2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Review
Spending time with the shorter-wheelbase Santa Fe.No Comments
Most switchgear is easy to read and use, and Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system generally fails to annoy.
Automakers face a dilemma when it comes to crossover SUVs of a certain size--five seats or seven. Hyundai solved that problem by introducing two versions of its redesigned Santa Fe for 2013. The seven-seat version is meant to replace the Veracruz, while the five-seat version, dubbed the Sport, is meant to appeal to crossover buyers who don't need seven seats.
Hyundai also undoubtedly hopes that the 'Sport' moniker appeals to the enthusiast part of car buyers' brains, since shucking two seats and shortening the wheelbase usually improves driving dynamics. Still, this is a crossover SUV we're talking about, so just how sporty a 'Sport' version is will be in the eye of the beholder.
Opting for the 2.0T gets you a 264-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that mates to a six-speed automatic transmission. It also gets you decent, if not overpowering, acceleration and thirsty fuel economy (the 2.0T Sport is rated at 19 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, and we saw lower numbers than that on the trip computer). The nearly 200-pound weight penalty of the AWD system over the front-wheel-drive 2.0T probably accounts for this--we'd wager the lighter FWD version feels nimbler on its feet. We know its fuel-economy numbers are better, at 20/27.
Handling is typical of a crossover SUV; there's some understeer and more body lean in corners than we'd like. Driver-selectable steering modes give the driver a choice between Sport, Normal, and Comfort modes, and we found the Sport mode to be generally firm enough for our tastes. Normal is acceptable for around-town driving, but buyers who enjoy driving should leave it in Sport and forget it. Comfort seemed too genteel for us, so we didn't use it, even in parking-lot maneuvering and freeway driving. The ride is generally comfortable, if a tad stiffly sprung over rough pavement at times.
What doesn't fail to annoy is Hyundai's insistence on using a standard-issue iPhone/iPod adapter cord. It comes loose too easily and seems unnecessary. Also, if you choose to listen to your music on shuffle, be prepared to have it reset to alphabetical order every time that cord works loose, which is often. We wish Hyundai would get on board the smartphone freedom train like just about every other automaker and allow for direct USB connections.
Many mid-size crossovers are presenting themselves as jacks of all trades that are good at many things but great or poor at few, and the Santa Fe fits that mold. Even though few attributes really standout, the overall execution puts it near the top of the class.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Drive Wheels: All-wheel-drive
Fuel Economy: 19 mpg city/24 mpg highway
Base Price: $29,450
As-tested price: $35,925 (includes $825 destination fee)
Available Features: wireless cell-phone link, USB port, auxiliary port, satellite radio, 19-inch wheels, fog lamps, Blue Link telematics package, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, rearview camera, heated rear seats, leather seats, navigation system, panoramic sunroof.