Review and photos by Lesley Wimbush

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.4 AWD Premium
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.4 AWD Premium. Click image to enlarge

It was yet another insufferably cold day in The Winter That Would Not Die.

Piling into this week’s 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport tester, my passengers and I cursed the bitter wind while I fumbled at the heat controls with stiffened fingers. My teenage nephew, safe in his back-seat refuge from the boredom of old people conversation, was blissfully enjoying his toasty buns – as the Santa Fe boasts rear seat warmers too. Wrapping my frozen mitts around the steering wheel, I praised whatever Korean deity was responsible for blessing the Santa Fe Sport with a heated steering wheel – which I might add, was noticeably absent in the $80,000 German sedan I’d been in the week before.

The new Santa Fe Sport arrived last fall in what Hyundai Canada President Steve Kelleher referred to as “the most important vehicle launch since the Elantra”.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.4 AWD Premium
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.4 AWD Premium. Click image to enlarge

Ever since their “product renaissance” of some five years ago, Hyundai has managed to surpass even the most stalwart Japanese market leaders by offering dynamic styling and attractive, loaded interiors – in segments that had traditionally been devoid of either. Yet, the one market that has remained elusive in Hyundai’s sweep of the most-often-shopped categories is the mid-size crossover. Hyundai has never really been able to capture buyers in this segment the way cousin Kia has with its successful Sorento.

Now in its third generation, Santa Fe is the final vehicle in the Hyundai lineup to be fully recreated, and a lot of hope is riding on its reshaped flanks. There are two distinct models – the Santa Fe Sport and a long wheelbase, 7-passenger model, called Santa Fe XL, which debuted earlier this year.

The Santa Fe wears Hyundai’s latest design language, called “Fluidic Precision” – which replaces the “Fluidic Sculpture’s” voluptuously flowing creases with crisp, taut lines, a more upright grille and subtle use of chrome brightwork. Flat black lower body cladding along rocker panels, wheel arches and front and rear fascia have a visually slimming effect and work well with my tester’s gunmetal grey 19-inch alloys.

While it appears much larger than the model it replaces, the new Santa Fe Sport rides on an identical wheelbase, but is fractionally longer and wider.

Inside is familiar territory for anyone who’s spent time in any of Hyundai’s other recent offerings.  While hardly luxurious, the cabin is quite comfortable and laden with features. There’s a modern, geometrically shaped centre stack flanked by angular air vents, surrounded by soft-touch materials and aluminum and wood trim. Switchgear is intuitive and easy to use, with an optional eight-inch touchscreen display on models equipped with the Technology package. Overhead is a vast panoramic sunroof that completely obliterates any feeling of claustrophobia.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.4 AWD Premium2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.4 AWD Premium
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.4 AWD Premium. Click image to enlarge

Instead of the cushy leather featured in the more expensive Luxury model, my Premium has light grey cloth, which is nonetheless quite comfortable. Rear seats recline, and fold flat to provide up to 2,025L of cargo space. I easily managed to transport five large cartons on an overnight business trip, with room enough for my luggage.

There are plenty of cupholders and cubbies, and a hidden storage compartment beneath the cargo floor.

Connect with