The new Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport get substantially better gas mileage than the crossovers they replace, but neither leads their respective classes.
The 2013 Santa Fe Sport checks in with official EPA ratings for the base front-drive four-cylinder of 21 miles per gallon city, 29 miles per gallon highway, and 24 miles per gallon combined. Add in all-wheel drive and the numbers slip to 20/26 mpg, or 22 mpg combined.
The turbocharged four earns EPA ratings of 20/27 mpg or 23 mpg combined for front-drive versions, and 19/24 mpg or 21 mpg combined for those with all-wheel drive.
The long-wheelbase Santa Fe and its 3.3-liter V-6 are rated at 18/25 mpg, or 21 mpg combined, in front-drive editions; all-wheel drive lowers those figures to 18/24 mpg, or 20 mpg combined.
For comparison, the slightly smaller 2012 Honda CR-V gets 23/31 mpg, and 26 mpg combined. Hyundai doesn't name the Honda a direct competitor, but it's bound to be compared, given the Santa Fe's pricing. With all-wheel drive, the CR-V is rated at 22/30 mpg or 25 mpg combined--a bit better than the Santa Fe Sport, with a bit less interior space. Ford's new Escape also earns a 33-mpg highway rating with its turbocharged 1.6-liter four.
Among slightly larger five-seaters, it's a clearer picture. A Toyota Venza, for example, is rated at 20/26 mpg or 23 mpg combined with the four-cylinder/front-drive combination, or 20/26 mpg and 22 mpg combined with all-wheel drive.
A three-row Ford Explorer four-cylinder, meanwhile, is pegged at 20/28 mpg or 23 mpg combined; with a V-6 it's less efficient than the Santa Fe, at 17/24 mpg, or 20 mpg combined in front-drive form. A front-drive Pilot's EPA ratings are identical to the Hyundai's; the Nissan Pathfinder bests it at 20/26 mpg, or 22 mpg combined.
Hyundai hasn't suggested the Santa Fe Sport will adopt the hybrid technology found on its Sonata sedan, but it says it has investigated stop-start technology, and the crossover does have an Active Eco mode that slows out shifts and throttle for slightly less fuel use in some situations.
NOTE: 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, and figures indicated here have been updated to reflect retesting. Owners can register with Hyundai to receive reimbursement for the gas consumed above and beyond expected levels; more details are found at HyundaiMPGInfo.com.