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Hyundai's 2018 Santa Fe Sport is a fun ride in the crowded SUV category

The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is similar to the 2017, but it is still a fun ride. Matt Perrault

Every manufacture selling vehicles in this country is turning out crossover and performance SUV’s as fast they can as the American buying public demands car handling with an SUV’s size and capability. After Hyundai redesigned the 2017 Sante Fe and Sante Fe Sport, their newest Sport model isn’t dramatically different but continues to produce an enjoyable experience behind the wheel.

Vehicle Summary

I reviewed the Sport model with a 2.0-liter turbo engine, ultimate package featuring all-wheel drive. This is the top of the line model for Hyundai and included the Tech Package that provided some high-end safety features like Smart Cruise Control with Stop/Start and Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection. These safety features are really becoming useful (and standard on many models in the class) and you can quickly become attached to the security they provide while driving on busy highways and crowded city streets.

The Sport is a two-row SUV, unlike the larger Sante Fe which now features a third row. As a father of just one rambunctious 3-year old, my family doesn’t need the extra space and I never felt like I was missing anything with this smaller version. I actually prefer the smaller crossover SUVs because often they provide more performance and handling and this AWD model fit the bill.

This 5-star safety rated vehicle tries hard to convince the consumer to stay away from the extremely popular models in this category produced by competitors like Honda, Nissan and Toyota. The 2018 Sante Fe Sport is a very nice option for a small family like mine.  

Engine

For a 4-cylinder, there is a lot of power under the hood with the Sport’s 240 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo, gasoline direct injection engine. The 6-speed automatic transmission is smooth but I have never liked Hyundai’s ECO mode. I nearly always put the vehicle into Sport mode and I find the ride to be much more enjoyable. Sport Mode opens up the engine to perform up to its ability and gives more confidence on the highway. You will lose some gas mileage by driving in this mode obviously. However, Hyundai lists the Sport at 24 miles per gallon on the highway but I did better than that even in Sport Mode.

Exterior 

As you can see in the picture above, this is a really good-looking vehicle. The model I drove was “Marlin Blue” but there are some other very attractive colors offered for the 2018 as well. Mark me down as a massive fan of the panoramic sunroof and my daughter was a well. Hyundai has done really good job with the lines of this vehicle. I really like the standard features on this model that include a Hands-Free Smart Liftgate with Auto Open that was very easy to operate and keyless entry that can unlock all for 4-doors.

Interior 

This is where the Sport really shines for what I like to see from SUV’s in this class. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are standard within an 8-inch touch screen that is really easy to navigate. The rearview display is huge with multi-view camera angles that makes parking a snap.  Hyundai’s Blue Link provides untethered connectivity to a variety of features and doesn’t lose any sound quality when pushing audio to the QuantumLogic Surround Sound and Infinity Premium Auto speakers.

Heated leather seats are great but what attracted me were the Ventilated Seats which provides extra comfort in the hot climates like Houston. The Sport’s rear vents were incredibly important to my wife and kept everyone riding with us comfortable. Some have found the Sport’s front seats to be uncomfortable but they didn’t bother me. The 2nd row is roomy with lots of head room. The vehicle can easily fit five adults but the back-seat space is great if you have a car seat like we do. There is a lot of cargo space in the back and cargo cover is a nice optional feature if you don’t want to show the world what you are transporting around with you.

One drawback was where Hyundai places the Drive Mode button. In other Hyundais and Kias, the button is by the gear shift but this model placed the button on the left-hand side in a row with other options like the Lane Departure Warning. In order to find the button, you have to take your eyes of the road for a little longer than I felt comfortable. The button would be better on the right side of the driver.

Performance

The 2018 Sport’s Active Cornering Control flexes the All-Wheel Drive capability of this SUV. The wheel has all the controls you would want with the ability to control your entertainment and cruise control without looking down.

Value

The sticker price on this model was $40,160 but you can get the Sport without the ULT package and All-Wheel Drive that will drop cost down a considerable amount. Hyundai still offers the outstanding warranty of 10-year/100,000 miles on the powertrain and 5-year/unlimited mile roadside assistance.

The 2018 Hyundai Sante Fe Sport has a lot to like and not a ton of drawbacks for this year’s model.  

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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