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2013 Hyundai Santa Fe – the amazingly astute SUV

Breaking News

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai is one of those companies that continues to surprise, no matter which vehicle segment they enter. For 2013, they're offering a lot of additions to their top-selling sport utility, the Santa Fe, taking it from a comfortable 5-seater to a larger, more in-charge 7-passenger hauler. Fuel economy in the new Santa Fe is good, though for the first time, Hyundai will face being outpaced by the competition in this arena.

The manufacturer says

One size never fits all. The 5-passenger Santa Fe is just the beginning of the story. In the pursuit of even greater space, Hyundai is also developing an extended-wheelbase Santa Fe with two trims: the GLS with seating for seven and the luxurious LIMITED that seats six with 2nd-row captain's chairs. Both trim levels will be available in early 2013.

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Hyundai
  • Year, Model: 2013 Santa Fe
  • Class, Type: Sport Utility Vehicle
  • Propulsion system: Gasoline DOHC
  • Base Price: Not announced
  • MSRP as tested: Unknown
  • Availability:
  • Late fall

Overview

The Santa Fe has been a staple of the Hyundai line for years. As one of the company's best-selling vehicles in North America, it has enjoyed a reign as one of the more affordable and fuel efficient of the segment. For 2013, the Santa Fe will lose the designation as the most fuel efficient in its class, but gains more versatility and a coveted Best Compact Utility Vehicle at the 2012 Texas Truck Rodeo.

Unlike its predecessors a few years ago, the 2013 Santa Fe has a roomy interior and is a nice ride, though not as refined as some of the higher-priced models it competes against. The sloping roofline that often plagues rear headroom in crossovers does little to infringe on the comfort of the second row in the new Santa Fe. Sadly, we were unable to see the planned extended version with another row, but suspect that the third row will be cramped as are most in this segment.

The driver's cockpit is very comfortable and nicely appointed. Many luxury SUV makers are known for their ergonomic driver's spaces and Hyundai has been incorporating the top-notch fittings of its competition. Being one of the few automakers without a luxury brand, Hyundai struggles with the separation of its more luxurious model options and its reputation for cheap, reliable low-end models.

On the highway, the Santa Fe is a comfortable and remarkably quiet ride. It turns well and, thanks to the far-flung wheel placement, has a turning radius of about 37 inches – relatively tight for the segment. Tall drivers will find the wheel and headroom comfortable, but the back seat may become cramped for those over six feet. Legroom is good all the way around.

The Santa Fe handles well on the road as well as off. It's 3.3-liter V6 dual overhead cam engine puts out a respectable 290 horsepower. Available in front-wheel-drive (FWD), the 2013 Santa Fe offers 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. The all-wheel-drive (AWD) option does not yet have EPA numbers, but will likely be within two MPG of the FWD version.

The engine returns a satisfying exhaust note when pressed and drivers who prefer a lot of control will enjoy the motor-driven power steering (MDPS, aka "electric-assist"). This allows for selectable steering modes to let the driver choose how tight or loose they'd prefer things. Automatic adjustments for different driving conditions are also available.

What we like

A good drive in the low- and medium-priced market with a lot to offer. Considered one of the go-to choices for family cars, the Santa Fe is a good option for those who prefer AWD or the versatility of a FWD utility.

Plenty of room in the Santa Fe for most in its market. The larger versions will help accommodate those who would otherwise have to go to a minivan or very large SUV.

What we don't

Boring styling on this new Santa Fe makes it blend in with the rest of the segment. Hyundai's sister company, Kia, has done a lot to stand out while Hyundai seems content to just be like everyone else.

Minimally off-road capable. The 2013 Santa Fe is not an off road machine, but is not meant to be either. So while this is not a huge detraction, those who drive in rough climates and conditions may want something more robust than the Santa Fe.

Conclusions

A good vehicle and one of the better offerings in this class, the 2013 Santa Fe has some limitations, but is one of the best choices for those for whom this segment is best suited.

Test Period Length and Limitations
Test length was limited to about 45 minutes of both light off-road driving (dirt trails), a short in-town stint and on the highway at the 2012 Rocky Mountain Automotive Press 4xFall event in Colorado.

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