When you think of Hyundai, a high-end luxury vehicle usually doesn’t come to mind, but that is all about to change with the debut of the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe. The Santa Fe is known for being a reliable and family friendly cross over vehicle. However, with the 2013 redesign it is looking more and more like a full-fledged luxury SUV, verses a CUV.
The Santa Fe sports a fluidic sculpture design that not only accentuates the look of the car but also provides for an even more spacious and roomy interior. The Santa Fe also sports LED touches on its headlamps, an innovative Blue Link connectivity system, four cylinder engine, seating for 5 comfortably (backseats recline and adjust – allowing those taller friends to sit comfortably without cramping), YES fabric that repels stains from coffee, and enough trunk space for large loads of Costco shopping or luggage for a road trip. The interiors are lush with comfortable heated seats for long trips, and options like the 12-speaker Infinity surround system, back-up camera, and panoramic sunroof just add to the luxury feeling of the Santa Fe.
Most auto manufacturers would cringe at taking a brand new vehicle out for a test run 8,000 ft up from sea level. But not Huyndai, they invited us to put the 2013 Santa Fe CUV through its paces in Park City, Utah. The Santa Fe is Hyundai’s attempt at securing that demographic of young families or adventurers who want to push their car to its limits, while still being the ideal vehicle to take on a trip to Ikea. So while the Santa Fe may look like it it could top out at close to 45k when you add in all the bells and whistles, the vehicle actually rests nicely when fully loaded at around the mid-30k price range.
The Santa Fe Sport (which we tested) will probably not be taken off road too often, but if you dare to push its limits – it will deliver big on all fronts. Its four cylinder engine with 264 horsepower delivered the goods up steep hills and roundabouts on roads covered with rocks, pebbles, and sand. There was a one moment where we did get ahead of ourselves on a turn and the tires felt like they were turning into a bit of spin, but we quickly recovered and continued our off-road escapades. At elevations upwards of 9,000 ft, the Santa Fe Sport didn’t break a sweat, and only during some brief moments did we feel the car struggle to shift gears or hesitate.
While driving through mountainous regions was fun, mixed city and highway driving was just as solid and steady. The 12 speaker Infinity was a great compliment for a long drive pumping out balanced sound with a warm bass and pitch perfect highs. That said, Hyundai’s Blue Link connectivity system isn’t as user friendly as I would have liked it to be. However, icons are big and clear, but navigating through the system took several tries until we figured it out. And while the NAV along with its 8″ touch screen comes standard, the service is only available for a limited trial, and then you will have to pay a fee to continue using the system fully.
We also didn’t care for the amount of blind spots we encountered with the Santa Fe Sport. It was nearly impossible to see anyone out the back right passenger’s window. While many like to drive using only mirrors, I’m an advocate of actually turning your head, and we found the design of the car creates blind spots that no mirror or even turning our heads can see. This same issue came from drivers at heights of 5′ 4″ and 6′ 1″. I would have liked to have seen side-view mirrors taking blind spots into consideration as many newer vehicles do now. Obviously, this can be easily rectified with a trip to Pep Boys.
The odometer on the Sante Fe is a mix of analog and digital which lets you view trip miles as well as the gas gauge. One interesting design choice was that Hyundai decided to design the dashboard odometer with privacy. Basically, how fast you go is between you and your car. Those in the passenger seat won’t be able to see how fast or slow you are going. Cutting out those annoying “watch your speed!” or ” you are going too slow!” moments. This level of intimacy between you and machine is a unique design first from Hyundai, and certainly those who love putting some peddle to the metal without being judged will appreciate it.
The Santa Fe Sport has some stiff competition in the CUV marketplace. Comparable vehicles like the Kia Sorento, Toyota Venza, and Ford Edge come to mind . Then there is the Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, and Ford Explorer when comparing the non-sport Santa Fe. While the competition is certainly impressive, the Santa Fe in looks and performance might just leave them eating its dust. The Santa Fe breaks out of the mold offering up standard features like illuminated vanity mirrors, color options of the interior and exterior, Powertrain warranties surpassing its competition, Active ECO system, and more.
It’s true, the gas mileage could be better, but we did manage to get to the half way mark on our gas tanks after traveling 100 miles of city, highway, and off road regions. However, the solid design, comfy interior, bouncy suspension and the fact that it could withstand high elevations on its inaugural run is certainly a feat. While Hyundai’s competitors offer up much of the same, the Santa Fe delivers something very different and we welcome it. The Santa Fe Sport is available now. The long-wheelbase version of the Santa Fe with three rows of seats and seating for upwards of 7 passengers will debut later this year.