Making its first official auto show appearance in full-production guise, the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe will arrive in showrooms early next year to complement its smaller sibling, the Santa Fe Sport, which went on sale in August. While sharing much of its basic exterior and interior styling cues with the Sport, this upsized alternative does feature a unique greenhouse design and powertrain elements along with 3-row seating that offers space for either six or seven passengers and more cargo space.
Like the Santa Fe Sport, the new Santa Fe makes extensive use of weight-saving design features and ultra high-tensile strength steel that add stiffness and rigidity to its unit body structure while helping reduce curb weight by 320 pounds compared to the Veracruz that it replaces in the Hyundai lineup. Hyundai's new mid-size SUV is 8.5 inches longer than the Sport and has 3.9 inches of additional wheelbase.
The Santa Fe's fully independent suspension matches MacPherson struts up front with a rear multilink arrangement while the standard Driver Selectable Steering Mode on its electric power-assist package offers three levels of effort - Comfort/Normal/Sport - that match boost to the motoring environment. Stopping power is supplied by 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and while all Santa Fe models feature a comprehensive Vehicle Stability Management system, Hillstart Assist Control and Downhill Brake Control, fitting the optional Active Cornering Control All-Wheel-Drive system nets torque-vectoring capabilities that can further improve vehicle dynamics on challenging roads or slick surfaces.
Both the Santa Fe GLS and top-line Limited trims are available in front- or all-wheel-drive configurations and each shares the automaker's 3.3-liter direct-injected Lambda II V6 that makes 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque. It's backed by a 6-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual control capabilities augmented by Hyundai's Active ECO System that tweaks throttle and shift mapping to enhance smoothness and bump real-world fuel economy by 5-7 percent.
The Santa Fe's contemporary, well-finished passenger compartment looks and feels much like a Sport-spec cabin that's undergone a sudden growth spurt. Hyundai claims it has more passenger and cargo space than a Toyota Highlander, whether fitted with Captain's Chairs or a 40/20/40 split-folding second-row bench. Trimmed in cloth (GLS) or leather (Limited), the Santa Fe features a bounty of comfort/convenience standards that include connectivity features like Hyundai's Blue Link telematics, Bluetooth/iPod integration and a limited subscription to SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Available upgrades include a state-of-the-art navigation package with 8.0-inch touchscreen, Infinity Logic 7 premium audio and a panoramic sunroof.
Final pricing on the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe will be released closer to its on sale date. However, we suspect that it will reflect the same kind of value-oriented approach the automaker applied to the Santa Fe Sport.