Monday, October 20, 2014

Can a Hyundai SUV be any good?

The saying goes, if it's too good to be true, it probably is. However, if someone tells you that you can buy a crossover that offers a good amount of luxury, loads of features, a surprising amount of performance, and that you can do it without breaking the bank, you can take that person at their word this time. That is, at least if you are talking about the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe.

     Topping of what has been quite an impressive rise in the rankings for Hyundai, the redesigned 2013 Santa Fe adopts the corporate 'fludic sculpture' design language with certainly favorable results. For the first time, Hyundai has split the Santa Fe into 2 models. The Santa Fe GLS and Limited now feature a somewhat useable third row of seats, increasing the total passenger count to 7. But if you are just starting out in life and don't have a family yet, Hyundai also offers the slightly shorter, five-seat Santa Fe Sport with 2 rows of seats.

     Under the hood, Santa Fe Sport buyers have the choice of either a 2.4 liter 4-cylinder, or a more powerful turbocharged 2.0 liter 4-banger. With the marginal gain in fuel economy, versus a healthy boost in power, the turbo might be the engine of choice. Three-row models come standard with a 3.3 liter V6.

     Standard features on the Sport model include 17-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, cruise control, trip computer, full power, a/c, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cloth seats, split fold rear seats, bluetooth, Hyundai Bluelink, six speaker sound system, and satellite radio.

You can add the Popular Equipment package, which adds auto headlights, fog lights, heated mirrors, roof rack rails, leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, and an 8-way power adjustable drivers seat.

     The Sport 2.0T adds all of those options, along with a more powerful engine, 19-inch wheels, an upgraded gauge cluster, and keyless entry/ignition.

     The Santa Fe GLS is similar in features, but gains a longer wheelbase, a V6 engine, split folding rear seats. 18-inch wheels fog lights, and a sliding feature for the second row bench seat is also added.

     The range topping Limited model includes all of the features found on the 2.0T and GLS, but seating is reduced to a still modest six people, as the second row bench is replaced with 2 captains chairs. Other additions to the list are a power liftgate, windshield wiper de-icers, dual zone auto climate control, leather seating, heated second row seats, a memory function for the driver seat, a power passenger seat, upgraded interior bits, auto dimming rear view mirror, and a couple more goodies.

     Some features are offered as options on trims as part of packages. Most notably, a navigation system is offered on all trims, and is also paired with an 8-inch touchscreen, a rear view camera, and premium sound system. A panoramic sun roof is an option on all but the GLS, and all trims can be had with a heated steering wheel. And last but not least, a blind spot monitoring system can only be had on the Limited.

     Powering the base Santa Fe is a 2.4 liter engine that makes a respectable 190 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. As with all models of the Santa Fe, front wheel drive is standard, and all wheel drive is optional. The only option for a transmission is a six-speed automatic, which shifts smooth, if not a touch on the slow side. Fuel economy estimates are amazing for a vehicle of this size, and is rated at 21 city/ 29 highway for the front wheel drive, and 20 city/26 highway for the AWD 4-cylinder.

     The 2.0T Santa Fe is powered by a 2.0 liter, turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that makes 264 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy drops only slightly to 20 city/27 highway for FWD, and 19 city/24 highway for AWD.

     Larger GLS and Limited models benefit from being powered by a 3.3 liter V6 that thumps out 290 horsepower, and 252 pound-feet of torque. EPA estimates are at 18 city/ 25 highway for FWD, and 18 city/ 24 highway when you have AWD. In performance testing, this AWD equipped tester was able to make a run from a stand-still to 60 in about 7.5 seconds. When properly equipped, the V6 models can tow up to 5,000 lbs, while 2.0T models are limited to 3,500 lbs.

 Standard safety features on all Santa Fe models include things like anti-lock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, front seat active head restraints, as well as hill hold and descent control. Also standard is Hyundai's Blue Link, their version of OnStar that provides emergency telematics services, as well as remote access, emergency assistance, theft recovery, and geo-fencing.

     In government crash testing, the Santa Fe Sport earned the top five star rating for overall crash protection, with five stars for total frontal impact, as well as side impact safety. Top scores have also been awarded by the IIHS. In brake testing, the vehicle came to a stop in about 126 feet.

     Among the numerous competitors in the segement, the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe has one of the nicer cabins in the class. This is mostly thanks to the quality of materials, thoughtful placement of the controls, and overall spacious feeling of the vehicle. As I have come to expect from Hyundai, the cockpit could serve as a benchmark for others in the class. The switch gear is well layed out and easy to read, while the touchscreen menu and functions are as easy as they can get. Build quality overall how ever was spotty in some areas.

The front seats are rather comfortable for the longer drives that you may have to make, and they have enough adjustments for drivers of all sizes. Second row passengers will also find the quarters to their liking, with a wide range of recline angle and plenty of head and leg room for the average sized adult, even with the optional panoramic sunroof equipped. The longer wheelbase Santa Fe further enhances second row comfort with a bit more legroom and a spacious 31.5 inches of legroom for the folks who draw the short straw and have to sit in the third row, which is competitive with others in the class.

     The Santa Fe also has an amazing ability to haul gear, as it boasts a rather healthy 35.4 cubic feet of cargo behind the second row of seats, while the seven passenger model can hold upto 41 cubic feet. Bulky items can be loaded with ease, as the second row seats fold flat to allow 71.5 cubic feet, putting the two row Sport right up there with the likes of the Honda CR-V, and the Toyota Rav 4. The larger Santa Fe can hold up to 80 cubic feet, but if you have all of the seats up, you can only stuff 13.5 of them with the third row seats in place.

     On either side of the driving spectrum, the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe certainly has the ability to impress. As a family shuttle and daily commuter, the ride is suprisingly compliant and the cabin is also rather quiet, even at freeway speeds. On the twistier sections of road, the Santa Fe feels faily light and somewhat sporty, given the class and size of the car. There are a few downsides, however. One of them is that the Santa Fe has a tendency to wander on the highway, the other is that there is poor rearward visibility due to the thick rear pilars.

 With nearly 300 hp available to your disposal, the V6 powered Santa Fe GLS and Limited acelerate with authority and minimize the frequent gear shifts that can sometimes come with the 4-cylinder models. Compared to the Sport, the V6 model makes for a better highway cruiser, and gives the car a slightly quieter cabin.

     Overall, if you are in the market for a crossover, the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe is certainly a vehicle that is worth some research. You could argue that it even warrants a test drive. However, only you the reader can determine if it deserves a spot in your driveway.

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