A Crossover I'd Consider Buying - 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Long-Term Road Test

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Long-Term Road Test

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe: A Crossover I'd Consider Buying

September 13, 2013

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

If I were shopping for a new three-row family hauler, the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe is one I'd consider.

I like just about everything about it. For starters, the Santa Fe's size is right for me. It's just big enough for kids and road trips but not so big that it's overly cumbersome for daily errands and tight parking lots. The V6 is strong and handling is secure enough. I'm also impressed by our Limited model's classy interior design, easy-to-use electronics interface. Plus, I think it's a pretty handsome rig overall.

There's a lot of great stuff to choose from in this segment (the Ford Flex, GMC Acadia, Nissan Pathfinder, Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Highlander all come to mind) but the new Hyundai is quite competitive in my mind.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor


  • legacygt legacygt Posts:

    Funny to look at the list of cars that come to mind. Great that the Santa Fe is competitive. But on your list there are some OLD cars. The CX-9, Acadia and Highlander are virtually the same cars you could get in 2006/2007. The Flex may be a bit newer but it's riding on an ancient platform. I know the Highlander is being replaced but my point is, that this is a competitive segment with a lot of good cars yet, somehow, six and seven year old cars are still among the top of the class? There are really two things going on here. One is that manufacturers seem to be content with a very lengthy refresh cycle in this segment. I think Toyota has had 3 full updates to the Camry in the time the current Highlander has been on the road. Mazda just doubled down on the CX-9 with a mild refresh which might mean a full 8 or 9 model years selling the same car. The other factor is that, while many of these cars have their own strengths, nobody has really knocked the ball out of the park with a vehicle that really outshines the rest of the class. Over the last few years, the Durango, Explorer, Pathfinder and Santa Fe all entered the segment and none of them really blow away the competition (even the older ones) in a meaningful way. It's strange because this mentality doesn't really play out in other mainstream segments. Today an automaker would benchmark the 2013 Fusion or equivalent when designing a new midsized sedan. Yet it seems automakers are fine benchmarking a 2006 Pilot or Highlander when designing their new 3 row crossovers. So where and when will the differentiation happen? I kind of expected the new Pathfinder to set the new standard by really emphasizing the luxury features brought over from the Infiniti JX. Maybe they have to some point but I don't think the new Pathfinder is really resonating. Will someone offer more power? Probably not. These cars go about as fast as anyone wants. Handling? I think the CX-9 is about as far down that path as anyone wants to go. Space? Maybe there will be a packaging revolution where someone finds a creative way to make these cars as useful as the minivans they've replaced but I doubt it. Off-road capability? Nope, that's clearly not what buyers are looking for. The area that I think is ripe for someone to distinguish their 3 Row CUV is in efficiency. These all get roughly the same mpg and it's not pretty. It's better than full size SUVs but not where it needs to be in the eyes of consumers and CAFE. Maybe it will be Mazda if they can scale up the skyactiv tech and/or figure out a way to sell diesels in the CX-9. Maybe it will be Toyota with a Highlander hybrid that actually delivers great mpg without compromises. Maybe it will be Honda if a new Pilot can further improve on the mpg gains in the new MDX. Whoever it is, the 3 row crossover that significantly improves efficiency in the segment will really set the standard for the rest and finally make the older competition look less relevant.

  • I like the styling of the Santa Fe, but I was behind one on I-5 a couple of weeks ago, and I saw exactly what Dan Edmunds was talking about: Every time they hit a dip, the back end slammed down into the bump stops -- and the car did NOT look overloaded. After years of being a known issue with them, WHY is Hyundai/Kia unable to make a decent suspension? I really want to like them! ___ I think the Dodge Durango pretty much nailed it in this segment, but that clearly did not translate to sales. The only real weak point seems to be fuel economy, but that looks to be improved with the 9-speed in the 2014 model. Otherwise, it's a strong value when comparing features with competitors. If I were shopping this segment, it would be the Durango's job to lose, as they say.

  • Meant to add, I'm pretty disappointed that the 2014 Durango isn't coming with the diesel V6 right out of the gate. Seems like a huge missed opportunity. Maybe they're scared of cannibalizing Grand Cherokee diesel sales?

  • bassrockerx bassrockerx Posts:

    the traverse is my number 1 choice but i would be interested in cross shopping the hyundai. interesting how you mentioned the acadia but not the traverse was it because of the styling of the acadia? my opinion on the acadia is that the buick enclave is the much smarter buy if you want more than the traverse LTZ has to offer i think the gmc wants too much extra money for barely any extra equipment. (after driving both the traverse ltz and the buick the real difference between them is the infotainment system, and the quality of the seats. )

  • bassrockerx bassrockerx Posts:

    @lagacygt i honestly think that styleing has a lot to do with sales. after reading your article it really made me think. "who buys these vehicles" these are expensive vehicles in the 30s to mid 40s price range. so i would say for the majority pr

  • s197gt s197gt Posts:

    legacygt, i think you really summed it up. i looked at these pretty hard a few months back. it really came down to styling, utility, and reliability for us. my wife loves the honda pilot's styling and that 3rd row that allegedly seats 3. she also loves the styling of the enclave. she cares not about the drivetrain. but i'm like you. i don't see a clear winner. i'd probably lean towards the cx-9 but i don't like the mpg in any of them and the mazda is one of the worse. towing seems to be an afterthought in all of them (especially the mazda) except the nissan which proudly advertises it's 5k lb capacity (IIRC). ultimately they are all appliances and i just can't get passionate enough about any of them to live with that car payment.

  • aggie94 aggie94 Posts:

    For what it's worth, we own one of these and the fuel economy and interior space are good. We average 21 mpg on a 50/50 mix. The key is the weight under 4000 lbs, 500 or so less than the competition. However, it's 10% smaller in/out than most competitors, a plus for us. The ride w/ 19" wheels is average, 18" unsurprisingly better, both quantum leaps better than '11 Sorento. The 3rd row is adult friendly with the sliding 2nd row and center walk through.

  • eclogite eclogite Posts:

    What about the crappy ride on rough pavement that other testers have mentioned? I liked this car, too, until that issue comes up. We're a family of 5 with at least two that get car-sick. Based on comments by other Edmunds testers, Hyundai needs to recalibrate the suspension.

  • legacygt legacygt Posts:

    @s197gt: I looked at the field in 2009 and settled on a CX-9. It now has 70,000 miles and I've been very impressed by it. I still think it's competitive with the class. Definitely the best if you want a car that handles a little better than the rest. Not

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