2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Review

Spending time with the shorter-wheelbase Santa Fe.

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April 24, 2013

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Review

Most switchgear is easy to read and use, and Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system generally fails to annoy.

Introduction
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.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Performance Sport buyers have two trim choices: base or 2.0T. Front-wheel-drive is standard, with all-wheel-drive being optional, and we spent our time behind the wheel of a 2.0T with AWD.

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.
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Exterior The look is evolutionary rather than revolutionary from the previous Santa Fe, but it does bring the little trucklet into the modern era. The last design was getting dated and it was dangerously bland. The new Santa Fe is more visually enticing, even if its look is a bit derivative when compared to its competitors. It's handsome, but it won't stand out, which is par for the crossover course.
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Interior An interesting mix of angles and curves, we like the overall look of the cabin. Headroom and legroom were never an issue, either, but nor are they excessively generous. Most switchgear is easy to read and use, and Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system generally fails to annoy.

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.
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Final Thoughts Mid-size crossover SUVs have one thing in common with their mid-size sedan brethren--there are many good choices in a crowded field, and few stand out in ways good or bad. The Santa Fe fits into that growing middle class--it's good at a lot of things, but it doesn't blow us away with performance, utility, comfort, or quality. It's reasonably fun to drive, but it won't warm the hearts of enthusiasts, and its biggest weakness--fuel economy--won't banish it from shopping lists.

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.
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Specs, Features, and Prices Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder

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.

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