Susan Frissell

Offered in two different configurations, the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe has come a long way since its introduction. Increased in size and category, the Santa Fe will take over where the Veracruz left off. In a longer version; perhaps a less distinctive variation, the seven-seat SUV might be considered by those folks yearning for the old minivan. The larger Santa Fe is 8.5-inches longer than the Sport version.

On the other hand, the five-seat, more compact Santa Fe competes with the likes of Toyota RAV4, Toyota Highlander, Honda CR-V, Toyota Venza and Ford Edge. . This mid-size ‘Sport’ version is built in Georgia, while the larger model is imported from Korea. The two models compete with a generous offering of crossovers, ranging from compact vehicles. Consumers may be hard-pressed to make that final decision when doing a comparative volley through the dealerships.  

For 2013, Santa Fe tweaks its styling, offers a little better performance and a more flexible interior. The updated two-tone interior creates a more sophisticated crossover. Also new for 2013 are sharper edges and tight creases which rap around the vehicle creating a new design idea. Hyundai’s hexagonal grille shows off more here than in other Hyundai vehicles, showing off the redone headlamps and foglamps. As with many new SUV’s of late, the D-pillar’s design resembles not only the Ford Escape but also the CR-V. Seems as though all today are copying Hyundai, when in the past Lexus design was the benchmark

The seven-passenger Santa Fe ($29,000) also gets some updates in the interior, with two-tone seating/dash. Maybe less distinctive, it’s an upgrade that was due. This writer would choose the glossy trim over the faux wood, however. Too retro for our taste.  

Available in several iterations, one can opt for a Santa Fe, 2.4-liter, 4-door FWD, 2.4-liter, 4-door, AWD, 2.0-liter turbo 4-door FWD and 2.0-liter turbo AWD.

Although crossovers aren’t necessarily the roomiest of SUV’s, they serve the intended purpose, which is to fit more stuff in them than in a sedan; for instance. Utility, of course, is also a plus. For 2013, the Santa Fe seating has clearly been updated, offering a more solid and comfortable seat.  The second row of seating now slides on a 5.2-inch track for better flexibility. It also reclines and folds on a 40/20/40 split, making way for longer objects. Storage space below the cargo floor has been increased. For three-row models, there is a choice between the 40/20/40 layout or a six-passenger layout with captain’s chairs (minivan?). Soil-resistant upholstery is standard, and a great idea.

At $26,000, the Santa Fe Sport is equipped with either the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, with 190 horsepower, or the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, at 264 horsepower. The three-row model is powered by a 3.3-liter V-6 (290 horsepower), the engine in the Azera. All three engines feature direct-injection technology and six-speed automatic transmissions. Front- and all-wheel drive are available with both engines.

The ride in the Santa Fe has been refined, is more quiet and accommodating. One notices a slight difference between the Kia Sorento and the Santa Fe, essentially the same vehicle, yet the Kia seems smoother. Rear seating is very generous, and can accommodate good size adults.

Safety equipment is the usual: airbags, including a driver knee airbag, stability control, and optional all-wheel drive. Options include blind-spot monitors and parking sensors.

Options on our Santa Fe included Leather and Navigation Package ($4,100) with side mirror-mounted turn signal indicators, heated steering wheel, leather seating surfaces w/heated 2nd row seats, power front passenger seat, navigation system w/8-inch touchscreen, dimension premium audio, HD radio technology, Dual Automatic temperature control with cleanair ionizer, rearview camera, auto diming rearview mirror with HomeLink and compass. The only other option included premium door sill plates ($135).

Standard equipment includes the usual, as well: power windows/mirrors/locks, air conditioning, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, steering wheel audio/phone controls, cruise, and 17-inch wheels. The standard audio system is an AM/FM/CD player with satellite radio, USB and auxiliary ports, Bluetooth and audio streaming   with six speakers.

The Santa Fe duo also gets standard Hyundai’s BlueLink telematics system. This OnStar-like system incorporates turn-by-turn navigation and Bluetooth streaming for apps such as Pandora, and works in conjunction with your smartphone   and an owner website to set up functions like speed limits and geofencing–setting up limits on where the car can be driven. A BlueLink app for the iPhone will be available, giving consumers the ability to lock and unlock and to start the Santa Fe by remote, too.

We noticed a rough engine noise and feel when starting up on a cold morning. The engine evened out after driving for 15 minutes. The low tire pressure monitor came on in day four. We also felt somewhat blind-sided when navigating curbs and corners on the driver’s side. The Santa Fe is tall and the outside mirrors so large, the low curbs are easily blocked.

Even with a $4,100 option which includes the nav system, at $30,000 MSRP, the Santa Fe is a bargain.

MSRP: $30,100; total vehicle price $35,180; destination $845

Engine: 3.3-liter Gasoline Direct Injection, V6, 290 hp., 252 lb.ft. torque

Transmission: six-speed automatic with SHIFTRONIC, 5 passenger, Active On-Demand AWD system with AWD lock

Wheelbase: 106.3 in.

Length: 184.6 in.

Width: 74.0 in.

Height: 66.1 in.

Tires: P235/60R18

Wheels: 18-inch alloy

EPA fuel economy: 19/25 mpg

Warranty: 5 yr./60,000-mile New Vehicle; 10-yr./100,000-mile Powertrain; 7-yr./unlimited-mile Anti-perforation; 5 yr./unlimited-mile roadside assistance.