The Extra Mile: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD
Base Price: $29,450
Price As tested: $35,925
This week, we're driving the pride of West Point, Georgia, assembly workers, namely the all-new 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD Turbo. This third generation Crossover/SUV also comes with an engine and transmission that are built totally in America, making Santa Fe a 100-percent "USA grade" unit assembled by an American workforce.
Hyundai has come a long way from its troubled start here in the states, where engine and quality woes were common. Both Hyundai and corporate twin Kia are now building some of the better and safer cars on the road, with emphasis on enhanced structural layout and mechanical competence via the organization's forward looking engineering theory.
Our Santa Fe Sport Turbo features a 264-horsepower 2-liter 4-cylinder that develops 269 lb. ft. of torque and spirited acceleration. Fuel mileage is good, with 21 city and 31 highway for front drive versions and 20 and 27 for our AWD model. The base model, which starts at $24,450, utilizes a 2.4-liter inline four that puts out 190-horses and delivers 22 city and 33 highway.
Power is transferred via a finely built six-speed automatic, and there's even an Eco button that calibrates the transmission shifting to be more fuel mileage friendly. On the road, Santa Fe is reserved and comfortable on the freeways, although I wouldn't call it a great handler when pushed in corners. The Sport FE Turbo relies on 19-inch tires on lightweight alloys for traction while an active on-demand AWD system guarantees the best of traction during inclement whether. The safety list is expansive, as most every item is included in the base price from four wheel disc brakes to traction control.
Built on the same wheelbase as the previous generation, the new Sport features a larger front grill, a revamped interior that offers more legroom front and rear than a Lexus RX350 and new styling at the sides and rear that add to Santa Fe's aesthetic charm. Although the design is not too far removed from its award winning second generation, the new Sport is more sculptured and spherical than last year and features an extremely quiet interior thanks to Hyundai's use of extra insulation throughout.
Notable is a steering system that allows the driver to select from Normal, Sport or Comfort settings. Hyundai says that the firmness in the wheel will vary by going from Sport to Comfort modes, but I couldn't really feel much of a difference regardless.
I really like the heated steering wheel, which comes as part of a $2,900 technology package that includes a panoramic sunroof, eight-inch touch screen Navigation, 12-speaker 550-watt Infiniti sound system and manual pull down rear window shades. A $2,450 Leather & Premium packages adds leather seating, power front passenger seat, sliding and reclining second row seats, heated rear seats, dual climate control, rearview safety camera and a 4.3 inch color display if you don't add the technology package.
These are expensive options, and consumers who don't need full packages can check with their Hyundai dealer for options less expensive. Some of these notables, like the heated steering wheel, should be standard on the top line model.
Hyundai's Santa Fe Sport looks to be a winner at the showroom, and there's even more good news as a seven-passenger model, dubbed solely Santa Fe, is on its way. The three-row Santa Fe replaces the Veracruz and will offer a V6 engine and a longer wheelbase.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 106.3-inches, up to 71.5 cubic feet of cargo space with second row seats down, 3,706 lb. curb weight and a 17.4 gallon fuel tank.
Overall, Santa Fe Sport Turbo is a great crossover, so if you are shopping for a well-built midsize Crossover, Santa Fe Sport deserves a close look.
Likes: Power, new design, interior room, fuel mileage, safety.
Dislikes: Large B-pillar blind spot, not sure Eco mode really helps.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist)