2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport HD Video Review
Hyundai’s Santa Fe crossover has been a solid choice for the past five years. There’s no surprise it’s aimed at families, most CUVs are. The third generation doesn’t reinvent the segment but in a way, this family sport ute is becoming a family of crossovers. At the very least it’s a good-looking couple.
That’s because there are now two of them. The rig I’m looking at in this review is the Santa Fe Sport. It seats five and competes against RAV4, Edge and Equinox to name a few. In early 2013 a long wheelbase version with three rows shows up. Its name is simply Santa Fe and it goes up against Highlander, Pilot, CX-9 and Explorer.
First Up, the Version We Can’t Drive
Santa Fe gets seating for six or seven depending on configuration, and replaces Veracruz, which is history. Hyundai says marketing a separate nameplate is inefficient, there’s more bang for their marketing buck promoting the Santa Fe name alone. At the press launch I’m attending there’s a pre-production prototype to look at but it’s strictly no touchy. It can’t be driven, the doors are locked, and tinted windows keep the interior largely out of view.
Wheelbase is about four inches longer, overall length is up by 8.5. It’s not just a stretch job, the design is different than Sport. The rear pillar and nose are more conservative. Pressing my nose up against the glass finds the third row is nearly up against the back window. It’s the only one that gets a 3.3-liter V6, rated at 290 HP. That’s about all I have until it drops in the first quarter of 2013. I’d be surprised if the instrument panel is significantly different than Sport’s.
Focusing on Sport
Naturally the Santa Fe’s press launch is being held in… uh, Park City, Utah. I’m getting a full day to shake down the Sport on winding and undulating roads.
Sport sports two different four-cylinders. The base model’s 2.4-liter has 190 horsepower on tap. At 33 MPG, Hyundai claims it has the highest highway fuel economy of any CUV with an automatic transmission. Like the V6 Santa Fe, it is not available for driving. No doubt it’s due to Park City’s power sapping location, which hovers at around 7,000 feet.
Turbos on the other hand thrive at altitude so my tester is equipped with the twin-scroll turbocharged 2.0-liter. It smoothly makes 264 horsepower and runs on standard-grade gasoline. Hyundai wants you all to know all Santa Fe’s have gas direct-injection engines, which is a class exclusive.
The only transmission choice is a six-speed automatic with manual control on the console. Choose between front and all-wheel drive. More on that later.
Turbos are not afraid of heights but I have to wonder if there’s additional performance gained near sea level. At a precise 7,432 feet (thank you iPhone app) Santa Fe doesn’t feel especially torquey off the line even though the specs are 269 lb-ft @ 1,750-3,000 rpm. It has good mid-range power for passing, which should satisfy owners. It’s a bit tepid off the line though. Sorry, no official 0-60 time at this time. I’ll guestimate it’s in the high eight-second range.
Santa Fe has a neat trick, the steering effort is adjustable in three increments. I have it set for “sport” which gives it a heftier Euro feel. Like many vehicles with electric power steering, road feel is not overly generous. Driving dynamics are dialed in toward the sporty side… for a crossover. The ride quality is pretty comfortable, the cabin is quiet, and even with the giant panoramic roof open, wind management is quite good. In short, the family should be happy on road trips.
Drivers will find Sport’s rising beltline and beefy rear pillar blocks rearward visibility some. It’s not a deal breaker but a blind spot warning could be helpful.
Engineering By Jenny Craig
Not really, but Santa Fe has lost a significant amount of weight. 266 pounds have been carved from the mass of the outgoing model without the use of exotic materials. To drive home the improvement, the Hyundai team has a barbell setup for us to lift. The outgoing Santa Fe chassis was 17% high strength steel, the 2013 model uses closer to 38%.
The body structure has become 16% more rigid adding up to a European feel, improved safety and better fuel economy. The EPA rates the two-liter turbo at 21 city, 27 highway with all-wheel drive (front drive models get 21/31). Driving it hard at altitude in the hills of Utah, I came nowhere near that. This does not surprise me.
Fully Loaded and Ready For Action
Fun hogs will be able to get all their toys on and in the Santa Fe (Hyundai has one with bikes, snowboards and kayaks hanging from Thule racks that readily bolt onto the factory rails). Many Santa Fe’s will end up in snowy conditions and rugged back roads. The optional Dynamax all-wheel drive system anticipates conditions rather than simply reacting. Engineered by Magna, it has a torque vectoring system that gently applies the brakes on the inside rear tire during hard corning for a more secure driving dynamic. It’s much more subtle than electronic stability control that kicks in dramatically to prevent rollovers.
All of this is meant for moderate conditions, don’t let the hill decent control button lull you to believe Santa Fe is for severe off-roading. The AWD system is completely automatic though if you get into rougher stuff the rear differential is lockable. Hyundai’s driving route provides four miles of rutted dirt roads. Ride quality is pretty good over the moderately rough surface. Suspension travel isn’t overly generous though, hit larger bumps and you’ll feel it.
The Great Indoors
Santa Fe gets a thoroughly modern cabin with quality materials and unique crosshatch graining on the soft-touch dashboard. Both the white and copper cars in the video are fully loaded models that retail for $33,250 including destination. There’s iPod integration, Bluetooth, and an eight-inch touch-screen with a clear interface that offers easy access to navigation. The backup camera is handy too. Heated steering wheels are a little slice of heaven on frigid days. There’s also Hyundai’s Blue Link, a telematic system similar to GM’s OnStar.
You will not want for storage bins, they are everywhere throughout the interior. There’s two power ports and a USB port up front too. The big glass roof keeps even the black interior bright and airy. Moderately bolstered leather chairs are comfortable and heated. Unexpected touches include bright clear gauges with a crisp information screen and melodic Lexus-grade warning chimes.
The Back Story
The rear seat slides fore and aft. Pushed all the back, legroom is generous. The seatbacks recline, outboard positions are very comfortable and heated on the top-end version.
There’s loads of foot room and pockets for stuff, even built-in sunshades for the side windows. Kids can charge electronics with the power port. My biggest gripe is that the raised center seat position is hard and less comfortable. Keep it to four using the folding armrest and extra cupholders and everyone will be happy.
If you’re looking for a power liftgate with the Sport, it’s not available, and not needed (big brother will have one). I’m in Utah so there’s no TP test. According to the numbers provided by Hyundai, the cargo area is slightly larger than Equinox, Edge and Murano, a smidge smaller than RAV4. For flexibility, the seats get an extra split for a 40/20/40 setup. Nice touch. That’s not the only one. Sport has a couple large cavities in the floor to stash stuff out of site and keep small things organized.
Lets talk about design, Hyundai calls this version of their Fluidic Sculpture design language Fluidic Precision. In addition, Sport gets the “Storm Edge” treatment which, to quote the press kit “captures the strong and dynamic images created by nature during the formation of a storm”. I’d simply call it more angular or chunkier though that isn’t as eloquent, is it?
It certainly is bolder than the soft, rounded lines of the second-generation Santa Fe. The creases of the Sport are strong and directional. Unique too. It won’t be confused with anything else on the road. About the only things Santa Fe carries over are its name and the sun logo thingy on its badge. LED headlamp accents and 19-inch wheels on the 2.0T model are modern touches. The door design closes over the sill to keep dirt off and pant legs clean.
What’s It Run?
A base front-drive Sport starts at $25,275. The turbo model adds about $3,200 to the tab. Considering all-wheel drive? That’s an extra $1,750. Come back in January for the numbers on the three-row version.
Hyundai execs say the longer Santa Fe will appeal to families right in the thick of their child rearing years. If you’re carting your kids (and their friends) to dance class and ultimate Frisbee games, it’s aimed right at you. Sport brackets that life stage, targeted towards those with very young kids or older teens that are getting ready to fly the coop.
Ultimately, Santa Fe is priced very well for a family vehicle with impressive features, comfort, room and original design. Even if it didn’t undercut the price of the usual suspects it would be a smart choice. If you’re shopping for a mid-sized family crossover, it’s wise to consider Santa Fe for your shopping list, no matter what city you live in.
FULL GALLERY BELOW. ALL STILL IMAGES PROVIDED BY HYUNDAI. TOM ATTENDED A HYUNDAI SPONSORED EVENT TO WRITE THIS STORY.