Russ Bond

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe: important company launch

New Santa Fe comes to town for Hyundai

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe: important company launch

Car Review

Overall rating:


Editor's Ratings:

  • Price: 9/10

  • Performance: 9/10

  • Comfort (front): 8/10

  • Look: 9/10

New Santa Fe comes to town for Hyundai

"Hyundai says the launch of the new Santa Fe is the most important to the company since the introduction of the new Elantra."

COLLINGWOOD, Ont. - If you look at the new Hyundai Santa Fe, both inside and out, and were then quizzed on what it was, you wouldn’t be called onto the carpet for blurting out a high end brand – it looks that good.

And that is a good thing, since Steve Kelleher, President and CEO of Hyundai Canada Corp says the launch of the new Santa Fe is the most important to the company since the introduction of the new Elantra. Hyundai research shows that a full 21% of the shopping public intent to buy a crossover utility vehicle.

Before I get too far along, I should go over this naming thingy. This is the new Santa Fe Sport, not the ‘real’ Santa Fe, which is the ‘coming soon’ long wheelbase version. It will have three row seating to accommodate seven passengers. The Sport seats five.

The Santa Fe is definitely a current look CUV, with nice styling cues and a great stance. The interior feels vastly superior to the last one, and even though it is lower – to help drag – and slightly narrower, there is more room inside.

It is also considerably lighter, coming in a whopping 125kg (about 275 lbs.) lighter than the last one, though it doesn’t feel tinny or cheap.

Under the hood, the interesting thing is what isn’t there. There is no V6 option. Hyundai opted for a base 2.4-litre inline four-cylinder engine and there is an optional 2.0-litre Turbo for those that want more power and towing capacity.

The base 2.4L puts out 190 hp and 181 lb.-ft. of torque. It has more power and uses less fuel that the outgoing unit. The Turbo models boost the power to 264 and 269, respectively, and increase the towing capacity from 2000 to 3,500lbs.

All Santa Fes come with six-speed automatic transmissions.

There are AWD drive options on each, and that system is all new as well. I must say that driving the AWD versions is basically unnoticeable in normal driving. But when we decide to park the new Santa Fe in a river, the AWD is a big help to get it out.

Hyundai uses a 20/40/20 split rear seat, and I think that is a good way to go because you can get something long it the back and still carry four passengers.

I also like the under-floor storage. It is great place for small ‘crushable’ things.

…and then I drive it.

To be fair, it runs fine and has good power – I think the 2.4L is plenty for most people – but the handling and wandering down the road raises an immediate concern.

It turns out there is a system called a DSSM (Driver Selectable Steering Mode) which is most of the issue. Now, I have driven variable steering, or programmable steering vehicles before, but this one is very different. Hyundai has opted for three settings: Comfort, Normal and Sport.

Comfort is anything but comfortable to drive. It makes the Santa Fe wander on the highway because the amount of power assist is upped 10% from “Normal.” Normal is tolerable for most driving but Sport (with the power assist reduced by 10%) is the only one to use – period.

With the DSSM set to Sport, the Santa Fe does drive very well, with nice turn in and smooth transitions the norm.

This third generation Santa Fe I think will be a big hit for several reasons. CUV buyers rated the top three reasons they choose a particular CUV to be price, AWD, and fuel economy. In addition, they also listed the top three reasons they didn’t buy a particular CUV as price, fuel economy and bland styling.

With pricing starting at $26,499 and having AWD as a $2000 option, along with good fuel mileage (regular fuel in all models), the Santa Fe should fit well with CUV buying public.

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Fact file

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Trim levels available: 2.4 standard, premium, and luxury; 2.0T premium, SE and limited

MSRP range: $26,499 - $38,499

Freight: Exp. $1,760

Notable options: Vented front seats, nav with 8-inch touch screen

Configuration: front engine/ front or all-wheel drive

Available engines: 2.4L 4-cyl. (190 hp/ 181 lb.-ft.); 2.0L turbo 4-cyl. (264/269)

Available transmissions: 6-spd automatic

Fuel economy ratings (Comb.): 7.9 (2.4L); 8.3 (2.0T)

Warranties: 5 years/ 100,000 km (comprehensive)

Competitors: Chevrolet Equinox; Dodge Journey; Ford Edge; Mazda CX-7; Toyota RAV4

Strengths: value for dollar; modern look; nice interior

Weaknesses: no power liftgate