2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
Base price: $24,450 – $27,700
As tested: $33,875
MPG: 22 city/26 combined/33 highway (2.4-liter)
- Stylish new looks inside and out
- Lighter, with improved fuel economy
- Available in five- or seven-passenger seating
- Not offered in a hybrid model
- Ride may be too firm for some
By Jim Prueter
There seems to be no stopping Hyundai. This car company is on the move, having sold more than 645,000 new vehicles in the United States last year, up from 538,000 the year before, and setting new sales records each month for 2012. They’re doing it with a convergence of superb engineering, styling, product planning, and incredible value.
It seems as though nary a month goes by where they aren’t launching a completely new model or restyling an existing vehicle. Last month it was the new Elantra Coupe, the month before a GT version, and before that, a refreshing of its Genesis Coupe. You get the point.
And now Hyundai is launching a completely restyled Santa Fe, whose previous iteration was well past its freshness date in a class of vehicles (mid-sized crossover utility) that all got better in the past two years. Now it’s Santa Fe’s turn.
Let’s start with the changes for 2013. To begin, the vehicle is now called the Santa Fe Sport and has an aggressive new look that bears no resemblance to the outgoing model, eliminating the once-popular blocky, slab-sided styling. The body is aerodynamic with upswept side panels that terminate in the back with a spoiler above the rear liftgate. Up front, there are new angular LED-accented headlamps along with the angular grille that adorns most other Hyundai products.
The other big news is that it’s lighter, having shed 266 pounds from the previous model. It accomplished that reduction in weight, while adding 38 more pounds of sound-deadening material, resulting in a supremely quiet cabin at all operating speeds.
The interior is roomy, comfortable, and amenity driven, all packaged together with several cool-looking color and texture combinations. While hard plastics are evident throughout the cabin, soft materials are thoughtfully placed at all contact touch points. Also, the vehicle is equipped with cloth seats, upholstered with fabric from Yes Essentials, that are highly spill-proof and stain resistant.
The Santa Fe Sport also features a redesigned dashboard. Sure, the “metallic” trim is really plastic, as are the wood inlays, and there’s faux carbon fiber and thatched plastic. But all put together, it looks appealing.
Our test model came with a navigation system that’s displayed on an 8-inch, intuitive, easy-to-learn touch screen. The audio system is operated by a combination of touch-screen and panel buttons, and climate control operations are via a large dial and buttons, also easy to use.
There are seven airbags, including one to protect the driver’s knees, and side airbags that deploy in a rollover crash. The driver selectable steering system has three settings: Normal, Sport, and Comfort. We couldn’t detect much of a difference and suspect most drivers won’t either, so we left it in the Normal setting. We also liked the availability of heated rear seats that split 40/20/40 and offer separate fore-aft adjustability.
Under the hood is a choice of two engines: the base 2.4-liter 190-horsepower 4-cylinder (the same engine that powers the Sonata sedan) or the more powerful 2.0-liter 264-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder. The latter adds $3,250 to the price, but includes pushbutton starting, a heated power front seat, larger 19-inch wheels, automatic headlamp control, fog lights, heated outside rearview mirrors, roof rails, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. But, we think most drivers will be more than pleased with the standard 4-cylinder engine. Both engines use regular unleaded gasoline are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. No V-6 engine option is available, as it was for 2012.
On the road, the Santa Fe Sport’s cabin is quiet and the ride controlled, with confident handling and demonstrated composure on rough surfaces and unpaved roads. Though, some may find the ride too firm, a carryover complaint from the previous Santa Fe.
A front-wheel drive platform is standard. All-wheel drive adds $1,750 to the base price. Just don’t expect the Santa Fe to negotiate moderate or extreme off-road conditions.
Base price for the stripped down version is $24,450. Our test model listed at $33,875 and included both the leather and premium package ($2,450) and the technology package ($2,900) with navigation, an upgraded audio system, and a panoramic sunroof.
Like all Hyundai products, the Sport is value driven with an appealing price — as long as you are careful when selecting packages and options. The new Santa Fe has gone from dated to near or at the top of its class.