Base Price (MSRP):$24,450.00 / As Tested (MSRP): $35,925.00
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe
View The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Specifications
Review by: Gary Witzenburg
All-new family hauler comes in two sizes. 

Model Lineup
The 2013 Santa Fe comes in two lengths and four powertrain/trim variations.

Santa Fe Sport, the two-row version, is offered in base four-cylinder ($24,450) or 2.0T ($27,700) turbocharged versions, the latter with more standard equipment. Santa Fe Sport comes standard with 6-speed automatic transmission with a fuel-saving Active ECO mode.

Santa Fe, the long-wheelbase, V6-powered, three-row version is offered in GLS and Limited trim levels.

All models are available with all-wheel drive ($1,750).

Standard equipment on the Santa Fe Sport includes YES Essentials stain-resistant cloth seats, two-way power-adjustable lumbar support for the driver's seat, air conditioning with cabin air filter, power windows, locks and mirrors, electric power steering, trip computer, outside temperature display, tilt and telescoping three-spoke steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, AM/FM/CD/XM/MP3 six-speaker audio with iPod/USB/Aux input jacks and a three-month XM Satellite Radio trial subscription, 40/20/40 split folding second-row seat, windshield wiper de-icer, rear window wiper, Hyundai Blue Link connectivity with up to a one-year free subscription, P235/65R17 all-season tires on 17-inch alloy wheels, a multitude of handy storage bins, pockets and cup holders, under-floor storage in the cargo area and four 12-volt power outlets.

Santa Fe Sport 2.0T adds an eight-way power driver seat with four-way adjustable lumbar, heated front seats and outside mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel and 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe shift knob, front fog lights, chrome twin-tip exhaust, roof side rails, proximity key entry with pushbutton start, automatic headlight control, driver-selectable steering modes (DSSM), P235/55R19 tires on 19 inch alloy wheels, an electroluminescent gauge cluster and a trailer prep package. Saddle interior trim is available at no extra cost.

The seven-passenger Santa Fe GLS rides on 18-inch wheels and tires and offers the 2.0T's features minus the power driver's seat, heated front seats, proximity key, automatic headlamps, heated outside mirrors, windshield wiper de-icer, roof side rails and leather-wrapped wheel and shift knob.

Santa Fe Limited restores those items and adds leather-trimmed seats and door panels, twin second-row Captain's chairs, 19-inch wheels and tires, dual-zone front automatic climate controls with a CleanAir ionizer and a 4.3-inch color audio system touchscreen with a rearview camera.

Options include the Popular Equipment Package ($950), which adds most of the 2.0T's features to the base 2.4L Sport. The Leather and Premium Equipment Package ($2,950) piles on the leather interior, proximity key, a power front passenger seat, sliding and reclining second-row seats, heated rear seats, dual-zone climate control, the 4.3-inch touchscreen audio display and rearview camera and more. A Technology Package ($2,700) completes the feature list with satellite navigation with an eight-inch touchscreen, Dimension premium audio, a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel and manual side-window sunshades. The latter two packages are also available for the 2.0T Sport, except that the Leather/Premium set costs $500 less because that model already has some of its equipment, and the Technology Package $200 more because it substitutes a 550-watt 12-speaker Infinity Logic 7 surround-sound audio system for the Dimension premium audio. Stand-alone options include a cargo net ($50), carpeted floor mats ($100), a cargo cover screen ($150) and remote engine start ($350).

Standard safety features include the mandated dual front airbags plus side-curtain airbags for head protection, side-impact airbags for torso protection and a driver's knee bag. Active safety features include Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist, Downhill Brake Control (DBC) and Hillstart Assist Control (HAC), a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Front Seat Belt Pretensioners, a windshield wiper de-icer, a rear window wiper, Lower Anchors and Upper Tether Anchors (LATCH) and Hyundai Blue Link connectivity with up to a one-year free subscription. All-wheel drive ($1,750) and a rearview camera are available, the latter as part of a Leather and Premium Equipment Package ($2,950). Not yet available are such state-of-the art features as lane departure and blind spot warnings, active cruise control and collision avoidance systems.

Hyundai further defines the Santa Fe's Fluidic Sculpture design language as Storm Edge because it seeks to capture the types of strong, dynamic, constant-motion shapes created by nature during a storm. We see it as handsome, dynamic and more distinctive than most other entries in its class.

Its three-bar hexagonal grille and wraparound headlamps (with LED accents) lead to a rising beltline and that 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe sweeps upward to a stylishly narrow third window and a standard rear roof spoiler. The rockers bulge between bold, round wheel arches, while a sculpted character line 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe runs through the front chrome door handles, then hops over the rear handles to frame the upper surface of the taillamps, which wrap well into the rear liftgate.

Distinguishing the three-row LWB Santa Fe from its two-row Sport stablemates are a four-bar grille and different lower front valence/park lamp treatments in front and different taillamps and dual exhausts (vs. twin passenger-side tips on the turbocharged Sport 2.0T or a single outlet on the base model). Most important, the three-row Santa Fe's side character line is flatter, and its side glass extends to incorporate a larger third window, which emphasizes its additional length and passenger capacity.

Interior Features
The 2013 Santa Fe plays a digital tune when you boot it up, and again when you shut it down. That may be charming at first but could get annoying over time. The proximity key lets you walk up and push the the front door handle's touch button to unlock the door, then get in and start the engine while keeping the fob in your purse or pocket, and the push-to-start button has On, Off and Acc lights to let you know its status. But we found the engine temperature, gear selection, fuel gauge and outside temperature read-outs too dim to read easily through sunglasses in bright sunlight.

We found the front bucket seats comfortable and easy to adjust, but rear-quarter visibility from the driver's seat was hampered by the narrow rear side windows.

The sliding second-row seats fold down easily, but not quite flat. The outside ones flop forward using either levers on their sides or pull handles in the cargo area, while the central section that doubles as an armrest has a release on its upper back surface. Slid fully back, they provide adequate leg- and knee-room for a six-footer to sit comfortably behind another; slid fully forward, they maximize cargo room.

In general, the new cabin is warm, modern and inviting, with lots of soft-touch materials 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe in our leather-lined Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T test vehicle. The panoramic sunroof is huge, and there's sectioned hidden storage under the load floor.

We loved the fact that virtually all buttons and controls are easy to see, read and reach, with good-size white letters and graphics. The three-spoke steering wheel has large, well-marked audio and cruise controls on its horizontal spokes, and phone, voice-command and trip-computer buttons along both lower edges of its V-shaped center hub. On the dash to the left of the wheel are controls for instrument lighting, Hillstart Assist, Active ECO mode, heated steering wheel and the AWD center differential lock. In the vertical stack to the right are the thoughtfully designed and conveniently arranged audio, navigation and climate controls.

The two primary instruments are a large, round tachometer (left) and speedometer (right) flanking the central information/trip computer screen. Inside the tach is a coolant temperature dial and a gear selection indicator, while the speedo houses matching readouts for fuel and outside temperature. The trip computer conveniently displays average and instantaneous fuel economy and range at the same time, and can toggle through other information on demand.

Both sun visors (with vanity mirrors) swing and extend for side sun protection, and there's a sunglasses holder in the overhead between them. A nice touch is convenient placement of two (of the four) 12V outlets flanking USB and Aux ports above a bin under the vertical console. The large, deep console storage box has a small-item tray under its cover, the driver's side console cup holder can accommodate a typical ceramic cup with handle, and the commodious door storage bins can securely hold large cups or water bottles.

Audio volume is controlled by a large central knob, while an even larger one in the climate cluster below it handles fan speed. We appreciated the radio's scan function, too often missing in some modern cars, but there's no knob for station fine tuning, which means that weaker stations are missed while the system electronically seeks and finds the stronger ones. One constant annoyance for iPod users is that the Shuffle function must be reset (a two-step process) every time you re-start the car or change functions or playlists. Most modern systems remember and return to Shuffle (aka Random), as they do the previously set volume and song, but not Hyundai's.

On the positive side, continuing the theme of the surrounding hard buttons, the big audio/navigation touchscreen displays large, easy-to-read and -activate touch pads. The navigation system's function and graphics are outstanding, offering realistic representations of route-related intersections and interchanges. We tried using voice commands to select destinations with mixed results.

Driving Impressions
We drove front-wheel-drive base and turbocharged Santa Fe Sport models on city streets and curvy country roads during a press event, then borrowed a 2.0T AWD example for a few days at home. The base 2.4-liter engine's performance seemed more than adequate on flat roads with light loads, but we recommend the available 2.0T turbocharged four for family excursions, especially in hilly country. Wide-open-throttle zero-to-60-mph acceleration with the former takes roughly nine seconds, while the turbo four is about two seconds quicker.

We found 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe our test Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T pleasant to drive in nearly every way. Its on-demand performance was ample, its ride quiet, smooth and controlled over most surfaces, its braking strong, stable and fade-free and its handling short of nimble but as good as most competitors in its class.

The steering mode settings, selectable via a steering-wheel button, adds 10 percent effort (vs. Normal) in Sport mode (our choice) and subtracts 10 percent in Comfort mode for low-speed maneuvering. And the AWD's Active Corner Control, while transparent to the driver, seemed effective in keeping all four tires firmly planted even when driving aggressively.

Our only disappointment was averaging 21-22 mpg in mostly freeway driving, in line with its 22-mpg EPA combined rating but well short of its 27-mpg highway number.

We have not yet driven the V6-powered, three-row LWB Santa Fe that is scheduled to arrive in early 2013, but we expect it to be as comfortable and quiet but less eager, agile and fuel efficient due to its added size and weight.

Final Word
Hyundai has made great strides in styling, quality and overall pleasability of its cars in recent years, especially the mid-size Sonata (which shares the Santa Fe's 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe platform) and compact Azera, and these two new entries in the highly-competitive compact/mid-size CUV segment will stand proudly alongside them. They are major improvements over the outgoing 2012 Santa Fe and Veracruz, fully competitive and worthy of consideration.

Veteran automotive journalist Gary Witzenburg filed this report after his test drive of the Santa Fe Sport near Detroit.