Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony

Since its launch in 2007, the Hyundai Veracruz failed to ever catch on in either the Canadian or American markets, never selling more than 2,000 and 13,000 units, respectively, in either of these countries. Not exactly a smash hit. For reference, other popular seven-seat mid-size crossover SUVs with which it competes, the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander, regularly sell over 100,000 per year in the US and 5,000 in Canada. Those are solid numbers in a lucrative market for vehicles that start at around $30K and regularly sell in the 40s.

Long Term Test Arrival: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe XL car test drives long term auto tests hyundai
Long Term Test Arrival: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe XL car test drives long term auto tests hyundai
Long Term Test Arrival: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe XL car test drives long term auto tests hyundai
Long Term Test Arrival: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe XL car test drives long term auto tests hyundai
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe XL. Click image to enlarge

So you can understand why Hyundai thought they needed to do better in this segment.

Enter the Santa Fe XL. Banking on the popular Santa Fe nameplate, the XL aims to reach more customers with much edgier design, practical interiors and Hyundai’s typical value equation. Hyundai has made a shrewd move using the one nameplate with trim designations to appeal to a broader audience, letting salesmen on the showroom floor make the pitch depending on customers’ seating, space and power needs. There’s a lot of crossover in pricing between the two, so it becomes a features versus space proposition in the mid-$30s price point.

The shorter five-seat Santa Fe Sport competes with plus-size compact five-seaters like the GMC Terrain/Chevy Equinox, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, while the XL takes on proper mid-size seven-seaters like the Pilot, Highlander, Dodge Journey, Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder and GM triplets GMC Acadia/Buick Enclave/Chevy Traverse.

The Santa Fe Sport starts with a thrifty, economical 2.4L four-cylinder but comes with the option of a 264-hp 2.0L turbo. However, for traditionalists looking for V6 power, the only option is the Santa Fe XL, which is powered by a 3.3L direct-injection V6 with 24 valves and continuously variable valve timing. That technology is enough to produce a maximum 290 hp (at 6,400 rpm) and 252 lb-ft or torque at 5,200 rpm and earn it a fuel consumption rating of 11.7/8.0/10.0 L/100 km city/highway/combined in AWD trim on the Natural Resources Canada test cycle, and 13.0/9.8/11.8 L/100 km (18/24/20 mpg) according to the US EPA. In my first stints travelling across the city and commuting to work, the EPA’s estimates are once again looking impressively prescient.

The V6 XL is also the choice for anyone towing a light boat or camper trailer, offering a 2,268 kg towing capacity (5,000 lb), beating the Sport 2.0T’s 1,588 kg (3,500 lb) despite the 2.0T out-torquing the V6 with 269 lb-ft from 1,750 to 3,000 rpm. Despite the numbers disadvantage, my first impressions are that the V6 feels plenty strong for this truck, despite the 1,853 kg (4,085 lb) curb weight in AWD trim.

Long Term Test Arrival: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe XL car test drives long term auto tests hyundai
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe XL. Click image to enlarge

While the V6 is the only power plant on offer with the Santa Fe XL (paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting mode), there are plenty of trim options to choose from, starting with the $29,999 FWD model for those on a tight budget and wanting only the basics. Then again, the basics include ABS brakes with brake assist, downhill brake control and hill-start assist, stability and traction control, air conditioning, fog lights, 18-inch alloys, keyless entry, tinted windows, power lumbar support on driver’s seat, reclining/sliding second-row seats, tilt and telescopic wheel, heated front seats, trip computer, roof rack side rails, steering wheel–mounted controls for cruise, hands-free voice command and audio, which consists of six speakers that can play AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 player with auxiliary and USB jacks plus three months XM satellite radio subscription.




About Jonathan Yarkony

Jonathan Yarkony is the Senior Editor for Autos.ca, a Brampton-based automotive writer with eight years of experience evaluating cars and an AJAC member.