Full 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Review
What's New for 2013
The Hyundai Santa Fe has been redesigned for 2013, with both a seven-passenger, long-wheelbase model and a five-passenger Sport version.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Whether it's a friendly Nigerian prince offering you the deal of a lifetime, a free Apple iPad or a delicious zero-calorie dessert, these opportunities are illusions. But if someone tells you about a crossover utility that offers a decent amount of luxury, tons of features, surprising amounts of performance, and also does so without breaking the bank, you can actually take them at their word. Well, if they're talking about the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe, that is.
Capping off what has been an epic march up the rankings for Hyundai, the redesigned 2013 Santa Fe adopts the company's "fluidic sculpture" design with favorable results. For the first time, Hyundai is also offering two models of this crossover. The Santa Fe GLS and Limited now feature a third row of seats, increasing the passenger count to seven (or six in the case of the Limited) and effectively replacing the outgoing Hyundai Veracruz. But if you see little need for that sort of capacity, you're in luck, as Hyundai also offers the slightly shorter, five-passenger Santa Fe Sport with two rows of seats.
Under the hood, Santa Fe Sport buyers have the choice of either a 2.4-liter four-cylinder or a more powerful, turbocharged 2.0-liter four. Given the choice between a marginal gain in fuel economy versus a significant boost in output, the turbo is our engine of choice. The three-row Santa Fe models come standard with a 3.3-liter V6.
Whichever version you choose, you'll no doubt appreciate the cabin's clean and modern design, intuitive controls and extensive number of standard and optional features. Furthermore, passengers in the first two rows will enjoy spacious accommodations that are suitable for taller adults.
There are some very desirable choices for a crossover SUV this year. The Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V are all excellent choices for a five-passenger model, while the slightly bigger Kia Sorento is a standout for seven-passenger seating. If you can spend a bit more and want more room, the slightly larger Nissan Pathfinder is worth a look. Overall, though, the Santa Fe is a top-tier choice in any of its available seating and trim configurations.
In the case of the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe, you really can believe the hype.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe is a six- or seven-passenger SUV that is available in GLS and Limited trim levels. The smaller Santa Fe Sport seats five and is offered in base and 2.0T trims.
Standard features on the base Sport model include 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, cruise control, a trip computer, full power accessories, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cloth upholstery, 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth phone connectivity, Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system and a six-speaker audio system with CD player, satellite radio and USB/iPod integration.
To this, the optional Popular Equipment package can be added, which includes automatic headlights, foglights, heated mirrors, roof rack rails, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats and an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat (with power lumbar support).
The Sport 2.0T adds all of the above, along with a more powerful turbocharged engine, 19-inch wheels, an upgraded gauge cluster and information display and keyless ignition/entry.
The Santa Fe GLS is similar in feature content to the base Sport model, but gains a longer wheelbase, a V6 engine and 50/50 split-folding third-row seats. Also added are 18-inch wheels, foglights and a sliding feature for the second-row bench seat.
The range-topping Limited essentially includes all off the 2.0T and GLS features, but seating is reduced to six, as the second-row seats are replaced with two captain's chairs. Other additions include a power liftgate, windshield wiper de-icers, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated second-row seats, driver seat memory functions, a power passenger seat, upgraded interior trim elements, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 4.3-inch touchscreen audio display and a rearview camera.
Some features are offered as options on supporting trims as part of bundled packages. Most notably, a navigation system is offered on all trims and is also paired with an 8-inch touchscreen display, a rearview camera and a premium sound system (a Dimension system for the Sport and GLS or a 12-speaker surround-sound Infinity system for the Sport 2.0T and Limited). A panoramic sunroof is available on all but the GLS. All trims can be optioned with a heated steering wheel. Finally, a blind-spot monitoring system is only available on the Limited.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the base 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 190 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. As with all other Santa Fe models, front-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive is optional. The only available transmission is a six-speed automatic. Fuel economy estimates are quite good, with an EPA-rated 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway and 24 mpg in combined driving for the front-drive and 20/26/22 mpg for the AWD.
The Santa Fe Sport 2.0T receives a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that increases output to 264 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy drops only slightly; the EPA estimates 20/27/23 mpg for the front-drive and 19/24/21 mpg for the AWD. In Edmunds performance testing, an AWD 2.0T Santa Fe accelerated from a standstill to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds, which is on the quick side for this class of crossover.
The larger GLS and Limited models benefit from a 3.3-liter V6 that produces 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque. EPA estimates are 18/25/21 with front-drive and 18/24/20 with AWD. In Edmunds testing, an AWD Santa Fe Limited went from zero to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds, a good time for a seven-passenger vehicle.
Properly equipped, the V6 Santa Fe models can tow up to 5,000 pounds, while the Sport 2.0T tops out at 3,500.
Standard safety features for all 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe models include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, front-seat active head restraints, and hill hold and descent control. Also standard is Blue Link, Hyundai's emergency telematics system that provides services such as remote access, emergency assistance, theft recovery and geo-fencing.
In government crash testing, the Santa Fe Sport earned a top five-star rating for overall crash protection, with five stars for total frontal-impact safety and five stars for side-impact safety. Top scores have also been awarded by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which gave the Santa Fe a top "Good" rating in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Santa Fe 2.0T AWD came to a stop from 60 mph in a class-average 127 feet. The heavier Santa Fe Limited actually stopped a bit shorter in 125 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
Among the numerous competing crossover SUVs in its class, the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe has one of the nicer cabins of the bunch. This is thanks in no small part to its quality of materials, thoughtful placement of controls and overall spaciousness. As we've come to expect from Hyundai, the Santa Fe's cockpit could serve as a benchmark for elegant simplicity in the segment. Switchgear is well organized and legible, while the touchscreen menus and functions are as intuitive as it gets. Build quality in our test car, however, was mediocre.
The front seats are pretty comfortable for longer drives, with enough adjustments to accommodate drivers of all sizes. Second-row passengers will also find the quarters to their liking, with a wide range of recline angle and plenty of head- and legroom for the average adult, even with the optional panoramic sunroof. The longer-wheelbase Santa Fe further enhances second-row comfort with a bit more legroom and a spacious 31.5 inches of legroom for those in the third row, which is competitive with the third-row accommodations in the larger Nissan Pathfinder. Headroom in the Santa Fe's third row is a little pinched, but nonetheless acceptable.
Its ability to haul gear also is an important asset in the Santa Fe Sport, as it boasts a healthy 35.4 cubic feet of cargo behind the second row of seats, while the seven-passenger Santa Fe can hold up to 41 cubes. Bulky items are also loaded with ease, as the second-row seats fold flat to accept 71.5 cubes, putting the two-row Sport right up there with the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. The larger Santa Fe can hold up to 80 cubic feet, but if all the seats are in use, you only have 13.5 cubic feet behind the third row.
On either side of the driving spectrum, the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe has the potential to impress. As a leisurely commuter and kid shuttle, the ride is luxuriously compliant and the cabin remains whisper-quiet, even at highway speeds. On winding mountain passes, the Santa Fe feels fairly light and sporty for this class of car. There are a couple demerits, however. The steering has a tendency to wander on the highway, and rear visibility is poor due to the Santa Fe's thick rear roof pillars.
We found the Santa Fe Sport's 2.0T engine equally impressive, with a smooth delivery of power that is on par with some V6 engines. As a result, this Santa Fe gets up to highway speeds with authority. Gearchanges can be a bit delayed, but they're so smooth that they'll likely go unnoticed.
With nearly 300 hp on tap, the V6-powered Santa Fe GLS and Limited accelerate with even more authority and minimize the frequent gearshifts that sometimes come with the four-cylinder models. Particularly when compared with the Santa Fe Sport's base 2.4-liter engine, the V6 makes for more relaxed highway travel and a quieter cabin.