First Drive: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport reviews hyundai first drives
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T. Click image to enlarge
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Preview: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

Manufacturer’s website
Hyundai Canada

Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony

Photo Gallery:
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Huntsville, ON – As we sat down for lunch during the launch event of the 2013 Santa Fe Sport, one of Hyundai’s PR team asked us what criticisms we had. My driving partner mentioned a bit of wind noise emanating from the side mirrors, which I only noticed later on the drive home, but I sat there scratching my head, enjoying the meal, completely stumped. Eventually, for lack of anything truly valid as a criticism in the segment, I trotted out the poor ‘steering feel’ of the Santa Fe Sport. Despite three steering modes—Comfort, Normal, and Sport—they are all devoid of feedback and have a tendency to take a vacation as you get past the initial few degrees of lock, for incredibly vague and imprecise tracking through long turns.

First Drive: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport reviews hyundai first drives
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.4. Click image to enlarge

And that was it. Steering feel. Who cares about steering feel in a mid-size SUV, anyway? Probably not anyone who is actually buying them. Chances are, shoppers who prioritize steering feel are shopping for a more sporty vehicle type, like a car. However, there are far more people looking for the space, practicality, and convenience of a small or mid-size SUV or crossover, with over 20 percent of new car shoppers considering such vehicles for their next purchase (according to Hyundai market research). And in this compact to intermediate segment crossover, the Santa Fe Sport offers incredible value and performance in the areas that families want in this segment.

Its value in particular, always a strong point for Hyundai, is impressive. The base Santa Fe Sport, with a 2.4L inline-four cylinder (I4), six-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel Drive (FWD) starts at $26,499. While it is not as heavily featured as its upper trims, it still covers basics like air conditioning, keyless entry, steering wheel controls for audio and cruise control, Bluetooth phone connectivity, reclining rear seats, windshield wiper de-icer, tilt and telescopic wheel, power windows, doors, mirrors, trip computer, and heated front seats. The basic wheels are 17-inch alloys with P235/65R17 all-season tires, and with their tall sidewalls, vehicles so equipped exhibited a more comfortable ride when it came to bumps and broken pavement, but also suffered from greater body roll in corners.

First Drive: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport reviews hyundai first drives
First Drive: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport reviews hyundai first drives
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T. Click image to enlarge

The first upgrade for the Santa Fe Sport 2.4 is to the Premium trim at $28,299, adding automatic headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear door blinds (for what it’s worth, my wife loves this feature), heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, and park assist. All-wheel drive (AWD) is optional on the 2.4 Premium, adding $2,000 to bring the price up to $30,299.

The AWD system itself is electronically controlled with electrohydraulic torque control via multi-plate clutch, fully integrated with the stability control and braking systems to provide Active Cornering Control (ACC). In normal driving conditions, all power goes to the front wheels, but up to 50 percent of the torque can be redirected to the rear wheels, and ACC monitors vehicle inputs for wheel speed, throttle position, steering angle, and yaw rate to determine if a potential understeer event will occur or is occurring, shifts power to the rear and applies braking to the inside wheel, preventing it from spinning and thereby redirecting a greater portion of torque to the outside rear wheel.

A button to the left of the steering wheel can engage four-wheel-lock for a permanent 50/50 torque split all-wheel drive, but the system automatically disengages above 40 km/h.

The most heavily featured 2.4 model is the 2.4 Luxury AWD at $33,899. This package is features the massive panoramic sunroof that seems to span the entire roof, though only the front section moves. Also included at this price are sliding second row seats with release in the cargo area, turn signals in the side mirror caps, leather seating surfaces (though this leather won’t impress many fond of rich textures, and replaces the stain-resistant YES essential cloth seats), power passenger seat, HID headlights, and rear-view camera that is displayed on a larger 4.3-inch colour touchscreen rather than the smaller monochromatic base screen.




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.