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The Santa Fe... now bigger!
“Give the people what they want."
That’s the rallying cry for any product planner, and it’s certainly true for automakers as they decide what types of vehicles to focus on and sell. Hyundai is clearly paying attention to the people, because it seems more and more buyers are looking to put a mid-size crossover into their driveways and garages.
We’ve already sampled the redesigned Santa Fe Sport, but some families need a bit more seating space. Enter the long-wheelbase 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe, which promises to fulfill the needs of many homes thanks to three rows of seating, a plethora of standard and optional extra goodies, and a V6 engine that blends power and efficiency.
That’s the very quick bullet-point overview, but there’s a bit more going on and it’s time to dive in. We ventured down to San Diego, California to put the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe through its paces, and come up with a verdict of our own. We’re not going to boil this one down to a handful of bullet points.
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2013 Hyundai Santa Fe: Three rows are better than two
We’re dealing with the third generation of the Santa Fe, and Hyundai has decided to take the name and expand it to cover what were once two separate models. Say good-bye to the Veracruz, and hello to both the Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe. If it says “Sport” at the end that means it’s the shorter wheelbase two-row crossover. Once you drop the “Sport”, you’re either adding GLS or Limited and a third row of seating. In fact, we’re going to take this a step further and let you know that GLS means it’s a seven-passenger Santa Fe with a second row bench seat. The Limited model is a six-passenger crossover that features second row captain’s chairs.
Speaking of the interior, Hyundai continues to step up its game with each new or revised model it introduces. The automaker is moving past creating good interiors and beginning to turn out great ones. In the past, the comfort level of the seats was minimal but that’s no longer the case ever since the arrival of the Azera sedan. Now, the seats are sculpted and designed to entertain actual human backsides. Support and comfort go hand in hand here. Passengers in the second row of the Limited can enjoy reclining and heated seating, which adds a more premium feel to the Santa Fe. Additionally, the second row slides back and forth to allow actual adult access to the third row and its 31.5 inches of legroom.
It’s not just the comfort though that impresses us because Hyundai make sure to stuff their vehicles chock full of great standard kit. The Blue Link infotainment and telematics system is offered up at no extra charge, and an optional eight-inch touch screen helps add visual and technical pop into the center stack.
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2013 Hyundai Santa Fe: Buff but beautiful
Moving outside, the style switches to a much more fluid feel. It should, after all, since the 2013 Santa Fe is a continuation of the Fluidic Sculpture design language seen throughout the rest of the lineup. The result on this specific vehicle is a one that is clearly Hyundai yet also provides a mature and handsome stance. Stylish 18-inch wheels easily fill the wheel wells with optional 19-inchers filling that gap even further, and the familiar grille helps round out the face. When viewed from the rear, we actually found ourselves comparing the design language to that of the all-new Mercedes-Benz GL-Series. The taillights and exhaust openings of the two vehicles share a similar aesthetic and it works out well for both of them.
Let’s get back to the front, however, because there is a whole lot of style going on with this face. Large fog lights complement the even larger headlamps and their LED daytime running light accents. The aforementioned grille pairs nicely with the lower fascia, and the entire unit really helps to set the tone positively for the rest of the Santa Fe and its looks.
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2013 Hyundai Santa Fe: Power to back up the visual punch
You need more than just style, however, to capture the attention of the masses. Thankfully, Hyundai has included substance here as well. It arrives by way of the 3.3-liter V6 engine mounted under the hood. This mill produces 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque, which helps make the 2013 Santa Fe the first Hyundai vehicle to earn a 5,000 pound tow rating. The smooth and powerful engine is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox and can send energy out to the front wheels or all four wheels depending on which model you prefer.
The tow rating and power numbers are nice, but fuel economy is the order of the day and the Santa Fe doesn’t disappoint here either. Thanks to a few technical tricks, the front-wheel-drive Santa Fe can hit 25 miles per gallon on the highway, and the all-wheel-drive version loses just one mile per gallon to achieve a rating of 24 on the highway. In combined driving both versions are good for at least 20 miles per gallon. This fuel efficiency is also arrived at thanks to the strict diet Hyundai engineers forced upon the Santa Fe. Weighing in at 3,933 pounds means it falls under the two ton mark and that’s something the competition can’t boast.
We do wish, however, that we were as enamored with the steering feel as we were with… well, everything else. There’s really no feel or feedback to speak of, and it’s the one area where we find ourselves a bit let down. Yes, Hyundai does offer up its driver selectable driving mode that dials in steering heft ranging from Comfort to Normal and Sport. Comfort is far too light and Sport seems just too artificial for us to enjoy. Leaving the Santa Fe in Normal is the way to go.
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2013 Hyundai Santa Fe: Conclusion
It’s hard to love every part of any vehicle, but Hyundai has brought us pretty close with the 2013 Santa Fe. From its exterior styling and premium interior feel out to its engine and fuel economy, we’re a bit smitten with this mid-size crossover. It’s a product that shows the automaker’s focus is on giving people what they’re asking for, and families both young and old will be pleased with all that the new Santa Fe has to offer.
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