How do the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport handle in the snow?

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

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.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]