71.5 cu. ft of space, and 35.4 cu. ft. with them up. Both models have extra storage at the back tailgate where the spare tire would normally go. You can store emergency supplies or anything you might want to keep hidden. The Santa Fe V6 has a 3 prong 115-volt power outlet located at the passenger rear tailgate. This is great if you need power during tailgating, camping and or giving the rear passengers a means to charge their electronics.
Driving both vehicles was certainly different. Comfort wise they felt the same, but you definitely felt the bigger size and weight when driving the Santa Fe V6, which I especially enjoyed when driving around with the kids. I like that it’s large, but not so big that it made parking a hassle. It was just as easy to find parking for the V6 as it was with the Sport. It felt like driving our personal sedan with a bit more height and storage space. The suspension was really smooth and really absorbed most of the lovely roads the city of Chicago offers. The times I would thought “It’s going to be a rough ride”, I was wrong. Cabin noise was pretty quiet as well. With the panoramic sun shade open there was more noise, but it wasn’t bad at all. With the Santa Fe V6, I felt a big lag in acceleration; it really took a while for it to get up and going. I wasn’t looking for anything dramatic or a big wow, but it was something noticeable when I needed to accelerate rapidly. The Sport 2.0L Turbo had no issues. It really gets up and goes when you want it to.
Visibility was good on both models, and I really didn’t feel like I had blind spots. The blind side sensors contributed to that, sounding an alert when there was a vehicle in the blind spot, which was awesome on the highway. Highway driving proved to be a smooth as city, and road noise was at a minimum. The only thing I can suggest would be to add a speed control impact sensor when the cruise control is engaged. It’s in no way a necessity, I’m just a big fan of that feature. The Santa Fe V6 power plant can haul 5,000 pounds, which is plenty to pull a small boat and/or recreational vehicles. The Sport has slightly less power, able to pull only 3,500 pounds with the Turbo model, which is still enough for a couple of jet skis or other small recreational vehicles.
Overall I must say this is one of our favorite SUVs we have reviewed. The Santa Fe line up offers so many features and one of the best warranties in its class for the price. I can’t tell you how many people were surprised, myself included, as to the quality of the vehicle as a whole for the price.
The sleek exterior and smooth leather & craftsmanship of the interior were really impressive. Honestly, if it didn’t have the Hyundai badging, I would have thought we were in a higher class of luxury vehicle. For my family and me we would prefer the bigger of the two models, the Santa Fe V6. It gives us the option to carry more items and passengers. If we only had one child, the Santa Fe Sport would be perfect. If you have no family but like a slightly bigger vehicle than a sedan, the Sport is for you. Perfect size and style.
Both models are priced competitively with the Santa Fe V6 starting at $30,000 and the Sport at $25,000. The fully loaded Santa Fe Limited AWD V6 Ultimate Edition and Santa Fe Sport Limited 2.0L Turbo AWD Ultimate Edition we tested retail for $42,000 and $38,000 respectively, which are fantastic prices for everything you receive. I’d like to thank Hyundai USA and Drive Shop USA for the opportunity to review both these vehicles.