Over the May Victoria Day long weekend one of the RedlineNorth team members had the opportunity to test drive Hyundai’s 2013 Santa Fe Sport, sport utility vehicle. The test period included a road trip from Toronto to Ottawa, Ontario that included a toddler, pregnant wife and grandmother along with all the ‘stuff’ required for a long weekend road trip with the family. Well, how did the Santa Fe Sport perform battling long stretches of highway, long weekend traffic, while fully loaded with toddler in tow? Read on to find out.
In the 2001 model year, the Santa Fe debuted in North America as Hyundai’s first SUV. Now in its third generation, Hyundai recently launched the redesigned 2013 Santa Fe. There are two variants of the Santa Fe, the five seater Sport along with the larger seven seater XL. The Santa Fe Sport comes in two engine configurations, a 2.4L normally aspirated engine and a 2.0 L turbo version. Both engines are also available in both Front Wheel Drive or All Wheel Drive with prices starting at $28,388.70 including destination and delivery charges for the 2.4 FWD. The RedlineNorth test vehicle was the 2.0L Turbo AWD SE model which comes in at $37,188.70.
The interior of the Santa Fe felt roomy with high attention to detail. This included built-in sun shades for the rear windows which came in handy on the long car journey with sleeping kids. In addition, the sunroof is immense and fully opened it provides a pseudo convertible feel. This feature made up for the narrow rear windows provided with the redesigned styling, which didn’t allow in that much light.
The ability of the rear seats to recline is a great feature and rear and front leg room was above average. In addition, the adjustable powered drivers seat with lumbar support fared well on the long trip and provided the right amount of firmness and comfort despite not having the cooling ability found in the Limited edition of the Sport.
The menu of the infotainment system in the Santa Fe, while not perfect, was above average in terms of ease of use. Pairing a phone through Bluetooth was straight forward and didn’t require breaking out the instruction manual. Similarly, changing input selections from radio, CD and Satellite radio and assigning them to the memory was done with ease. The down side to the system was the 4.3 inch screen size that comes standard in the SE and Luxury editions. While the lack of a navigation system in the SE certainly reduces the need for a larger screen one may find themselves squinting at screen when trying to discern images from the rear view camera system.
A handy feature in the 2013 Santa Fe is the adjustable steering control to adapt to personal driving styles and road conditions. Drivers can select from normal, sport or comfort mode. Sport mode noticeably tightened up the steering providing the driver with more responsiveness which is useful in city traffic. While out on the highway heading along Highway 401, comfort mode provided a more relaxed feel with more play in the steering wheel. Normal provided middle of the road feeling between the two and as a result wasn’t used a whole lot.
In terms of engine performance there was a slight lag with the Turbo in the 2.0L liter engine, however, overall the Sport felt very responsive. Entering the highway with a vehicle fully loaded for a long weekend the Santa Fe Sport got up to speed quickly and passed vehicles with ease. This is thanks to the 264 hp and 269 lbs of torque produced by the four cylinder engine. This performance does not have a dramatic impact on fuel efficiency either. With a posted rating of 11.0L/100 km city, 8.4L highway and 9.8L combined is an 8% improvement over the 2012 model year. During the test period we received a combined rating of 9.2L representing approximately 70% highway and 30% city driving.
The AWD versions of the Sport come with a system called Active Cornering Control which manages the vehicle acceleration by adjusting the inside rear wheel speed during a turn. The system does a good job as cornering felt tight with only a hint of body roll. A nice addition to the technology in the Sport would have been a blind spot warning system, or adaptive cruise control, both of which are becoming more and more standard in new vehicles and provide both added safety and convenience.
With its curves and modern look, the Santa Fe’s design is very sleek overall. Beginning with its HID headlights the SUV brings a design synergy where aerodynamics meets utility in a way that really works. The 19 inch alloy wheels, twin chrome tipped tailpipes and the addition of the rear parking assist sensors round out some of the stand out features of the Santa Fe Sport styling. Hyundai calls the styling of the redesigned model Storm Edge which features “A striking hexagonal grille which flanks the front while smooth flowing sheet metal creates the impression of continuous motion.” While this description may have a healthy dose of marketing speak incorporated into it, the look of the new 2013 model certainly has appeal and turned a few heads in parking lots.
Hyundai has developed a winner in the 2013 Santa Fe which is pitted against competitors such as the Ford Edge, GMC Terrain and the Nissan Murano. The lack of a navigation system and the small LCD screen size in the SE version are the most significant detractors. However, with the refreshed styling, features such as; customizable steering and the panoramic sunroof, along with the responsive turbo charged engine we can easily recommend the SE Sport as a mid-size SUV ideal for families or those needing the additional space. In addition, the improved fuel efficiency over the 2012 model tips the scales bringing the Sport SE into the top 3 spot of this reviewer’s list for mid-size SUVs.