Friday, September 18, 2015

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: Split Personality

We've been behind the wheel of our 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport for about two weeks now. Shoppers of compact-to-midsize SUVs should have the newly redesigned Santa Fe on their list, but pay special attention to the detail of the Santa Fe and it may surprise you.

In a way, the Santa Fe Sport kind of has a split personality. Compare it to the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 or even the Subaru Forester, and the Santa Fe comes off like a luxury SUV. Imagine if Lexus made an SUV that's lower priced than the RX350 and you can picture the Santa Fe being exactly that.

Not a Compact

But the Santa Fe is also an odd mixture of size, features and quality. As nice as the Santa Fe is, it's hard to categorize -- and driving it only reinforces that.

The natural comparison seems like CR-V/RAV4, but the Santa Fe is bigger. Compare the Santa Fe to a midsize car-based SUV such as the Ford Edge and the Santa Fe feels a little smaller. That the Santa Fe is available as a 2-row/ 5-passenger or 3-row/7-passenger SUV means it's like combining Toyota's Highlander with the 5-passenger Venza under one name. The Santa Fe is a right-sized SUV, and it may be exactly what many shoppers are looking for. The Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport will not appeal to those looking for a $20,000 compact SUV.

Interesting Features

The Santa Fe Sport has a weird combination of features. Our Sport does not have map-based navigation (Hyundai's Blue Link does give turn-by-turn directions) or a sunroof. But it does have push-button start, leather seats, a color display between the gauges for info such as fuel economy and vehicle status/warnings. There is a color touchscreen display for the audio system, but the size of the screen is very small. Our Sport 2.0T has LED lights behind the door handles and driver selectable settings for steering feel, clearly high-end features. And yet our Santa Fe lacks a power rear lift gate.

You can see the Santa Fe Sport one of two ways: an odd, cobbled together midsize SUV or a right-sized, right-priced SUV that hits shoppers exactly where others slightly miss the mark. We think it's probably the second one.

In terms of driving dynamics, the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport gets it right. The ride is smooth and boasts decent handling. The way the engine, transmission, steering, brakes and overall feel of the Sport work together is clearly a strength of this SUV.

It's still early in our year-long relationship with the Santa Fe Sport. Check back frequently for more updates on the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T.

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