2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWDPosted on January 30th, 2013
Value-packed five-passenger crossover
By Nina Russin
It came as no surprise that the all-new Santa Fe Sport captured the 2013 Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year award in the Best Value On-Road category. Over the past two decades, Hyundai has evolved from a bit player to a major force in the North American car market by offering customers quality and style at an unbelievable value.
How many five-passenger crossovers combine all-wheel drive, traction and stability control, keyless entry and start, satellite radio, telematics, 19-inch wheels and a 100,000-mile warranty for a base price of $29,450′ Frankly, it’s hard to find anything not to love about the new Santa Fe, with its peppy two-liter turbocharged engine rated at 264 horsepower, six-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel independent suspension.
The test car comes with a premium package that adds leather upholstery, side mirror turn markers, heated front seats, reclining and folding second-row seats, dual-zone climate control and a rearview camera ($2450); carpeted floor mats ($100); a cargo net ($50) and cargo cover ($150). The $825 delivery charge brings the final MSRP to $33,025.
Small engine, big power
Ten years ago, I would have had a hard time believing that a 3700-pound car powered by a two-liter four-cylinder engine could be anything but a slug. But the direct injection turbocharged block in the new Santa Fe is a surprising performer. While it doesn’t have quite the muscle of the available V-6, the two-liter block offers excellent power off the line as well as for passing.
The all-wheel drive Santa Fe with the two-liter engine averages 24 mpg on the highway according to the EPA. Hyundai rates towing capacity at 3500 pounds. However, I would recommend the larger engine for those who plan to haul large trailers, especially in hilly or mountainous areas.
The third-generation Santa Fe is slightly larger than the outgoing model, most noticeable in terms of second-row legroom and cargo space. But it has managed not to fall into the trap of evolving into a big, cumbersome vehicle.
Product planners added a three-row version of the car for large families, maintaining a modest 106.3-inch wheelbase on the five-passenger model. A 35.8-foot turning circle makes performing U-turns relatively easy on wide suburban roads.
Test drive in Phoenix
It’s rare to see real rain in the valley of the sun, but we did this week. It’s what we used to call a ‘gusher’ when I lived in the Midwest. Since Phoenix doesn’t have much of a sewer system, washes overflowed into the streets, many of which were covered with standing water.
Sloshing through my typically arid environs, the Santa Fe felt solid as a rock, with all-wheel drive automatically delivering engine power to the wheels with the best traction. Major intersections clogged with fender benders were proof that other cars didn’t fare quite as well.
Although the rearview camera got a little blurry in heavy rain, the standard rear wiper kept the back glass clear for enhanced visibility. Large wipers with thick blades make quick work of water on the windshield.
Automatic headlamps illuminate in dim light, making the car more visible to other drivers. Although disc brakes are self drying, the antilock brakes and traction control prevented wheel lock-up or spinout on sections of pavement where oil on the road mixed with standing water.
On more temperate days, the Santa Fe proved itself to be the versatile, comfortable car its creators claim it to be. It is sure-footed, quiet and compliant on uneven pavement. The electric power steering system provides good response on the highway in the event a driver needs to perform a quick lane change. Low-speed assist is ample for maneuvering through crowded parking lots.
Forward and over-the-shoulder visibility is good. I had no problems monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes when merging onto the freeway. The 4.3-inch center stack screen that displays the rearview camera image is on the small side. A larger display would have made it easier to see lines superimposed over the image that show the vehicle’s trajectory.
Gas-filled shocks and stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners. I noticed no tendency towards understeer when I took a decreasing radius turn at speed.
The Santa Fe’s spacious interior could be its biggest selling point for buyers with active lifestyles. Product planners sweat the details, including important features that others forget. Bottle holders in the doors, a 40/20/40 split folding rear seat, 12-volt power points for both rows of passengers and vents in the B pillars to circulate air through the back of the cabin are a few examples.
The back seat is roomy enough for three adults, with a decent amount of head and legroom in the center position. Overhead reading lamps over both rows of seating illuminate the interior at night.
Power controls on the driver’s seat are easy to adjust. I found the seat comfortable with ample lower lumbar support on longer drives.
Although designers maintained Hyundai’s blue background for the temperature displays, they thankfully got rid of it in the gauge cluster, making it much easier to read in bright sunlight.
Controls on the center stack are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate. Redundant steering wheel controls minimize driver distraction.
Although the Santa Fe easily meets our bicycle friendly standards, roof rails make it easy to add a top carrier for a family road trip. A trailer prep package is also standard equipment.
The Santa Fe comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, vehicle stability control, downhill brake control and hill start assist. Hyundai’s factory warranty includes six years of complimentary roadside assistance with no mileage cap.
The 2013 Santa Fe is on display at Hyundai dealerships nationwide.
Like: An affordable, versatile crossover vehicle with a high level of safety, comfort and convenience features.
Dislike: Small center stack screen is hard to see.
Model: Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T
Base price: $29,450
As tested: $33,025
Horsepower: 264 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 269 lbs.-ft. @ 1750 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 19/24 mpg2013, Best Value 2013, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Hyundai, performance, standard safety
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