There used to be a basic rule of automotive math that smaller vehicle = lower price + fewer features. Hyundai and other Asian car companies, however, began tinkering with that equation several years ago, resulting in vehicles such as the 2017 Santa Fe Sport we recently tested.

The Sport in its name has very little to do with performance. Instead, it helps distinguish this two-row compact crossover model from its big brother, the midsize, three-row Santa Fe.

The Santa Fe Sport is smaller, yes, but it isn’t inexpensive, and certainly doesn’t fall short on features. That’s particularly true in the 2.0T Ultimate AWD model we tested, which has more creature comforts than a penthouse suite at the Bellagio.

These include a heated steering wheel, sunshades for the second-row windows, a panoramic sunroof, power front seats, heated and cooled front seats, dual-zone climate control and an 8-inch hi-res touchscreen interface with navigation.

The 2017 Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate comes loaded with extras.

The 2017 Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate comes loaded with extras.

There’s more: Keyless entry, a surround-sound audio system and a tailgate that opens automatically when you stand behind it with the key fob.

And when it comes to heaping on features, the Santa Fe Sport doesn’t stop at creature comforts. The 2.0T Ultimate also has auto on/off headlights, windshield wiper defrosters, auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated door mirrors, rear parking sensors, multi-view backup camera and LED taillights, running lights and fog lights.

Hyundai also offers an “Ultimate Tech Package” that may be one of the best option package values in the car world. For $1,550, it adds smart cruise control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, an electronic parking brake, auto-leveling headlights, automatic high-beam dimming and headlights that point in the direction the Santa Fe Sport is turning.

Although the tech package is a bargain, it’s only available on the 2.0T Ultimate model, which doesn’t come cheap. Its base price is $38,250. Adding the Ultimate Tech Package, $125 carpeted floor mats and freight/handling hiked our test car’s sticker price to $40,820. Buyers who don’t need AWD can save $1,750 on the front-wheel drive model.

Or they could buy one of the two other Santa Fe Sport trim levels. The least-expensive model is the 2.4, which starts at $25,350 with FWD and $27,100 with AWD. The mid-level 2.0T starts at $31,700 with FWD and $33,450 with AWD.

Hyundai has a nice chart on its website (hyundaiusa.com/santa-fe-sport/specifications. aspx) that shows the different features that are standard, optional or unavailable on the three trim levels.

Mechanically, all three models share the same basic underpinnings and six-speed automatic transmission.

Under the hood, it’s a somewhat different story. The Santa Fe Sport 2.4 is named for its 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine. Featuring direct injection and four valves per cylinder with variable valve timing, it delivers up to 185 horsepower and 178 pounds-feet of torque. Its EPA fuel economy rating is 21 city/27 highway/24 combined miles per gallon for the FWD model and 20/26/22 for the AWD.

The two other Santa Fe Sport models are powered by a smaller but more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. Hyundai says this 16-valve, direct-injected engine can deliver up to 240 horsepower and 260 pounds-feet of torque.

Owners aren’t punished at the pump for all of that extra turbocharged power. The numbers vary according to model, but the EPA ratings say the less powerful engine generally delivers only about one more mile per gallon of fuel. Our test vehicle averaged just over 22 mpg in mixed driving over the course of our week-long evaluation.

It was a pleasure spending that time with the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate. In addition to being loaded with creature comforts and driver assists, Hyundai’s small crossover is comfortable, reasonably roomy and drives well.

Don’t let its name mislead you, though. As noted earlier, “Sport” distinguishes this Santa Fe from its larger sibling rather than describing its performance. For example, the 2.0T Ultimate’s engine displayed some “turbo lag” – a momentary hesitation evident in some turbocharged engines before full power kicks in – when the throttle was mashed at idle.

Under typical driving conditions, however, the engine was smooth and responsive, feeling downright peppy at times. The Santa Fe Sport merges and passes effortlessly on the highway. It took about 7.5 seconds on my stopwatch to accelerate from zero to 60 mph, which isn’t bad for an AWD compact crossover … particularly one weighing over 4,000 pounds.

The Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate’s handling also compares favorably to its competition. Its steering delivers more feedback and better road feel than many other electronically boosted systems I’ve experienced. And its suspension tuning helps the driver feel connected to the road, and keeps the Santa Fe Sport from leaning in the corners.

Capable handling in smaller vehicles can sometimes be accompanied by a harsh ride, but that’s not the case with the Santa Fe Sport. On the contrary, it is among the class leaders in ride comfort and cabin quietness, although the cushiness disappears a bit on rough roads.

That’s not unexpected in a compact crossover. What continued to surprise and impress, however, was the way Hyundai’s offering delivered luxuries and driving assists that were simply unheard of in this class not too long ago.

Assuming, of course, that you don’t mind paying for them.


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