Uncomfortable Ride With Passengers - 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Long-Term Road Test

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Long-Term Road Test

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe: Uncomfortable Ride With Passengers

August 14, 2013

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

The complaints started within the first 50 miles of home and I've been hearing them (and echoing them) all the way to Oregon and back. Our 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe has a habit of bobbing on its rear suspension and hammering at our backsides over swales and waves in the highway. It's bottoming out over pavement features it should absorb, and we're not even full.

This is hard for me to say because I probably know the guys who tuned the suspension. But there simply isn't enough rear suspension "bump" travel, the rear coil springs are too soft and the polyurethane bump stops come in too late and too abruptly. The as-loaded bump-stop photo above was taken with my weight out of the car, too.

Our Santa Fe is the long-wheelbase 3-row 6-passenger version, the one that should have some carrying capacity. But on this trip it's doing far worse than our long-term 2012 Honda CR-V on the same northern California and southern Oregon roads. And the CR-V also excelled when I drove it at speed over much larger swales and deeper dips on uneven dirt roads in Nevada with heavier passengers on board, to boot.

The Honda CR-V was comparatively unfazed when fully loaded, even with an added burden of a rooftop cargo box, but here in the partially-loaded Santa Fe I find myself yelling "bump!" so my passengers can brace themselves. They've replied with a chorus of "Ow!" on more than one occasion.

The combined weight of the four of us weighs LESS than any three of the four adults that were on board during the Honda excursion in Nevada. The luggage load was about the same in both cases, even though the Santa Fe looks less tightly packed because it offers more space.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

According to the door plate our 3-row Santa Fe Limited AWD has a GVWR of 5,622 pounds. Its rated curb weight is 4,068 pounds. But options (especially that panoramic sunroof, methinks) bring its actual as-measured curb weight up to 4,297 pounds. That leaves us a 1,325-pound surplus for payload.

I won't tell you what the wife and kids weigh individually, but I can say the four of us weigh 577 pounds with shoes and jackets on. I'm good for 225 of that. And I weighed each piece of luggage: 155 pounds total, evenly distributed atop the stowed third-row seat.

Our bottom-line burden comes to 732 pounds. Compared to 1,325 pounds of payload that means we're using just 55% of the available capacity. Theoretically, this means there's more than enough left over to absorb the 500 pounds of tongue weight that would come along with the 5,000-pound trailer the Santa Fe is rated to tow, should we choose to connect one.

We don't have a hitch or a trailer, but the point is this: We're not full. Not even.

But the Santa Fe doesn't seem to know that. Its rear suspension is treating us like we're on the ragged edge, even though we have two empty third-row seats and a pair of skinny teenage girls in the middle row.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

What would help? It'd try firmer rear springs, maybe progressive-rate ones. Taller bump stops that came in earlier (and more gently) might pair nicely with those.

But I wouldn't touch the damping; it's pretty good. Besides, cranking down on the shocks without dealing with the springs wouldn't solve the problem. Our Santa Fe Limited rides decently when it's not running out of rear travel, with one aboard and no luggage, for example.

As for me, I won't be signing this one out for multiple road trips like I found myself doing with the 2012 Honda CR-V. It's one and done for me.

Too bad. I admire the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe in so many other ways.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 4,156 miles


  • yellowbal yellowbal Posts:

    Would stiffer lowering springs help or hurt in this case?

  • Stiffer lowering springs would definitely affect the ride quality the rest of the time that they rave about.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    lowering springs? You want even less suspension travel than they have now?

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Said it before; say it again...Hyundai/Kia are great with interior stuff, infotainment, content, warranty...not so great with making x horsepower feel like x horsepower, making a given suspension configuration perform up to potential.

  • hotpass105 hotpass105 Posts:

    They're getting better but you can't match twenty years of refinement from the Americans, [non-permissible content removed], or Europeans in the four years Korea has been trying.

  • s197gt s197gt Posts:

    air bags in the springs?

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    It sounds like the larger, seven passenger Santa Fe shares not only suspension design and components but also tuning with the smaller, lighter, five passenger Santa Fe. It also sounds like that Santa Fe relies heavily on very soft springs, rather than chassis and sophisticated suspension design and tuning, to provide a comfortable ride. Luckily some slightly longer, heavier rated springs could be employed by Hyundai at refresh if this becomes a big gripe among owners. I think Fordson1 accurately describes the Hyundai/Kia situation.

  • kyolml kyolml Posts:

    i can't believe these days they can still skim on a proper set of spring/shock rate, these sounds like a major design flaw. Dan should definitely talk to whomever you said you might know in the suspension engineering department to see what they are up to?

  • legacygt legacygt Posts:

    Time for a Santa Fe suspension walkaround post? When we first learned about the new Santa Fe coming in 2 sizes I thought it was a mistake from a marketing standpoint. It looks like it was also a mistake from an engineering standpoint. It will be interesting to see if this is something that's easy to fix or if addressing this will upset the ride in other ways.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Dan Edmunds says firmer or progressive-rate springs. From that shot and his description, I would say both, but I'm not sure even that would do the trick - just sounds to me like it doesn't have enough jounce travel. From that photo - which I understand is partially laden - I'm looking at maybe a little over 3 inches left. It's like they took the design from the two-row, SW model and just added wheelbase. Nobody likes to design too much bump travel in, because that costs cargo/passenger capacity, but in addition to adding more weight, extending the wheelbase like this puts a greater percentage of the total weight on the rear wheels, too.

  • cotak cotak Posts:

    You know edmunds don't do long term test for every car they review. Maybe a loaded pothole/bump test should be part of their regular car review routine. If you didn't do this car for a long term test we wouldn't now this info.

  • greenpony greenpony Posts:

    This would be a dealbreaker for me. Unfortunately it would probably not be something a casual test drive would reveal....

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    @greenpony: Personally, I make it a point to scope the area around a dealership for some crappy roads to drive the car over. Nothing reveals a car's character more than hauling [non-permissible content removed] with it over a long, rough bend. Always feel sorry for the salesmen though

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    @duck87 my Hyundai dealership is surrounded by such roads, and I don't care how they like the test ride. But you are right that it will reveal this kind of flaw. I still wonder how a car can get into production without someone saying that this isn't rig

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    Actually a test drive still might not reveal this flaw, unless you brought the whole family and some luggage along on the test drive. I would be interested in a more in-depth write-up on the role springs and dampers play into this suspension tune and how a stiffer spring would actually improve the ride.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    @stovt001: Luggage might be difficult, but I'd be surprised if anyone buying a CUV or minivan for their entire family went to buy the car without bringing the kids along.

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    Many vehicles seem to have very limited suspension travel these days. I'm packaging is the main culprit.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    @duck: when I worked at a dealership, I saw some buyers bring the family along to sit in it, but the test drive itself was typically just one of the buyers and the salesman. Maybe the spouse. I don't think I recall any test drives with the kids tagging al

  • aggie94 aggie94 Posts:

    I have the 2wd and have had a similar load with no problems. We used to own a Sorento with 3rd row seat, and the Santa Fe has a much better ride overall, even on 19's.

  • steve636 steve636 Posts:

    Just got directed to this article from the hyundai forums. I'm having the same issues with my 2013 LWB Sante Fe with tech package. low rear end after a trip. had approx 800lbs in the vehicle (passengers, gear, hitch, hitch carrier and cargo on it), door jam says do not exceed 1111lbs cargo/passengers, i was at 72% of that. after the trip, the rear end looked low and rear tires looked to have a noticable inward camber. took the car to the dealer for that issue (as well as numerous others, 8 dealer trips on 9 months of ownership) and they are currently replaceing my rear springs. they stated that the rear springs have partially collapsed. they believe this is the reason for the creaking/groaning i hear, rough ride, and low rear end. my bump stops are almost touching the bottom of the spring assembly with nothing in the vehicle. i'll be curios to see how the car looks once the new springs are in or if the new ones will be any stiffer. Dealer said this is the first time they've ever replaced the rear springs on one, so, we'll see. i'll update once its done.

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