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2013 Hyundai Sante Fe Road Test Review by Martha Hindes : RTM's 2013 CUV Buyer's Guide

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

CUV Buyer's Guide - RTM's Top 10 Picks for 2013

Acura RDX

Honda CR-V


Hyundai Santa Fe

Ford Escape

OK. So we resisted the temptation to buy Hyundai's now departed 7-passenger Veracruz crossover/sport utility. But we really like Hyundai. And we really want a more compact crossover for 5. We want a CUV that looks trendy and sharp and smacks us to attention with its good looks. Good mileage is a must, of course. And we've long been spoiled by Hyundai's lengthy warranties. What to do? The answer could be as close as the nearest Hyundai dealership with a new 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport in the window.

The Santa Fe that has been a Hyundai staple for some two generations, and is now entering its third iteration with a redesign for 2013. This isn't yesterday's Santa Fe with its sometimes criticized lack of “gotcha.” We think this generation will receive a different reaction, with a heavy input of Hyundai's new “Fluidic Sculpture” design character setting the style bar higher than ever before. Sculpted-shaping of sheet metal lends visual appeal with a sense of motion, for example. Distinctive headlamps are framed with dramatic LED accent borders. 

Inside are the requisite high tech amenities enhanced with blue mood lighting, handsome uncomplicated layout and triple split rear seat that folds down for expanded trunk space beneath the rear lift gate. Available creature comforts include a panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, manual rear side window sunshades and soil resistant, odor-resistant fabric seating, definite family-friendly pluses. Tech touches include Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, 12-speaker Infinity Logic 7 surround sound audio, rear-view camera and power driver's seat.

We weren't peeking through a showroom window to discover these attention-getters, however. We got our sneak peek – and test drive -- of the new Santa Fe Sport recently on a chilly fall day in rural Michigan. We had settled into the bright red test model with the expectation of technology treats, available adjustments, and responsive driving performance. We set out on two lane back roads that cut through villages, skirted some heavy woodlands and gave an opportunity to carve our way around sweeping curves, swoop down dips in the road, and in general negotiate our way through the types of countryside one might find as the native territory of a new Santa Fe owner.

How would it adjust to this lifestyle, with small families, adventurous travelers, or weekend explorers who want to venture out in well-appointed comfort and amenities? We think very well. While it doesn't offer the kind of precision handling one would expect with sports car driving, it handled well, with solid control and the kind of comfort that would make long trips a pleasure. We didn't hit the kind of bad weather that would show off the effect of the available all-wheel, rather than standard front drive.

A quick U-turn in the road to avoid a train parked across the road ahead proved an easy maneuver with steering in “sport” mode. Our only discomfort with steering came when we hit a thumb button and changed the feel from normal to comfort and found it seemed a bit too loose to offer a sense of taut control. We quickly switched back to sport and let it live there for the duration of the drive.

The newly revised 2013 Santa Fe gains power and mileage improvements from the previous generation, helped by an overall 266-pound reduction in weight, improved with aluminum powertrain and use of light-weight, high tensile steel and active ECO system. The base Sport model, with 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, is powered by a 2.4-liter, 190-horsepower four cylinder engine that rates at 33-mpg in highway driving with front drive, or 28-mpg with all-wheel-drive. The 2.0-liter turbo Sport 2.0 T we tested rides on 19-inch wheels and generates 264-horsepower, with mileage ratings of 21-city/31-highway in front drive.

The five-seat 2013 version went on sale in late summer. A second, long wheelbase version called Santa Fe (sans the Sport designation) that seats seven and replaces the now defunct Veracruz launches at the beginning of 2013. It comes with a 3.3-liter, 294-HP V-6 not available on the Sport model. Anyone wanting a standard transmission will need to look elsewhere, however. The only Santa Fe transmission is a six-speed automatic with SHIFTRONIC mode. 

Plan on a base price of $24,450 or $27,700 base for the turbo version. What you'll get is a redesigned, top safety pick vehicle with a top “brand value” rating for a CUV. Not bad for a newbie.

For more information on Hyundai vehicles, click here.