The third generation of Hyundai's midsize SUV is available for 2013 as the five-seat Santa Fe Sport (compare the 2012 and 2013 models here). A long-wheelbase version with seating for up to seven, called simply the Santa Fe, will be out early in 2013, replacing the brand's current seven-seater, the underperforming Veracruz. This review covers the Sport.
The Santa Fe is in the midsize class, which includes crossovers like the Toyota Highlander and Nissan Murano. But at 184.6 inches long, it's on the smaller side of the segment and is better matched in both length and interior volume against entries like the Ford Edge and Kia Sorento. Compare all three here.
New Name, Fresh Look
Hyundai added "Sport" to the Santa Fe in both name and design for 2013. It adopts a more aggressive look, barely resembling the vehicle it replaces. A new aerodynamic shape with LED-accented, sweeping, angular headlamps, upswept bodyside lines and a rear spoiler give it a leaner, more fluid look. Hyundai says the crossover shed 266 pounds this year. Additional chrome trim and an updated hexagonal grille add some much-needed spunk.
The new Santa Fe is another example of Hyundai's move toward family styling. It looks a lot like its smaller sibling, the Tucson. The risk here is a dull lineup full of clones, but the Santa Fe wears its new face well. More assertive design cues distinguish it, but its new grille and wedgy, angular shape tie it to the family.
Going & Stopping
The base engine for the 2013 Santa Fe, borrowed from the Sonata sedan, is a 190-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder, an engine more powerful than the 2012's base four-cylinder. It wasn't made available for testing. I tested a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder trim level, called the 2.0T. Borrowed from the Sonata Turbo, this 264-hp power plant replaces the old Santa Fe's upgrade engine, a V-6.
At an elevation of 8,000-plus feet, the thin, power-sapping air in Park City, Utah, is not usually an engine's friend. But unlike myself — lethargic and thirsty — the 2.0-liter turbo had no problem digesting the oxygen-deficient high-altitude air.
The 2.0-liter and six-speed automatic transmission are a good match for the Santa Fe. It's lively from a stop, and if there was any turbo lag, I missed it. The responsive six-speed promptly snapped off shifts; even during hill climbs, the Santa Fe never felt underpowered.
The front-wheel-drive turbo is EPA-rated at 21/31 mpg city/highway, and the front-wheel-drive base 2.4-liter at 22/33 mpg. With all-wheel drive, which is optional with either engine, the gas mileage drops to 20/27 mpg and 21/28 mpg for the turbo and base models, respectively.