2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

PARK CITY, Utah — Suppose you were Hyundai Motor America and you wanted to hold a media ride and drive to show off your all-new, third-generation Santa Fe family CUV. Where would be the most logical place to hold it? That’s’ right, Park City, Utah, home of the 2002 Winter Olympics. The Olympics are all about activity and so is the new Santa Fe. And just like the Olympics have two versions (winter and summer), so, too, does the 2013 Santa Fe.

It comes as a five-passenger, two row vehicle named the Santa Fe Sport, and a three-row, six-or seven-passenger version called the Santa Fe. The longer wheelbase version replaces the discontinued Veracruz, introduced in 2006 as a 2007 model.

Santa Fe is listed as a mid-size crossover utility vehicle, but you’d never know it just basing it on the amount of cargo that can be accommodated. The Sport has 71.5 cubic feet of capacity behind the front seats while the Santa Fe contains 80 cubic feet.

The 2013 Santa Fe — which competes against such popular models as Toyota RAV4, Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Edge and Nissan Murano — offers three engine selections. The Sport can be ordered with a 2.4-liter GDI DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder rated at 190 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. The other that we found to be an exemplary performer even at altitudes approaching 8,500 feet is the 2.0-liter turbo GDI DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder that pumps out 264 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque.

While many engines would be huffing and puffing at such an altitude the turbo hummed right along, passing vehicles that were gasping for air. Even at a more user-friendly elevation it had more than enough power to make driving enthusiasts happy.

The third engine is used in the long-wheelbase Santa Fe; a 3.3-liter GDI DOHC 24-valve V6 that puts out 294 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque.

All three engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC manual control. Additionally, all models have an Active ECO System that modifies engine and transmission control to smooth out throttle response and increase real-world fuel economy.

Speaking of fuel economy the new Santa Fe throws out some impressive numbers: City/Highway/Combined mileage for the FWD 2.4L is 22 mpg/33 mpg/26 mpg and 21/28/23 for AWD. The 2.0L achieves 21/31/25 FWD and 20/27/22 for AWD. The 3.3L gets 26/19/22 for the FWD but figures for AWD are yet to be determined.

The Santa Fe's has exceptionally-responsive steering with an all-new Driver Selectable Steering Mode that has three operating settings: Comfort, Normal and Sport.

The vehicle is the latest incarnation of what Hyundai refers to as “Fluidic Sculpture,” a process that gives the illusion of constant motion. LED headlight accents, a low stance, rising beltline, roof spoiler, wraparound taillights and the familial hexagonal grille are cues that scream out, “Hey! I’m a Hyundai.”

The interior is not only where you’ll spend the majority of your time, but a place you’ll WANT to spend most of your time. The instrument cluster housings and bright IP lighting is beautiful and one of the more driver-friendly displays in the industry. There’s plenty of front-seat storage space with a large center console, intuitive HVAC center stack, a choice of audio systems and an available third-generation navigation system with an 8-inch touch screen and rearview camera.

Leather seating surfaces rival those of European luxury vehicles and the seats hold their occupants firmly and comfortably.

There is a large selection of optional equipment and technology packages.

Safety abounds with such features as traction control system, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, energy-absorbing steering column, bodyside reinforcements, front and rear crumple zones and a host of other goodies.

One thing that we would like to have seen standard on all Santa Fe models and truth-be-told, every car and truck manufactured in the world is a blind spot information system. It will be available on the long wheelbase model but not the Sport. Hyundai has made us happy by featuring Hillstart Assist Control and Downhill Brake Control, however. Both of these technologies are excellent and potentially life-saving and are certainly a leg-up on crash avoidance.

All Hyundai vehicles are covered by the company’s Hyundai Assurance program that includes a 5-year/60,000-mile fully transferable new vehicle warranty, 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and five years of complimentary Roadside Assistance.

Considering its array of content the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe has a very decent MSRP. Base price for the FWD 2.4L Sport is $24,450 and range up to $29,450 for the Sport 2.0T AWD. Price for the Santa Fe with long wheelbase will be set closer to its introduction scheduled for January of 2013.

— Al Vinikour and Jim Meachen