2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: Same name, totally different CUV
By Don Hammonds When you buy your next Santa Fe, the word to remember will be "choice." You will have to decide which Santa Fe to choose, the five passenger Santa Fe Sport, or the three rowed Santa Fe that is replacing the worthy but slow selling Veracruz. We test drove the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport all-wheel-drive 2.0T, which has a completely different look than the model it replaces. It features the popular reverse slant roof style you see on the side profiles of products like the newest Ford Escape, the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and several other car lines. But Hyundai has done a nice job of flavoring its Santa Fe models with a sense of motion and power using some well-placed character lines, an aggressive looking rear end, and fully open wheel wells. In fact, we think the Santa Fe Sport is one of the best lookers in its class,looking far more expensive than it is in reality. Styling aside, the Santa Fe Sport was only the latest evidence of one of Hyundai's long term strong suits: Value. There were some features like standard hill descent control and optional full length panorama glass moon roof that stretches the complete length of the car that you can't even get on some very expensive SUVs and crossovers. Our tester had a base price of $29,450 that included just about everything most people want as standard equipment, including full power accessories, downhill brake control and hill start assist control, alloy wheels, fog lights, electronic stability control with traction control, ABS, a vehicle stability management system, driver selectable steering modes, and Hyundai's nifty Blue Link Telematics system. It's clearly the Blue Link system that 's the star of the equipment list. Hyndai includes it free for a 90 day trial, and given the ease of using it and its comprehensiveness, it will likely draw a large number of buyers just in and of itself, never mind the other compelling reasons to consider Santa Fe Sport. As Hyundai says in a news release, " Blue Link®combines safety, service and infotainment features to simplify owners’ lives and reduce distracted driving. Blue Link brings seamless connectivity directly into the car with technology like voice text messaging, POI web search download, turn-by-turn navigation, and monthly vehicle reporting. Hyundai Blue Link telematics is standard on all Santa Fe models with up to a one-year complimentary trial period. Blue Link can be easily accessed from the buttons on the rearview mirror, the web and via a smart phone. Blue Link is offered in three packages: Assurance, Essentials and Guidance." Here's what Blue Link will offer you depending on which package or packages you get: Blue Link Assurance package: Automatic Collision Notification (ACN) and Assistance, SOS Emergency Assistance, Enhanced Roadside Assistance Blue Link Essentials package: Remote Door Lock/Unlock, Remote Horn and Lights, Panic Notification, Remote Engine Start, Alarm Notification, Quick Tips, Location Sharing, Voice Text Messaging, Automated Diagnostic Trouble Code, Maintenance Alert, Recall Advisor, Web Vehicle Diagnostics, Service Link, Stolen Vehicle Recovery, Stolen Vehicle Slowdown, Vehicle Immobilization, Valet Alert, Geofence, Speed Alert and Curfew Alert. Blue Link Guidance package: Turn-by-Turn Navigation Service, POI Search by advanced voice recognition system, POI Web Search and Download, Daily Route Guidance with Traffic Condition, Traffic, Gas Station Locations and Gas Prices, Eco-Coach Restaurant Ratings, and Weather. The option list was a long one for our test car, including leather and premium equipment package that included leather seats, sliding and reclining second row seats with cargo area releases, heated rear seats, a technology package that had the panoramic sunroof, a navigation system with an eight inch touch screen and a heated steering wheel--a rarity on cars in this particular class of SUV/crossover. The final price of our Santa Fe Sport was $35,925. Power came from a 2.0 liter turbocharged 264 horsepower four cylinder engine that gets 19/24 miles per gallon and 21 miles per gallon in combined driving. The U.S. government estimated that owners of the Santa Fe will pay $1,150 more in fuel costs over the next five years than would be spent on competing models. The annual fuel cost is $2,250 based on 15,000 miles of driving annually on gasoline that costs $3.55 per gallon. Generally, the Santa Fe Sport powertrain provided plenty of power for everyday driving, although there was some surging and hesiitating that surfaced every now and then. Other concerns we had included a few hard plastic surfaces, though any place that hands or arms would touch the car were done well in soft touch materials. The steering felt a touch overassisted, however. The dashboard was well-organized, with legible controls. It happened that a day or two after our Santa Fe Sport arrived, Pittsburgh had a terrible snow and ice storm, which gave us a chance to try out the Santa Fe Sport's inclement weather capabilities. It passed with flying colors. We saw plenty of all wheel drivers on the side of the road or stuck; the snow came pretty fast and furious. But the Santa Fe Sport kept right on going regardless. Kudos also to Hyundai for having a defrosting system that works quickly, a heated steering wheel that provided warmth without burning your hands, and a heater that went into full warmth mode before we even got to the corner of our block. Thus, snowy, icy weather handling was generally very capable and reassuring, with not a touch or smidgen of uncertainty. We credit that to a new Active Cornering Control all wheel drive setup that has active braking along with torque vectoring. We never felt any slippage or sensations that we were about to get stuck underway. The Santa Fe Sport plays in an especially crowded end of the market, but the combination of classy looks, rugged performance in dicey weather, comfortable interior and of course, its 10 year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty make it almost unbeatable. Look for big sales this year for this one.