By Richard Homan
If you're going to enter an SUV race against heavy hitters like the Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer, or all-new blood like the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, you'd better be ready to run. The new-for-2013 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV is an extended version of the 2-row, 5-passenger Santa Fe Sport, offering more room, three rows of seating for six or seven, standard V6 power, and a competitive offering of standard comfort and optional equipment. Available in front-wheel-drive and optional all-wheel-drive configurations, the 2014 Santa Fe, offered in GLS (base) and Limited (upscale) trim levels, is priced – in classic Hyundai fashion – a few hundred-dollar notches below the competition while delivering a stylish exterior and a high-quality interior with plenty of huggable comfort and convenience.
You say you were born and raised practical and now you're raising a practical family? The new Santa Fe should own a space on your SUV shopping list.
If your power-hungry side comes out on a regular basis and you want more warhorse (or warhorse-hauler) in your SUV, a Jeep Grand Cherokee with a V8 engine might be a better choice to get the job done.
The Hyundai Santa Fe is all-new for 2013.
Driving Impressions While not the most dynamic driving tool in the shed, the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe does excel in its sheer talent for being easy to drive. The interior is quiet,...the view out the front is expansive, and the brakes, 3-mode steering and smooth 6-speed automatic transmission steadfastly refuse to call attention to themselves. The ride is soft and compliant, but without a hint of marshmallowiness. The Santa Fe's 3.3-liter V6 engine offers 290 horsepower, but only 252 lb-ft of real hardworking torque, and it makes that torque at higher revs than the competition. Swift takeoffs and passes aren't an issue in the front-drive Santa Fe – especially since the 2013 Santa Fe is significantly lighter than its competition. When the all-wheel drive system is added, however, climbing hills and making mid-range passes (40-60 mph) feel more like work.
HYUNDAI BLUE LINK
Beyond the expected concierge services, SOS emergency assistance, news, weather, and turn-by-turn navigation help, Blue Link's 3-level telematics system includes a parent-centric app that sends you a text if your Santa Fe is driven over a preset speed, past a curfew time, or beyond a preset "geofence" perimeter.
A one-touch power tilt/slide sunroof is cool, but one with a sky-view that spans all three rows is triple cool.
There's plenty of room in the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe and the driver's view to the front is panoramic (the rearward view is less broad, but you're never reduced to driving purely with the mirrors). The base Santa Fe's stain-resistant cloth fabric feels good, plus the audio and climate-control knobs and buttons are glove-friendly big. All the materials are impressive right down to the rubber that lines the inside of the door pulls. The first two rows are completely livable for adults, while the third row is a decent kid's row. The Santa Fe does give up some cargo area compared to the competition, however.Exterior
Looking for all the world like what it is – an extended-wheelbase Santa Fe Sport without the sporty rear-side-window kick-up – the new Santa Fe has more to say about handsome, contemporary styling than it does about swooping lines that characterize the shapes of Hyundai passenger cars. Nice touch 1: Even in base Santa Fe GLS form, the outside mirrors and bumpers are body color. Integrated fog lights, roof rails and 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels are the exterior differences between the GLS and upscale Limited versions. Nice touch 2: The Santa Fe GLS gets smaller 18-inch wheels, but they, too, are aluminum-alloy.
Santa Fe GLS drivers with a long journey ahead will appreciate the multi-adjustable front bucket seats with power-adjustable lumbar support. Passengers further back will give thanks to the 3rd-row controls for the air conditioning and heating. Stepping up to the Santa Fe Limited includes luxuries like leather seating – power-adjustable and heated for the driver and front-passenger – pushbutton starting and heated captain's chairs for the second row. The Limited also upgrades the audio system with a 4.3-inch color display and adds a rearview camera. Sweet as ever, Hyundai's confidence-inspiring 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranties cover the new Santa Fe.
Beyond a laundry list of individual options like a heated steering wheel, navigation system, premium audio, and all-wheel drive, Hyundai is pushing option packages. For the Santa Fe GLS, the $4,100 "Leather and Navigation Package" includes leather and navigation (duh) and a host of comfort and convenience upgrades. The Limited's $2,900 "Technology Package" scores you navigation and a 12-speaker Infinity Logic 7 audio system, plus that wow-inspiring Panoramic Sunroof, a heated steering wheel, and manual rear-side-window sunshades. Sadly for mom and dad, no rear-seat-entertainment/DVD pacifier is available on the 2014 Santa Fe (but an iPad or two would be cheaper than most such systems, anyway).
Hyundai makes it simple to shop for a 2014 Santa Fe: one engine, one transmission. In front-drive form, the SUV's 290-horsepower 3.3-liter V6 is very well matched to the 6-speed automatic transmission, with good throttle response, smooth pickup, and clean, easy shifts. The all-wheel-drive Santa Fe, though, could do with some more low-end grunt to get it moving. All that said, the 2014 Santa Fe is comfortable towing up to 5,000 pounds of trailer, boat, or anything else you'd like to haul.
290 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
252 lb-ft of torque @ 5,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25 mpg (front-wheel drive), 18/24 mpg (all-wheel drive)
A 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS comes out of the gate for about $29,195 – a number the new Nissan Pathfinder SUV can compete with, but the popular Honda Pilot misses by more than $1,000. The Santa Fe Limited starts around $34,000. If you find yourself loading up an all-wheel-drive Santa Fe Limited with options, you'll still find yourself under $40,000, an area that the Hyundai pretty much has to itself in this class. It's still a little early to predict the 2014 Santa Fe's resale outlook, but Hyundai SUVs consistently rank well versus their competition.