Auto Review: Santa Fe has grown

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Aug. 22, 2013
2013 Sante Fe - Contributed Photo

One of the more interesting aspects of the car world is when you experience a vehicle when it was initially launched into the market, and later drive an all-new version to see how the machine has changed over the years. This week, we examine such evolution with Hyundai’s new Santa Fe. This competitive crossover SUV first appeared for the 2001 model year, and it was not only Hyundai’s first entry into the SUV genre, but  it became popular right away. Hyundai has decided to expand the brand in that there are now two Santa Fe models; the five-passenger Santa Fe Sport released last year and the longer-wheelbase Santa Fe that has a third row to increase occupancy to up to seven individuals.

The new Santa Fe rides on a 110.2-inch wheelbase, as opposed to the Santa Fe Sport’s 106.3-inch chassis. This not only allows for increased interior room, but the ride is well-isolated from the road and stability is excellent. The lone engine is 3.3-liter “Lambda” V6, with Direct Injection and 290 horsepower. Designed for both smooth power delivery and decent fuel economy, this is a very satisfying engine that can haul the big vehicle and its contents easily, with 60 mph arriving in an average of 7.67 seconds. This engine is paired with a six-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission, and you have a choice of Front-Wheel or All-Wheel Drive. In the case of the latter (which our tester possessed), it includes an Active Cornering System, which according to Hyundai “cooperatively controls torque and braking in conjunction with the Vehicle Stability Management System. This system can anticipate traction requirements and deliver additional stability through braking via continuous monitoring of driving conditions compared with other AWD systems, which can only react to conditions after they occur.” This system also has a lock button to navigate bogs and deep snow at low speeds when all four wheels need to stay engaged. This is ultimately a very versatile powertrain that excels in the role of hauling around your family and/or other payloads in comfort, in pretty much any weather. There’s also a fun-to-drive quotient thanks to Driver Selectable Steering that has Comfort, Normal and Sport modes.

As much as the all-weather capability is a selling point for SUVs, another critical factor is space utilization. Here the Santa Fe is a fine competitor in a very versatile class of vehicles, for the seating configuration on our tester featured 2+2+2 seating with two rows of captains chairs and a fold-down third row that easily slides into the floor (in 50/50 sections) when an increase in cargo space is required. An optional panoramic roof is basically an enormous glass ceiling, which added further to a feeling of spaciousness. The driver’s instrument and control cluster is typical Hyundai fare, which is to say clear, logical and comfortable to use.

The 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD is EPA rated 18 MPG city/24 highway and has a base price of $34,850. With options, our sticker came to $38,730.

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