Through two generations, the Hyundai Santa Fe has succeeded by giving buyers a lot of mid-size crossover for a little money, even if styling and build quality were not quite as good as most. Well, if you’ve been in a Hyundai lately, you know that quality has gotten as good as any rival and styling is a definite priority as well. So, naturally, the question is how well does this all-new third generation Santa Fe stack up against Hyundai’s new reputation, as well as, the best of a cluttered mid-size crossover segment.
The middle-weight crossover segment is indeed a crowded ring, and the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe brings a new two-pronged punch with it this year, as it seeks to connect for additional sales. Available first will be this 5-passenger Santa Fe Sport, but early next year a longer wheelbase 7-passenger Santa Fe will arrive, replacing the Veracruz in the Hyundai lineup.
The new Santa Fe Sport is significantly lighter than the previous model, but behind the wheel it behaves heavier, with a reassuring heft that you like to feel in a solid family truckster. And while it’s still not as smooth as some in the segment, it is quiet and for the most part ride quality is good; it’s only over harsh bumps and expansion joints that you get a firm jolt from the rear suspension.
Wheelbase for the Sport remains the same as last year at 106.3-inches, though overall length is up by almost half an inch to 184.6. Hyundai’s fluidic sculpture design language is in play, but in a more subdued way than on the compact Tucson. Still there are stem-to-stern character lines, a rising beltline, and wraparound tail lights. A huge, hexagonal grille with chrome trim adds real presence, while the headlights feature LED accents. Even the standard 17-inch wheels look great.
It’s a sign of the times as Sport engine choices consist of two 4-cylinders, a 264-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo; and our test car’s 2.4-liter normally aspirated Direct Injection I4. Despite smallish power numbers of 190-horsepower and 181 lb-ft. of torque, we were impressed with off the line power, though it will run out of steam well before the top end. A 3.3-liter V6 will power the 7-passenger Santa Fe.
Regardless of which 4 you choose for the Sport, you’ll find a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode; on both front and all-wheel drive models. The first thing we noticed at our test track with our front driver was a very stiff throttle pedal. Stomp it to the floor, and after that initial jolt, things settle down for a somewhat laid back 0 to 60 time of 9.1-seconds. And it takes 16.9 seconds to reach 82 miles per hour at the end of the quarter mile.
Handling is fully on par with the rest of the class, very competent but by no means exceptional. Hardware is a familiar MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension setup. Steering has a nice weight to it, and we like the multiple steering adjustments that are made right on the wheel, no menu screens to search through. Braking is also in step with others in the segment, as stops from 60 averaged a fine 124-feet. Our only complaint is the “usual for Hyundai” very soft pedal.
Like all recent Hyundai’s, the Santa Fe Sport’s interior is nicely done and roomier than expected. The layout and I.P. are familiar, drawn from Sonata and others, and our only complaint is that in daylight the coolant and fuel gauges blend in a little too much. Seats are comfortable, but only adequately so; a driver’s side knee airbag is standard.
There is lots of storage space to be found including a wide, open center console. All controls work well. Opt for the Leather and Premium Equipment package and you’ll get push button start, rearview camera, and sliding and reclining rear seats. There is good rear seat room and the seat backs fold almost flat, but do so rather clumsily. The optional Technology package adds 8-inch touch-screen navigation, Dimension premium audio, heated steering wheel, rear window shades, and a panoramic sunroof. The rear hatch is lightweight and hides 35.4 cubic-ft. of storage space, which expands to 71.5 cubic-ft. when the split rear bench is folded.
But, the best numbers are the Government Fuel Economy Ratings that come in at 21-City, 29-Highway, and 24-Combined with front drive. We averaged a great 27.5 miles per gallon of Regular. That makes for an Energy Impact Score that’s just above average at 13.7-barrels of annual oil consumption, while emitting 6.2 tons of CO2 per year.
Pricing numbers are also good, at least to start, with the base model coming in at $25,275; all-wheel-drive will cost you another $1,750; so expect a well optioned Santa Fe to push 30-grand.
It’s hard to believe Hyundai can keep up such an impressive roll of great vehicles. The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is a very good design, and despite the recent controversy over the brands fuel economy ratings, very efficient for its class. All in all, it’s a solid addition to the mid-size crossover field, and, likely, another win for Hyundai.
Torque: 181 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 9.1 seconds
1/4 mile: 16.9 seconds @ 82 mph
EPA: 21 mpg city/ 29 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 13.7 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 6.2 tons/yr