While the Hyundai Santa Fe may end up on many shopper’s radars due to its very low price for a mid-size crossover and its impressively long warranty coverage, it is a very solid vehicle in its own right. It offers a strong variety of different options to select from, including two different body types and three different engines. It also offers a good variety of features for its low price point.
It does lag behind some class rivals in terms of mechanics somewhat, as its older engine and transmission are not as responsive and fuel efficient as many of the newer vehicles in the segment. But this generation of the Santa Fe, which started in 2013, remains near the front of the pack when it comes to safety and comfort innovations.
While most individual trim levels of the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe are fairly straightforward with only a few available options or packages, there are slightly more of them than on an average mid-size crossover. Combined with the fact that it comes in two different body styles that are sometimes classed as different vehicles, this can make choosing the right trim level a little more difficult than one might expect.
Compare the 2018 Santa Fe Sport vs Sport 2.0T Trims. What is the difference?
The Sport is the combined name for the three models of the Santa Fe with the short wheelbase, as well as the name for the entry-level model of the same. The Santa Fe Sport seats up to five people across two rows of seats, and includes many of the standard features one would expect on an entry-level mid-size crossover.
It uses a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with an output of 185 horsepower and a six-speed automatic transmission. Cruise control, keyless entry, running lights, and a rearview camera are all standard. It also includes a 5-inch infotainment touchscreen, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, and both USB and auxiliary inputs.
It is the least expensive version of the Santa Fe, and the one with the most options. It can be selected in front-wheel and all-wheel drive varieties. There are also three available packages for drivers to choose from, though they have to be selected sequentially. The Value Package is the first upgrade, and it adds push button start, a larger touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, a power driver’s seat, fog lights, and LED running lights.
Building on that, the premium package bundles together leather upholstery, a hands-free power liftgate, a power passenger seat, and improved interior trim, as well as a number of smaller accessories. Finally, the Technology package adds a navigation system, a panoramic sunroof, Infinity speakers, heated steering wheel and rear seats, ventilated front seats, a multi-view camera, and driver’s seat memory.
The Santa Fe Sport 2.0T is distinguished from the regular Sport model primarily by its larger 2.0-liter twin-turbocharged engine. This engine raises the power to 240 horsepower, making the Sport 2.0T feel a lot more responsive and agile on the open road.
It also includes as standard the first two upgrade packages for the Sport - the Value package and the Premium package. This means that it comes standard with the more upscale interior and additional technology options. It has no optional packages of its own however, which means that it can’t be equipped with the higher-end comfort options from the regular Santa Fe Sport’s Technology Package.
The main trade-off between the regular Sport and the Sport 2.0T is the added power against the availability of additional comfort features. The 2.0T is roughly $1,500 more than a regular Sport with similar equipment, but it is a little more powerful. But with all of the optional comfort features, the regular Sport is about $1,500 more than the 2.0T.
Compare the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T vs Sport 2.0T Ultimate Trim Levels. What is the difference?
The Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate model sounds like a complicated trim level, but it is actually fairly simple: it is the combination of the 2.0T engine with all of the optional features available on the regular Santa Fe Sport. Great for buyers who want both more comfort and better performance, it also comes with its own exclusive optional package.
The Ultimate Technology Package is a suite of active safety technologies including smart cruise control, automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, electronic parking brake, and auto-leveling headlights with dynamic beams and high beam assist.
The demographic for the Sport 2.0T Ultimate is a fairly obvious one. Designed for driver who prefer the smaller size of the Sport models, but want more power and higher grade of features. The added safety options can also be a draw for some buyers.
Compare the Santa Fe Sport vs SE Trims. What is the difference?
The Santa Fe SE is the entry-level model for the long-wheelbase model of the Santa Fe. It seats up to seven passengers and comes with the strongest engine available on the Santa Fe - a 3.3-liter V-6 rated at 290 horsepower. It uses the same six-speed automatic transmission as the rest of the Santa Fe models. Its standard equipment is a little better than on the base Sport models.
In addition to all of those standard features, it also includes a standard dual-zone automatic climate control, a power driver’s seat, LED running lights, heated side mirrors, satellite radio, and the 7-inch infotainment touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It also has larger 18-inch alloy wheels.
In addition to those standard features, the SE is available with one optional package. The Premium Package adds blind spot monitors with rear cross traffic alerts, hands-free liftgate, push-button start, a powered passenger seat, leather interior, heated seats and LED fog lights.
Compare the Santa Fe SE vs SE Ultimate Trim Levels. What is the difference?
The SE Ultimate comes standard with a full set of desirable comfort features and adds the popular active safety equipment as an option for the long wheelbase model. It includes all of the features from the SE, as well as its Premium optional package.
On top of that, the SE Ultimate has its own exterior badging, Infinity premium audio, ventilated front seats, driver’s seat memory, and a power passenger seat, among smaller improvements like extra USB ports or an auto-dimming mirror. Similar to the Sport Ultimate model, it can also be equipped with the optional Technology Package containing all of the active safety gear.
In terms of comfort and safety gear, the SE Ultimate is a fairly strong upgrade over the base SE. The added luxury features give the Santa Fe a very strong upscale ambiance at a very reasonable price for the segment. This model is also likely to be attractive to family buyers, as it can be equipped with the high-end safety features that are becoming popular with today’s drivers. It is priced quite nicely as well, with the upgrade from the SE to the SE Ultimate costing about as much as upgrades with similar equipment cost on the Sport.
Compare the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe SE Ultimate vs Limited Ultimate Trims. What is the difference?
For $700 more than the SE Ultimate, the Limited Ultimate is almost identical to the previous model aside from one major change. Instead of a three-seat middle-row bench, the Limited Ultimate model features two captain’s chairs, for a total of six available seats. The modified second row design also includes a console with some cupholders for the passengers sitting there as well. Like the SE Ultimate, the Limited Ultimate is available with an optional Technology Package for added safety equipment.The Limited Ultimate is the traditional trade-off between utility and comfort. The regular SE Ultimate model can carry one more person, but the Limited Ultimate is more comfortable for two of the people transported. Which one is better comes down to each purchaser’s lifestyle, as it is a relatively inexpensive upgrade and the two models are otherwise completely identical.
Which Trim Level to Choose?
The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe offers a number of options, and can be equipped very lavishly on even its entry-level models. In its short wheelbase configuration, buyers are likely to get the best returns on the base Sport model, as it can be optioned with some fairly plush optional packages and has a very low starting price for the segment.
While the 2.0T upgrades may feel livelier, they are still held back by the older six-speed transmission, and don’t offer as much power and performance as the V-6 on the SE and Limited models, making them less attractive for the price compared to the base Sport.
Any of the larger Santa Fe models are likely to offer good value for many, with the SE Ultimate model particularly notable thanks to its high grade of standard equipment and the optional safety suite. The Limited Ultimate is a good choice for a more comfortable six-seat configuration as well.
• Why buy a 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe? w/ pros vs cons