Crossovers continue to be a popular segment for automakers to explore, and everyone is trying to achieve the most bang for the buck, providing ample space for families and upscale features without breaking the bank.
One redesigned vehicle that shares this goal with its competitors in the midsize crossover category is the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe, which I recently tested. I'm back with a full report on how it measured up.
Built on a unibody design, the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe features a deceptively sharp look that from a distance appears quite luxurious and above its sticker price.
You get an impressive amount of space inside, as compared to other vehicles in this segment, and can comfortably seat six or seven people, depending on configuration. Child seats are also easy to connect.
Wheel sizes start at 18 inches, but if you upgrade to higher trim levels, like the Santa Fe Limited I was testing, you get 19-inch wheels.
If I had to describe the interior, I would say it is well-designed. Everything is where it should be and looks very nice. My Limited model had six bucket seats, but if you go with the base model, you can choose the bench in the center row to reach a capacity of seven. Cloth seats come standard on base model (GLS), but Limited comes with leather.
The back seat was a little tight in terms of leg room, but that's not a problem unique to this crossover. You can fold down the back row of seats if you want more room for storage, so this is a versatile machine.
Controls on the steering wheel are pretty easy to use, but I didn't like the feel and placement of them as much as some of the alternatives out there.
My Santa Fe Limited test vehicle had a 3.3-liter V6 engine, which produced 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. This is the only engine offered, regardless of the trim level you choose.
Transmission is a 6-speed automatic transmission; there are no manual options.
I enjoyed my time driving the Santa Fe. It's a big car, so it's not the quickest to launch from a stop. But it's got some power and once you're going the motor proves impressive. Handling is also impressive, and it's also a quiet ride with limited road noise.
You can choose between front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
I got about 21 miles per gallon while driving the Hyundai Santa Fe. This was in line with the official numbers, which were 18 city, 25 highway and 21 combined. An Active ECO system on the Santa Fe can help you out in this area, by modifying engine and transmission controls for improved fuel economy.
My test vehicle included the optional Tech Package, which cost $2,900 and features:Panoramic sunroof, navigation system with 8-inch touchscreen (which worked well, but occasionally sent me out of my way for reasons I didn't understand ), a 12-speaker Infinity Logic 7 Surround Sound Audio 550-watt system, HD radio technology, a heated steering wheel and manual rearside window sunshades (nice for keeping sun out of your or the kids' eyes). All Santa Fe models come with a 4.3 inch touchscreen, and a rearview camera — a nice touch.
BlueLink is Hyundai's cloud-based communications system and comes with the Santa Fe. There are various levels of Bluelink, starting with the free Assurance package -- which includes crash notification; vehicle reports and maintenance notes.
If you choose to upgrade to the Essentials package, you'll add remote vehicle start and all the features on the BlueLink app, including unlocking your car, honking or flashing lights via your phone.
The top package offered is the Guidance package, which gives you turn-by-turn navigation service via BlueLink, POI (points of interest) searches using voice recognition and downloading directions to your car. (For example, you can say “Navigation”, then the name of a place, and BlueLink will search online and download address to your navigation screen and give directions.
Voice controls can also be used to make phone calls via Bluetooth, among other things.
The following safety features are standard on the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe: Vehicle stability management, Electronic Stability Control with traction control, ABS with brake assist (helps you apply maximum braking force in emergency situation), downhill brake control and hillside assist control, tire pressure monitoring system, and front seat belt pre-tensioners. With safety near the top of everyone's must list when buying a car, the Santa Fe does pretty well in this category. You don't get more advanced safety features like blind spot monitoring, but that is likely to arrive on the 2014 model of the Santa Fe when it is released.
MUSIC, SOUND, PORTS
The standard stereo setup is a 6-speaker system on the base model, but you can upgrade to 10-speaker stereo, or the 12-speaker in the tech package. Bluetooth connectivity allows you to listen to streamed music from online, and a USB/iPod jack comes standard on the Santa Fe.
My test Santa Fe Limited cost $33,100 as a base price. Add in the tech package and handling charge and it ended up just a hair below $37,000, near the top price point since the only option it lacked was all-wheel drive.
The base version of the Santa Fe with front-wheel drive has a starting price of $28,600; and you can get all-wheel-drive for a hair over $30K.
Warranties are impressive on the Santa Fe, including 100K miles on powertrain.
The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe is aiming at the same target market as other crossovers -- families. It's spacious, versatile and not overly high in price considering the amounts some vehicles in this class can cost. You get luxury touches on it like standard push-button start, too.
Competition is pretty fierce in the crossover market, but the Hyundai Santa Fe isn't looking to back down from any challenges it might face. The vehicle won't be atop everyone's list, due to the wealth of quality crossover offerings available — both foreign and domestic — but there's enough features to like on the Santa Fe that it should hold its own in this battle for recognition and sales.