Good-looking crossover/SUV loaded with tech goodies
First, it’s a good-looking reskin with an edgier look and Hyundai continues to refine its vehicles to make them more upscale to fill the demands of the U.S. marketplace. So this white test ute was awash in technical doodads and electronic wizardry, sadly pushing it toward the upper end of what many folks would expect to pay for a useful mid-size ute. The Santa Fe Sport with all-wheel-drive and Hyundai’s 2.0-liter I4 with a turbo lists at $29,450. That’s still in the ballpark. But this one ladled on two pricy premium and technology packages to push the tester up to $35,925. That’s $36 grand in my book.
We can argue price and value and all that, but first, let’s tell you what you get.
The 2.0-liter I4 comes with direct injection and a turbocharger to give you more power when you need it, but allow the four-cylinder to run at lower power when you’re just running errands. That means you get 264 horsepower as you slap the gas pedal for entering a highway, but more modest power around town.
Theory says you’ll save fuel this way, and Hyundai has made a major marketing push of touting its lineup’s fuel economy. It only offers four-cylinder engines in most of its vehicles now, to help drive that home, although a longer V6-powered Santa Fe is in the offing.
As it is, the turbo is rated at 19 mpg city and 24 highway. I got 17.7 mpg in about 70% city driving and 18.6 in about an even mix of city and highway miles and with the ECO mode on about half the time.
The standard engine on the base Sport is a 2.4-liter I4 that creates 190 horses and in front-drive form starts at $24,450. An AWD model with the same engine starts at $26,200. The 2.4-liter engine is rated 21 mpg city and 29 highway in front-drive mode and 20 mpg city and 24 highway with AWD.
In practical terms, I found the turbo a bit disappointing. It’s slow to kick in and often bogs and hesitates after turning a corner and starting to accelerate. When I mashed the accelerator the power was there, but there was a hiccup as it waited for the turbo to engage. Hyundai says it’s strong enough to pull up to 3,500 lbs. of trailer though.
While the Santa Fe comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic so you can manually shift if you want, there is some dawdling in the gear shifts. I suspect it’s programmed to hold the lower gears longer to give the car more acceleration, but sometimes it just seems slow and a bit abrupt.
Ride also is choppy on rough roads, of which we have many. You feel more jiggle inside the Santa Fe than in some other mid-size utes, despite the truck having 19-inch tires and independent suspension all around.
Hyundai offers three steering modes, activated via a button on the steering wheel hub. The Comfort setting is way easy and a little too soft, while Normal is quite reasonable as far as effort and road feel. I preferred this level (maybe because I’m Normal?) because it was a good midpoint. The ute turned into corners well and I felt decent feedback via the wheel. The Sport mode firms the steering feel up a lot, making the turning effort much heavier. It felt too heavy for Santa Fe, creating a disconnected or false road feel.
The AWD works well and allows you to lock it on, instead of letting sensors decide if and when it’s needed, when weather turns challenging. I did it both ways and had plenty of grip in sloppy, sloppy weather that was bad enough to knock power out at my suburban home.
Santa Fe’s interior is another winner by Hyundai, with a well laid out dash, good seating and as mentioned earlier, a load of tech goodies.
The test ute had gray perforated leather seats and gray and black door inserts along with a black dash. There also are a couple small carbon fiber look trim pieces and matte gray/silver trim on the doors along with matte black console and center stack trim. Overall it looks high-tech.
The manual tilt/telescope wheel is wrapped in leather and has a variety of buttons for cruise, phone, radio and trip computer on the hub. There’s also a BlueLink system in the ute, which links up navigation, e-messaging and vehicle information. It’s accessible via a smart phone, the way most folks will use this.
Hyundai’s main gauges are easy to see and read, with blue rings in the center and all dash buttons glow blue at night, which is pleasant and easy on the eyes. All controls are easy to see and reach and there’s push-button start. The navigation screen is a big 8-incher, part of the $2,900 tech package.
That package also includes a giant panoramic sunroof, 12-speaker Infinity Logic7 stereo with 550 watts, XM radio with NavTraffic so you can see where slowdowns are ahead. Manual side window sunshades are part of the package too, but most importantly (in our climate) is the heated steering wheel. This fires up in about a minute and if you’ve started the car and scrapped the windows it’s warm when you get back inside. Ahhh!The front seats also are heated, as are the rear seats, thanks to the leather and premium package $2,450) that gives Santa Fe its comfortable leather seats. These are mildly contoured on the bottom, so easy to slide in and out of, but have more supportive contouring on the seat backs. Both the driver’s and passenger’s side seats are powered here too. The option package also provides a second row seat that slides and will recline.
Aiding safety is a rearview camera, although you’ll need to clean off the lens in back when the weather gets sloppy, or your view will be obscured.
All told, the interior is plenty roomy for four or five average sized adults and there’s a lot of storage room behind the rear seat, even before it’s moved or lowered.
I only have one interior complaint and that’s the annoying tune that the ute plays every time you get in and every time you turn off the ignition. It reminds me of the mind-numbing ditty our washer and dryer make when they finish a load. It’s a small thing, but a deal breaker for me if it can’t be turned off!
I’ll be curious to try the non-turbo model to gauge its power, but I’d save my money and go with a lower level model if I’m looking for economy, which is what Hyundai has built its reputation around. This may be the beginning of the Toyotafication of Hyundai.
FAST stats: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T
Hits: Good looking and good handling (3 effort levels) mid-size SUV with ECO mode. Well equipped with backup camera, heated seats, heated wheel. Well labeled buttons that glow blue at night, plus rear hatch wiper.
Misses: Choppy ride, turbo lag that feels like a drag sometimes, slow shifts at times too. Annoying tune plays every time you start or turn off the vehicle, sounding like a washer/dryer chime.
Made in: West Point, Ga.
Engine: 2.0-liter DI 4-cyl. w/turbo, 264 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic w/Shiftronic
Weight: 3,706 lbs.
Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Cargo: 35.0 cu.ft.
Tow: 3,500 lbs. (max.)
Base Price: $29,450
Dealer’s Price: $27,948
Leather & Premium Package (side mirror w/turn signals, leather seating surfaces, power front passenger seat, sliding & reclining second row seats, heated rear seats, dual auto. temp. controls, 4.3-inch color audio display, rearview camera, auto-dimming rearview mirror w/HomeLink & compass, premium door sill plates), $2,450
Technology Package (panoramic sunroof, navigation system, 8-in. screen, XM NavTraffic, 12-speaker Infinity Logic 7 audio system, manual side window shades), $2,900
Carpeted floor mats, $100
Cargo net, $50
Cargo cover, $150
Test vehicle: $35,925
Sources: Hyundai, www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Courtesy of Hyundai