6:56 PM EDT, July 31, 2013
Hyundai did more than just give its popular Santa Fe a complete redesign for 2013 - the company did an almost complete revamping of its entire crossover utility vehicle lineup.
"Almost" is the operative word, since the compact entry-level Tucson is mostly unchanged for 2013. However the Santa Fe has not only been redesigned, but has also been split into two distinct models. The Santa Fe Sport arrived earlier this year, while Hyundai recently introduced a larger Santa Fe, with no "Sport" designation. The Santa Fe Sport has room for five passengers and is powered by either a 2.4-liter or 2.0 turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
My wife Paula and I had the most recent Santa Fe for review. It featured a stretched wheelbase, up from 106.3 to 110.2 inches, and 8.5 inches of extra room that allows for a third-row seat and raises the passenger count to seven in the GLS trim level and six in the Limited, with its second-row bucket seats. Power in this larger Santa Fe comes from a 3.3-liter V-6 engine. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is an option that was included in our Limited model.
The Santa Fe's engine provides an ample amount of power and the six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. Acceleration produces a zero-to-60 time of 7.9 seconds.
Not so encouraging with this drivetrain is fuel economy. We averaged 17 miles per gallon during a very hot week that dictated the use of air conditioning on every trip. Regular gasoline is specified.
The passenger cabin is roomy, with comfortable front seats, at least for taller occupants. Second-row seats in the Limited are individual bucket seats that can be adjusted fore and aft over an approximately six-inch range. Consider the low and cramped third row ideal only for smaller children. Or, fold the third-row seats and move the second-row seats forward to increase cargo space. Both the front and second-row seats are electrically heated in the Limited model.
The suspension delivers a comfortable, family-friendly ride. However, when loaded with 600 pounds of cargo, not quite half the Santa Fe's rating, big bumps and highway undulations taken at speed suggested the need for a little more suspension control.
Handling is typical for the larger crossover utility field. No driving enthusiast will consider the Santa Fe sporty, though it was pleasant and competent.
Standard equipment in the Santa Fe Limited is an automatic dual-zone climate control air conditioning system that was quite powerful. On a mid-90-degree afternoon, after the vehicle had been parked all day in the sun, it managed to start producing cool air in less than half a mile, cold air in about a mile and reasonable levels of comfort in less than two miles. Impressive.
The interior is nicely done. The Limited features leather upholstery that feels as good as it looks. All told, the passenger cabin is tastefully and comfortably outfitted.
With the redesign for 2013, Hyundai has introduced two similar, but still distinctly different Santa Fe models. The Sport is smaller, more nimble and got better gas mileage during our earlier review period with it. The larger Santa Fe features more interior room, V-6 power and a healthy towing capacity of up to 5,000 pounds. For most families, the Santa Fe Sport should suffice. For people needing the added room and passenger capacity, the new, larger Santa Fe is an attractive option.
Engines: 3.3-liter V-6
TORQUE (lb/ft): 252
EPA AWD: 18/24
EPA FED: 18/25
STARTS AT: $28,600
Jim MacPherson is the host of "The Car Doctor" show airing Sundays at noon on WTIC-AM. Paula MacPherson is his wife and new-car review partner. Send comments, questions, suggestions in care of Special Publications, Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115, or email email@example.com
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