Strengths and weaknesses:
- content for the buck
- rear seat comfort
- Doesn’t stand out from the crowd, but is that a bad thing?
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
When Hyundai provided a 2013 Santa Fe 2.0T for evaluation, it came at just the right time.
Winter is in full swing: Cold, snow, sleet, slush, wind, icy roads – just the kind of weather for testing a new all-wheel-drive crossover.
This example of the redesigned Santa Fe carries the “sport” designation, indicating it has two rather than three rows of seating.
The latest example of what Hyundai calls “fluidic sculpture” design gives Santa Fe a more capable, aggressive look than the previous edition.
The new skin on the tester covers the electronic AWD system that gets me through everything Mother Nature and her boyfriend Old Man Winter can throw at me. In normal circumstances the system puts power only to the front wheels which helps reduce fuel consumption. But when conditions get crappy, the intelligent control system goes to work, continuously analysing date from the vehicle controller and activating though a multi-plate clutch with torque distribution.
I manage to find a day with dry roads and discover that Santa Fe has a fondness for corners, carving turns with a skill that would make slalom skiers envious. It’s all due to a new feature in the stability management system, called active cornering control that applies braking to the inside rear wheel when accelerating through a corner. It is so good in dry conditions I tried it in the snow. Who needs skis? With the right tires, this is a blast.
Under the hood is a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that puts out 264 horsepower whipped up by 269 ft.-lb. of torque that comes on early (1,750 rpm) and stays late (3,000 rpm). Coupled with the Hyundai-built six-speed sport shift automatic, the twin-scroll turbo provides power precisely when I want it, taking the adventure out of merging into faster traffic.
If I don’t like the steering, it’s my own fault for making the wrong selection. Santa Fe has a driver-selectable steering mode (DSSM) system that allows me to dial up the steering feel I desire—comfort, normal or sport.
After trying them all, I find “comfort” is the easiest for around town (the literature says steering effort is 10% lighter than “normal” mode). “Sport”, which has an effort about 10% heavier than “normal,” is the choice for highways or winding roads. In the end, I opt for “normal” with an occasional switch to “sport.”
The roads I’m driving vary from smooth pavement, to broken asphalt, to snow covered, to slush, to ice and it all happens within 150 km or so. Talk about a test for traction and stability systems.
Santa Fe passes every challenge. The ride is firm without being harsh. The seating is supportive—and heated. Road noise is evident but not annoying.
But the mechanicals are only part of the story. The living quarters are terrific. Standards on the test vehicle include heated front seats, heated rear seats, power everything, Bluetooth, heated steering wheel, leather seating and a panoramic sunroof, rear park assist, even rear door blinds, rearview camera and 19-inch alloy wheels.
The sliding rear seat provides plenty of leg room, allowing four people to ride in comfort while carrying enough cargo for a long trip. Cargo area with all seats in use measures 1,002 litres, which expands to 2,025 with the second row seat folded.
All-in-all, the cabin is a pleasant place to be even if the going is crappy.
Re-designing the Santa Fe should pay off handsomely for Hyundai, especially considering the high level of amenities and the reasonable price.
In fact, the company is already reaping the rewards. Santa Fe 2.0T has been named 2013 Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T AWD
Trim level: SE
Price as tested (before taxes): $35,299
Options on test vehicle: none
Configuration: front engine/ all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 2.0L turbo 4 cyl./ 6-spd auto with sequential shift
Power/torque: 264 hp/ 269 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): regular (66L)
Fuel economy ratings: 11.0 L/100km city; 8.4 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 10.9 L/100km over 726 km
Warranties: 3 years/ 60,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Chevrolet Equinox; Ford Edge; Honda CR-V; Mazda CX-7; Toyota RAV4.