The base model 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, which is smaller than the regular three-row seating Santa Fe, boasts good safety scores, nice interior features, sporty (!) exterior touches like a rear spoiler, a 2.4-liter I-4 engine–and all of it for just shy of $25,000, making it a relatively affordable SUV.
If you don’t mind adding another $13,000 on top of that, might I interest you in my test subject: an ’18 Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate in Serrano Red and front-wheel drive?
The top Santa Fe Sport model, which also comes in all-wheel drive, includes a more powerful 2.0-liter turbo-four engine that produces 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. That engine tows up to 3,500 pounds.
The six-speed transmission with SHIFTRONICS has Eco, Normal and Sport modes are available to adjust the throttle and tranny responses.
All Santa Fe Sport models include as standard fog lights, roof rails, premium wood trim, LED daytime running lights, auto-up for the front windows and a power-operated driver’s seat with lumbar support.
Differences emerge when you factor in the trims with turbo engines. Standard on the 2.0T and 2.0T Ultimate are leather upholstery, a lower front fascia, hands-free liftgate, dual zone climate control, chrome-tipped dual exhaust, power and heated front seats, LCD instrument panel driver’s display and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
But where the 2.0T has standard 18-inch alloy wheels, the 2.0T Ultimate’s are 19-inch alloys. There is also a one-inch difference when it comes to the touchscreen for the navigation and entertainment system (7-inch for the 2.0T, 8-inch for the Ultimate). They display Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio and Blue Link telematics.
Extra (but standard) on the Ultimate are HID headlights, panoramic sunroof, rear parking sensors, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, a multi-view camera, a heated steering wheel and an Infinity premium audio system.
All those goodies (and more!) could be worth the extra 13 grand and change if the Ultimate is going to be your every-day family workhorse vehicle or the SUV you are going to use to cart around clients (ridesharing or otherwise).
Whether it’s a long vacation drive or a short Uber ride for a drunk, all passengers will relish the comfort, based on my test period with the Ultimate.
Do keep in mind that while the turbo engine is peppy, your miles to the gallon of gasoline are a fairly middling 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway for a combined 23 mpg, according to government ratings.
That has you spending $1,000 more for fuel over five years compared to the average new vehicle, sayeth Uncle Buzzkill.
Meanwhile, it only rated a 3 on the 1-10 scale (10 being best) for smog, according to the EPA, which gives the Ultimate an only slightly better 5 for a fuel economy and greenhouse gas rating.
Where the Ultimate makes up for it, according to the gubment, is with its overall five stars in 5-Star Safety Ratings. Fives were scored for the driver in a frontal crash and everyone in side crashes. It got fours for rollovers and the passenger in a frontal crash.
My South Korean wonder came in with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $36,950. Carpeted floor mats ($125), inland freight and handling charge ($950) and the $1,600 Ultimate Tech Package shot it up to $38,325.
Oh … what’s with the package? Smart Cruise Control with Stop/Start, lane departure warning, electronic parking brake with auto vehicle hold, Dynamic Bending Light, high beam assist, auto-leveling headlights and–the only Santa Fe Sport model with this next feature–Automatic Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection.
Hyundai includes a 10-year or 100,000-mile (whichever comes first) warranty on the powertrain, a seven-year/unlimited miles anti-perforation warranty, five years/60,000 miles new vehicle warranty and five years/unlimited miles of roadside assistance.
The satellite radio subscription will have to be renewed after 90 days. I mean, you don’t have to unless you want to keep hearing the Lithium channel.
You do get three years of the Blue Link system that includes Connected Care (SOS emergency assistance, automatic collision notice, maintenance reminder and more), the Remote package (remote start, remote lock/unlock doors, car finder, stolen vehicle recovery and more) and the Guidance package that supplements the navigation system.
So, yes, it does not take long to figure out where that additional 13 grand went.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.