2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

By November 30, 2012
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

The Hyundai Santa Fe mid-size crossover utility is all-new for 2013, built on a new lighter-weight, higher-strength platform. The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe comes in two handy family sizes.

The two-row, five-passenger 2013 Santa Fe Sport, about the same size as the outgoing 2012 Santa Fe, competes in the fast-growing field of domestic and import compact crossovers that includes the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Edge, Toyota RAV-4, Honda CR-V, and Nissan Murano.

The larger, three-row, six- or seven-passenger 2013 Santa Fe is 8.5 inches longer on a 3.9-inch-longer wheelbase to take on the Chevy Traverse, Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Mazda CX-9.

The compact Santa Fe Sport fits neatly between Hyundai's smaller Tucson and the larger Veracruz. The long-wheelbase (LWB) Santa Fe will replace the Veracruz. Santa Fe (and Tucson) are crossover utility vehicles, or CUVs, meaning they are car-based sport utilities, essentially tall wagons, which offer more car-like driving dynamics and fuel efficiency than truck-based SUVs.

Two engine choices are available in the Santa Fe Sport: a 190-hp 2.4-liter non-turbo inline-4 and a 264-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. The LWB Santa Fe comes with a 290-hp 3.3-liter V6. All three engines benefit from high-pressure gasoline direct injection (GDI) and drive through 6-speed automatic transmissions with SHIFTRONIC manual capability, and all models offer available Active Cornering Control (ACC) all-wheel drive.

EPA fuel economy ratings range from 22 City, 33 Highway, 26 Combined for the base front-wheel-drive four-cylinder Santa Fe Sport to 19/26/22 mpg for the LWB FWD Santa Fe with its V6.

Hyundai's ACC all-wheel drive continuously monitors driving conditions and enhances stability by managing brake and engine torque and vectoring one or the other toward or away from individual wheels to balance side-to-side and front-to rear traction. The result is improved cornering stability, reduced understeer (loss of front-wheel traction) or oversteer (loss of rear-wheel traction) to help the driver maintain control in tricky conditions. Standard Hillstart Assist Control (HAC) minimizes roll-back on steep uphills, while Downhill Brake Control (DBC) manages speed and enhances control on steep descents.

To our eyes, this new Santa Fe is a handsome piece that's more distinctive than most of its compact CUV competitors. Its styling follows Hyundai's recent fluidic sculpture design direction, though slightly toned down from the level of boldness that has helped lift the company's Sonata to a major player in the super-competitive mid-size sedan segment.

The 2013 Santa Fe's new interior is modern and stylish, with an obvious focus on soft-touch materials and thoughtfully arranged, well-marked controls. The base Santa Fe Sport offers YES Essentials stain-resistant cloth seats, a trip computer, Hyundai Blue Link (similar to GM's OnStar) safety and convenience connectivity and a 40/20/40 split folding second-row seat to accommodate skis, golf clubs or surfboards along with one or two rear passengers. The Sport 2.0T and Santa Fe add more equipment, and a plethora of comfort, convenience and communications features, some exclusive, are available.

The longer Santa Fe boasts 1.9 inches more second-row legroom and 5.6 cubic feet more total cargo capacity than the shorter Sport does. Santa Fe comes with second-row climate controls and vents and a 50/50 split folding third seat with 31.5 inches of legroom. The second row is the 40/20/40 split folding bench in the GLS trim, twin Captain's chairs in the Limited.

The new, lighter structure is built with 37.7 percent high-strength steel, part of the reason the base Sport model is some 266 pounds lighter than the outgoing 2012 Santa Fe and the LWB Santa Fe nearly 400 pounds lighter than the Veracruz it will replace. This also makes it stiffer, which enhances both ride and handling for driving enjoyment, and better manages crash energy should something bad happen. The suspension is lightweight MacPherson struts in front, independent multi-link in back, with stabilizer bars at both ends.

We found our test Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T fully competitive and pleasant to drive. Its performance was impressive when needed, its ride was smooth and controlled over most surfaces, its braking was strong and stable, and its handling was at least as good as most competitors in its class. Aside from a few minor niggles, our only disappointment was averaging 21-22 mpg in mostly freeway driving, well short of its 27-mpg highway government rating.

Model Lineup

The 2013 Santa Fe comes in two lengths and four powertrain/trim variations.

Santa Fe Sport, the two-row version, is offered in base four-cylinder ($24,450) or 2.0T ($27,700) turbocharged versions, the latter with more standard equipment. Santa Fe Sport comes standard with 6-speed automatic transmission with a fuel-saving Active ECO mode.

Santa Fe, the long-wheelbase, V6-powered, three-row version is offered in GLS and Limited trim levels.

All models are available with all-wheel drive ($1,750).

Standard equipment on the Santa Fe Sport includes YES Essentials stain-resistant cloth seats, two-way power-adjustable lumbar support for the driver's seat, air conditioning with cabin air filter, power windows, locks and mirrors, electric power steering, trip computer, outside temperature display, tilt and telescoping three-spoke steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, AM/FM/CD/XM/MP3 six-speaker audio with iPod/USB/Aux input jacks and a three-month XM Satellite Radio trial subscription, 40/20/40 split folding second-row seat, windshield wiper de-icer, rear window wiper, Hyundai Blue Link connectivity with up to a one-year free subscription, P235/65R17 all-season tires on 17-inch alloy wheels, a multitude of handy storage bins, pockets and cup holders, under-floor storage in the cargo area and four 12-volt power outlets.

Santa Fe Sport 2.0T adds an eight-way power driver seat with four-way adjustable lumbar, heated front seats and outside mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, front fog lights, chrome twin-tip exhaust, roof side rails, proximity key entry with pushbutton start, automatic headlight control, driver-selectable steering modes (DSSM), P235/55R19 tires on 19 inch alloy wheels, an electroluminescent gauge cluster and a trailer prep package. Saddle interior trim is available at no extra cost.

The seven-passenger Santa Fe GLS rides on 18-inch wheels and tires and offers the 2.0T's features minus the power driver's seat, heated front seats, proximity key, automatic headlamps, heated outside mirrors, windshield wiper de-icer, roof side rails and leather-wrapped wheel and shift knob.

Santa Fe Limited restores those items and adds leather-trimmed seats and door panels, twin second-row Captain's chairs, 19-inch wheels and tires, dual-zone front automatic climate controls with a CleanAir ionizer and a 4.3-inch color audio system touchscreen with a rearview camera.

Options include the Popular Equipment Package ($950), which adds most of the 2.0T's features to the base 2.4L Sport. The Leather and Premium Equipment Package ($2,950) piles on the leather interior, proximity key, a power front passenger seat, sliding and reclining second-row seats, heated rear seats, dual-zone climate control, the 4.3-inch touchscreen audio display and rearview camera and more. A Technology Package ($2,700) completes the feature list with satellite navigation with an eight-inch touchscreen, Dimension premium audio, a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel and manual side-window sunshades. The latter two packages are also available for the 2.0T Sport, except that the Leather/Premium set costs $500 less because that model already has some of its equipment, and the Technology Package $200 more because it substitutes a 550-watt 12-speaker Infinity Logic 7 surround-sound audio system for the Dimension premium audio. Stand-alone options include a cargo net ($50), carpeted floor mats ($100), a cargo cover screen ($150) and remote engine start ($350).

Standard safety features include the mandated dual front airbags plus side-curtain airbags for head protection, side-impact airbags for torso protection and a driver's knee bag. Active safety features include Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist, Downhill Brake Control (DBC) and Hillstart Assist Control (HAC), a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Front Seat Belt Pretensioners, a windshield wiper de-icer, a rear window wiper, Lower Anchors and Upper Tether Anchors (LATCH) and Hyundai Blue Link connectivity with up to a one-year free subscription. All-wheel drive ($1,750) and a rearview camera are available, the latter as part of a Leather and Premium Equipment Package ($2,950). Not yet available are such state-of-the art features as lane departure and blind spot warnings, active cruise control and collision avoidance systems.