San Jose, Calif. ? On a recent trip to California to visit my sister, Carol, I asked the press fleet manager in that area if I could borrow the new Hyundai Santa Fe Sport to drive while I was there. My motivation in asking for the Santa Fe Sport was twofold. First, we hadn?t reviewed the all-new 2013 model and second was to play car salesperson. My sister?s 10-year-old Santa Fe mileage was doing great and her only service has been for oil changes. She loves it, but I thought she needed a new one with some of the new technologies like a backup camera and navigation. The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport seemed perfect.
The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe comes in two sizes, the five-passenger Sport and the three-row (six- or seven- passenger) Santa Fe. My California car, the Sport, is slightly shorter (8.5-inches), which seemed like a perfect fit for Carol and her Schnauzer, Oliver.
Hyundai recognizes the importance of good design and it?s been a dominant trait of all their new vehicles, most noticeably since the Sonata sedan debuted about four years ago. The Santa Fe certainly exemplifies that idea with great styling inside and outside. I especially like the clean contemporary styling of the Santa Fe interiors, because, let?s face it, that?s what we see the most.
One of the things I always notice about a car is the sound the doors make when they close. A good solid ?thud? like I heard from the Santa Fe, indicates ?quality? to me. The same goes for the way the switches and controls operate and sound. I think they should feel positive, work smoothly and not feel cheap or plastic-like and the Santa Fe passed with flying colors.
Weighing in at about 3,500 pounds for the Sport (down 266 pounds from the previous generation) and 3,900 pounds for the Santa Fe, the two models are some of the lightest in the midlevel crossover grouping, but when driving, I get the impression they are much heavier. The ride is solid, comfortable and quiet. The handling is good, but not in a sport sedan way. There?s a little body lean on the corners and a bit of float on rough roads, but that?s exactly what Crossover Utility Vehicles should be like ? of course, that?s my personal opinion.
The available new safety equipment would be important for Carol?s next car, and the Santa Fe fills the bill on that with Active Corning All-Wheel-Drive, which works with the Vehicles Stability Management System to distribute the power to the tires with the best traction. Living in the northwest, where we get snow and lots of rain, I would prefer AWD, but for my sister who lives near a California beach, I think the standard front-wheel drive would work fine. Two features that I would like to see added to these vehicles, however, is blind spot monitoring to warn when another vehicle gets into that place you can?t easily see with mirrors, and active cruise control that keeps you a safe distance from a vehicle ahead.
All Santa Fe models do come with a hill start assist control, which would be perfect for her because of her steep driveway and streets around her house. It allows the driver to move a foot from the brake to the accelerator, with the brakes holding for a few seconds to keep the vehicle from rolling back. There?s also a Downhill Brake Control system that monitors wheel speed and steering angle to maintain control and speed on steep declines without having to use the brake. The tight 35.76 foot turning radius (36.68 feet for the Santa Fe) is important for agile handling so she probably won?t notice the Sport is about 7 inches longer than her 10 year old model.
The 2013 Hyundai Sport comes in two trim levels, each with its own engine. I think my sister would probably want the Sport with the 2.4-liter engine. The model has a few less standard features, but almost everything I?d like her get is available. For example, it has all the power equipment, air conditioning and all the safety features. Plus the navigation and backup camera are available options.
I?m not a techie, I can barely make calls with my iPhone, but I normally am competent with navigation systems. However, when I tried to show my sister how easy they are to operate, I got flustered and couldn?t get the system to do what I wanted. A few weeks later I had no problem working the exact same system in the Santa Fe Limited. I guess the moral is don?t teach it you haven?t practiced recently ? we get two different cars a week at home, so I have to re-learn how each system operates each week.
The Santa Fe Sport comes in two trim levels, each with its own engine, in the Sport that?s a 190 horsepower 2.4-liter engine. It?s a naturally aspirated, direct injection four-cylinder with a six-speed automatic transmission. It has an EPA fuel economy rating of 21 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined.
My personal preference is the Sport 2.0T. Its engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter GDI (gas direct injection) Theta II engine. I don?t care that it has 264 horsepower, but I care about how it responds when I need to merge into moving traffic, or happen to get stuck behind a slow moving vehicle on a two lane highway. It accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in a quick 6.5 seconds. There?s a little fuel economy penalty for the extra power, but it?s still good for a mid-size CUV – 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. Sometimes four-cylinder engines can be a bit rough or shaky, but both of these were amazingly smooth and quiet at all speeds.
The larger Santa Fe is also available in two trim levels, the GLS and upper level Limited. Both models have the same 3.3-liter direct injection V-6 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. Incidentally, the transmissions in all the Santa Fe?s have Shiftronic? which allows the driver to manually shift up or down using the wheel mounted paddles or by using the console mounted shifter. That?s a big plus for me.
All the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe models have iPod?/USB/auxiliary input jacks and wireless audio streaming. That won?t make any difference to Carol, because I can?t even get her to keep her cell phone on, unless she?s going to make a call. I sure she?d like the SiriusXM Satellite Radio option, however, she loved it in the Santa Fe I was driving when I visited her. Between the Sinatra and Broadway channels we got to listen to lots of good sing-along music when we were in the car.
I know I?d have trouble talking Carol into a new Bluetooth? capable phone, but I think it would be helpful for her to have the Blue Link? Assurance package which automatically calls for help if you happen to crash, or to push one button to call for help in an emergency. You can even use it to get directions to a location without using the navigation system. I doubt that she would be using the voice recognition, address book or audio streaming. She never drives too far from home.
The 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport that I think would be perfect for Carol has a base price of $25,555 including the destination charge. If she added AWD, that?s an extra $1,750. I?d suggest adding the Leather and Premium Package for $2,950. That would give her heated leather seats front and rear and a bunch of other handy upgrades. Of course, I recommend the Technology Package, ($2,700) which adds the navigation, a large panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, the premium audio (think Sinatra) and even sunshades in the rear.
My favorite, the Sport 2.0T, with the AWD is $30,555 or $35,905 with the leather and tech packages.
While I?m thinking about it, I think the three-row Santa Fe Limited would be perfect for the family of one of Carol?s son?s. His wife, two teenage girls and three dogs would fit nicely. The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS has a base price of $29,455. Loaded, the Limited model with AWD and the $2,900 Tech package (the only option package) the price goes to $38,730.
One other great feature is all Hyundai vehicles sold in the U.S. are covered by the Hyundai Assurance program, which includes the 5-year/60,000-mile fully transferable new vehicle warranty, 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and five years of complimentary Roadside Assistance.
I couldn?t get Carol to commit to buying the new Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, but at least she?s thinking about it now.