New & Used Hyundai Santa Fe: In Depth
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The Hyundai Santa Fe is offered as either a full or mid-size “sport” crossover. The standard Santa Fe can seat up to seven passengers, whereas the Sport can only seat five. Both models compete with the Chevrolet Equinox and the Honda CR-V to the Ford Explorer and GMC Acadia.
These are essentially the same two vehicles, but on a different wheelbase and with different powertrains. The smaller, two-row Santa Fe Sport competes against cars like the Ford Edge and Toyota Venza, and even downward to larger compacts like the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4.
The newest 2013 Santa Fe Sport is now being produced at an assembly plant in Georgia, while the long-wheelbase Santa Fe is due to arrive at dealerships later in the model year (beginning February 2013), from South Korea. The pair are built from a new architecture that focuses on more engaging styling, quieter interiors, and better fuel economy.
The third-generation styling adopts some of the cues of the Sonata and Elantra, but it's toned down significantly, with a new maturity to the look both inside and out. It's especially true for the three-row model, which competes against vehicles with more traditional designs.
The shorter Sport comes only with four-cylinder engines, while the three-row Santa Fe gets a 3.3-liter V-6 with 293 horsepower. The base 2.4-liter makes 190 hp; a turbo 2.0-liter four makes 264 hp. All engines are mated to a six-speed automatic with a manual shift mode and front-wheel drive, with an option for all-wheel drive. Gas mileage rises on the Sport to as high as 29 miles per gallon highway, thanks to the newer, more efficient engines and other additions like electric power steering.
Like the Chevy Equinox, the Santa Fe Sport puts more flexibility in its interior package with an available sliding second-row seat. The seat also folds on a three-way 40/20/40 split, for toting longer objects while preserving four seating positions. There's even some storage space below the cargo floor--under the 35.4 cubic feet of storage space.
For about $25,000, the Sport includes standard Bluetooth, but a rearview camera is an option--and not on the base model. An audio system with satellite radio and a USB port is also standard. Options include a well-executed navigation system, a panoramic sunroof, and Infinity audio.
The 2013 Santa Fe Sport is one of a set of vehicles found to have overstated fuel-economy numbers. Hyundai's initial estimates of as much as 33 mpg highway for the new ute have been lowered, after tests run by the EPA. Owners can register with Hyundai to receive reimbursement for the gas consumed above and beyond expected levels; more details are found at HyundaiMPGInfo.com.
On its debut in 2001, the Santa Fe was powered by either a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine available with a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission, or a 2.7-liter V-6 paired only with the automatic. Front-wheel drive was standard, though all-wheel drive was available as an option. A 3.5-liter V-6 engine option was added to the lineup in 2003, and that first Santa Fe had only minor styling changes through the 2006 model year. Three trim levels were available.
The Santa Fe's second generation launched in 2007 with a revised lineup of engines: a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, a 2.7-liter V-6, and a 3.3-liter V-6. The 2.7-liter was the only model available with a manual transmission; all others were paired with a four- or five-speed automatic. For 2010, a 175-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder was re-introduced to the lineup, along with a 276-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and a new six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic. That same year, however, a small third-row seat was dropped and the last three years of Santa Fe were only offered with two rows.
The 2007-2012 Santa Fe again offered three trim levels: GLS, SE, and Limited. The GLS combined the four-cylinder engine with a standard six-speed manual, with an automatic available as an option. The SE got only the 3.5-liter V-6 and the automatic; the Limited could be ordered with either engine, but only the automatic transmission. Any model with an automatic could have all-wheel drive added optionally as well.
This second Santa Fe was sold much like other recent Hyundai vehicles--in relatively few build combinations, and with a strong list of standard features. Alloy wheels were standard in all models, as were power windows and locks, cruise control, a USB port, and keyless entry. Top Limited models got a standard power sunroof and exterior chrome accents, plus heated front seats, 605-watt Infinity surround sound, and dual-zone automatic climate control. An optional navigation system included a rearview camera system and real-time traffic, and XM satellite radio became available.
The first two generations of Santa Fes were strong safety performers, with the IIHS Top Safety Pick nod renewed for the 2012 model year. The new 2013 Santa Fe has done even better, again with the Top Safety Pick but also this time earning top five-star ratings (overall, and in frontal and side categories) from the federal government.
The Santa Fe lands at a base price of $29,195 for the base front-wheel-drive Santa Fe GLS. That places its entry price lower than the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander, or Honda Pilot--also less than the base front-wheel-drive Chevrolet Traverse or Ford Flex.