2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport first drive
Shopping for an affordable CUV? Hyundai just made your decision even harder
Huntsville, Ontario — For a while back in 2009 and 2010, the Hyundai Santa Fe was a regular visitor in the top 10 bestsellers chart. That's no small deal, in a market that lists more than 300 distinct nameplates overall. Of late, the middle child of Hyundai's CUV family has slipped down the charts a little, though if Hyundai is to be believed, that's more a consequence of tight supply than waning competitiveness.
Still, the last Santa Fe full model change was for 2007, so it can't hurt that it has been completely re-created for 2013. At the same time, Hyundai is re-balancing its CUV portfolio. Until now, the mix comprised the compact Tucson and the midsize seven-seater Veracruz bracketing the tween-sized Santa Fe, available in both five- and seven-seater configurations.
For 2013 the Tucson remains as is; there's an all-new five-seater Santa Fe Sport about the same size as the previous model; and a longer-wheelbase seven-seater Santa Fe (minus the "Sport" suffix) will replace the Veracruz. Our subject here is the five-chair Sport that is coming to market as we speak; the stretch version arrives early next year.
Although the Sport rides on the same 2,700 mm wheelbase as its predecessor (the seven-seater's wheelbase will be 200 mm longer), we're told both models sit atop an all-new architecture. To our eyes the 2013 looks bigger than the 2012, though it's only 14 mm longer, and is actually 10 mm narrower and 35 mm lower. It's also a whopping 120-180 kg lighter, depending on the model.
A bigger CUV for the price of smaller ones
Stretching a whisker under 4.7 metres between the bumpers, the 2013 is significantly larger than sales rivals like the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V, and a little larger than the Toyota RAV4, but smaller than GM's Equinox/Terrain twins.
Despite its size, you can't have the 2013 Santa Fe with a V6 engine. As on the Sonata, Hyundai offers a turbocharged 2.0-litre inline-four as the uplevel engine option. The 2.0T is rated at 264 horsepower (down 12 from the previous 3.5-litre V6), and 269 lb.-ft. of torque (up 21) between 1,750 and 3,000 rpm. The base engine is a direct-injection evolution of last year's 2.4-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder, now generating 190 hp (up 15) and 181 lb.-ft. (up 12)
A V6, however, lives on in the seven-passenger Santa Fe — a new 3.3-litre GDI unit worth 290 hp and 252 lb.-ft.) A six-speed automatic transmission is standard on all engines; tow ratings for the four-cylinder engines are 907 kg (2,000 lbs.) and 1,588 kg (3,500 lbs) respectively.
Each engine is available in three different trim grades, with all-wheel drive standard on the upper trims and a ($2,000) optional on the intermediate trims. The new "smart" AWD co-developed with Canada's Magna Corp is a slip-then-grip reactive system with a differential lock; it also incorporates Active Cornering Control, which curbs understeer when accelerating on the turn.