Both the Santa Fe Sport and the larger Santa Fe should perform adequately in the snow with their standard front-wheel-drive configuration and quite well with their optional all-wheel-drive (AWD), the latter a boon to those in the Snow Belt, especially in areas that don’t get plowed immediately (or at all) after a snowfall.
Hyundai’s AWD system automatically adjusts the engine’s torque from the front to the rear wheels to maintain traction if sensors detect tire slippage. Yes, it costs an extra $1,750 and exacts a penalty of 1-2 mpg, depending on the model. Moreover, studies show that installing a set of winter tires boosts a front-wheel-drive vehicle’s snow traction about as much or more as having AWD. Still, AWD pays dividends with sure-footed confidence in all weather and, given its ability to apportion power laterally, also aids dry-road handling.
Regardless of drive system, the base version of the Santa Fe Sport with its 17-inch wheels and tires should be able to cut through accumulated snow a bit better than the 2.0T model with the wider 18-inch tires or the top 2.0T Ultimate with 19-inch rims and rubber. Likewise, the 18-inch wheels and tires on the base SE and top Limited versions of the three-row Santa Fe should grip a little better than the wider 19s on the SE Ultimate and Limited Ultimate.
Versus the competition, Santa Fe’s winter weather prowess is similar compact- and midsize-class crossover SUVS. Among five-passenger rivals that outperform the norm are the Jeep Cherokee, with AWD systems that include terrain response modes tailored specifically to snow driver, and the Subaru Forester, with a particularly adept AWD and the most ground clearance of any compact crossover. Among three-row crossovers, look to the Ford Explorer and GMC Acadia, both of which feature the light-snow advantages of standard front-wheel drive, plus the deep-snow edge of AWD terrain response.