2013 Hyundai Santa Fa Sport: Introduction
Hyundai may think they’ve invented the crossover sport-utility vehicle, or CUV, but that honor stretches back to automaker AMC. Purchased by Chrysler in 1987, AMC offered up a car-SUV lovechild known to the world as the Eagle, and it was produced for model years 1980 through 1988.
Hyundai came along over a decade later with the Santa Fe, which hit the streets in the year 2000 as a 2001 model vehicle. That SUV-like vehicle was part of the reason for the automaker’s initial taste of success in terms of stateside sales. Demand was high, and customers picked up the Santa Fe as fast as the Korean carmaker could pump them out.
The first-generation Hyundai Santa Fe was inexpensive, and the opposite of good looking. Still, it sold well, and helped Hyundai get on solid footing. Now, here we are and another decade has passed, and Hyundai is quickly rising up to be one of the top automotive companies in the United States. It also has an all-new 2013 Santa Fe ready to head to showrooms. This is the third-generation of the crossover, and it might just be ready to attract a new generation of car-buying families.
Hyundai is making your choices easy when it comes to pricing the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. The base model is simply called the Sport, and this 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated Santa Fe starts at $24,450 for the front-wheel drive model. If you want all-wheel-drive, you will need to shell out at least $26,200. Those desiring a bit of forced induction can jump up to the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T, which starts at $27,700 for the front driver and $29,450 if you prefer to have all four wheels moving you down the road.
There aren’t a lot of option packages, but that’s a good thing because it means the Santa Fe Sport comes well equipped right out of the gate. Should you desire a bit more in the features department, however, you can opt for the Technology Package and the Leather and Premium Equipment Package. Both will push the car closer to, or even over, the $30,000 mark.
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: Competition
The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport faces off against a handful of rivals that are well known for a variety of reasons. Be it fuel economy, comfort, value, style, or feature content, the Santa Fe Sport has a lot of work to do if it wants to play in the hotly contested compact crossover market.
The work has been put in though, and the Santa Fe Sport leads the way against most of its rivals. This includes the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Chevrolet Equinox, Kia Sorento, and the 2013 Ford Escape. Class-leasing horsepower and torque, the lowest curb weight, a suite of technology features, and a class-leading warranty help ensure that the Santa Fe Sport has the rest of the crossover world playing catch up.
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: Exterior
Currently, there are two words that Hyundai uses to describe the design direction that the entire brand has taken on. We speak, of course, about Fluidic Sculpture, and it’s made its striking presence known here on the outside of the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. In fact, it’s a more tightened and tailored version of this design style. These are words Hyundai executives themselves have used, and we’re reiterating them here because it’s a spot-on analysis.
All of the exterior lines on the latest Hyundai products are similar takes on the automaker’s current style language regardless of which vehicle we’re talking about. Take the badges off, and it’s still clear that we’re staring at the crisp lines and rounded edges.
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: Interior
While Fluidic Sculpture rules the day on the outside, it’s a push for technology and comfort that grab a hold on the inside. Hyundai designers and engineers have been taking notes in the area of seat design, and the thrones on the Santa Fe Sport are excellent. In fact, they remind us of the Azera sedan, which features better buckets than even the Genesis and Equus. The bench seat in the back is also comfortable, and offers up plenty of room for those relegated to the rear.
Sitting central to the cabin is the audio and HVAC controls. On the base model, an AM/FM/Satellite radio is standard, and it boasts a USB port and Bluetooth Wireless streaming capability. Step up a notch and you’re greeted by a 4.3-inch LED touchscreen that adds HD Radio and a rearview camera. Keep climbing though, and you’ll wind up with an eight-inch touchscreen navigation unit and optional Infinity 12 speaker audio system. It’s all very easy to use while also being easy to read. On top of that, all 12 speakers make sure it’s quite easy to hear as well.
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is available with a choice between two four-cylinder engines. A naturally-aspirated 2.4-liter is the base engine, and it’s a directly-injected mill that produces 190 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 181 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm. For those seeking a bit of forced induction, Hyundai also offers a 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder engine that boasts direct injection like the 2.4-liter engine, yet it also features a twin-scroll turbocharger. This helps the 2.0T produce 264 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 269 pound-feet of torque from 1,750 rpm up through 3,000 rpm.
Both engines are paired with a six-speed automatic gearbox, and Santa Fe Sport shoppers can choose between front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive versions. It’s the front drivers that produce the best results when it comes to fuel economy, as you’d expect. The 2.4-liter Santa Fe Sport has EPA estimated fuel economy figures of 22 miles per gallon in the city and 33 miles per gallon on the highway. The added power of the turbo drops the 2.0T a bit lower than that, with a rating of 21 miles per gallon city and 31 miles per gallon highway.
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: Driving Impressions
The biggest news surrounding the 2013 Santa Fe Sport is that Hyundai has decided to channel the late great Colin Chapman. For those not familiar with that name, Mr. Chapman was the driving force behind the heyday of Lotus. His motto was to “add lightness” and he would make great things happen once doing so. Hyundai has added lightness to the Santa Fe Sport, and we’re not talking about 10 or 20 pounds here. The 2013 Santa Fe Sport is 266 pounds lighter than the 2012 model it replaces. How’d they accomplish this? By employing a greater amount of high-strength steel, which they can grab from their own steel plant in Korea.
Why should you care about a lighter vehicle? Well, it means the engine has to work a little less hard to haul around all of the heft, and it also translates to improved handling and better fuel economy.
The new Santa Fe Sport rolls down the road like a much-improved version over the prior generation. The ride is comfortable, and in-cabin noise has been severely cut down. You can hold a casual conversation in the cabin while driving down the highway, and no one has to shout or even raise their voice a little bit. They'll have no need to raise their voice with regards to the handling either, because it’s smooth sailing across most types of pavement. On rougher stretches of road, however, the suspension seems to hit its max travel earlier than it should, which results in a bit more jarring experience than expected.
If we had one knock with regards to the 2013 Santa Fe Sport, it would be in regards to the handling. Hyundai is constantly working hard to improve the steering feel on each new vehicle, but it’s not quite figured it out. The underlying theme here is a general numbness, but that’s the way it seems things are going for all automakers as they move to electronic power steering setups.
Hyundai has attempted to curb a bit of that numbness by equipping the Santa Fe Sport with the Driver Selectable Steering Mode system, or DSSM. This is engaged by way of a button on the steering wheel, and, when pressed, allows the driver to choose between Normal, Sport, and Comfort settings. Comfort adds 10 percent of driving assistance, which makes the wheel a bit lighter to turn. Sport does the opposite by cutting 10 percent and stiffening things up. It’s a bit gimmicky, and it does nothing to increase the actual feel of the wheel through the road.
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: Safety
Hyundai has worked hard to ensure that the 2013 Santa Fe Sport is up to the task of protecting the driver and all of the passengers riding along. The third-generation crossover utilizes an increased amount of ultra-high strength tensile steel. To be more precise, the 2013 Santa Fe Sport benefits from a 37.7 percent application ratio, meaning the amount of ultra-high strength steel as opposed to the standard stuff. The last generation Santa Fe used just 7.8 percent. This increased amount of ultra-high strength steel results in a vehicle that is more rigid yet lighter than the one it replaces. It also helps improve the overall crash-worthiness of the 2013 Santa Fe Sport.
It’s not all about steel, however, because Hyundai has fitted the interior of its latest CUV with a plethora of airbags. There are seven standard units, and this includes a driver’s knee airbag as well as side-curtain head airbags.
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: Final Thoughts
Hyundai may not have invented the crossover, but the automaker is certainly working hard to perfect it. As the competition continues to improve, so too does the Santa Fe Sport and it’s ready to go head-to-head against the likes of the Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5. The turbocharged engine is a perfect complement to the taut lines that grace the exterior, and the supportive front seats that sit in the cabin.
While the handling could be improved, the overall driving quality is excellent. The brakes are responsive, just like the engine, and road noise is nearly shockingly quiet. Hyundai has worked very hard to generate a premium feel in an affordable vehicle, and all that hard work has clearly paid off with the 2013 Santa Fe Sport.
-Styling is a tightened down version of the Fluidic Sculpture design language.
-Seating for five is comfortable in all spots, and the available tech will keep everyone happy.
-In-cabin noise is greatly reduced over the outgoing model.
-Handling is numb.
-Suspension travel seems tighter than it should be, which is revealed on bumpy roads.