Quick Spin: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
Hyundai's popular sport-utility vehicle gets a makeover, and changes the way the company approaches the marketplace.
By Kirk Bell
Hyundai has come a long way from being a curious Korean company that offered cheap economy cars a decade ago. Today its vehicles are refined and elegant in thought and execution. For instance, vehicles such as the Genesis and Equus show the marque can do upscale well, and just about every one of the company’s other offerings is at the top of its class for interior quality and overall value. Not bad for a curiosity, huh?
While the compact Santa Fe has been the brand's best-selling small ute, it isn’t one of the top players in the sport-utility category. And its midsize Veracruz is virtually unknown. To remedy that problem, Hyundai is going with a two-pronged strategy for 2013 by offering short- and long-wheelbase versions of the Santa Fe and dropping the Veracruz.
We recently drove the short wheelbase model, called the Santa Fe Sport, in Park City, Utah, and here are our initial thoughts.
Spacious: With 71.2 cubic feet of space, the Santa Fe Sport has as much cargo room as some midsize crossovers. The rear seat also offers lots of room, thanks to 5.2 inches of fore and aft travel.
Smooth ride: Hyundai has the ride portion of the driving-dynamics equation down pat. The Santa Fe Sport irons out just about any bump the road can throw its way.
Fuel efficient: Both of the Santa Fe Sport's engines are quite efficient. The base 2.4-liter four is EPA rated at 22 mpg city/33 highway, and the 2.0-liter turbo adds 74 horsepower while only giving up one mpg in the city and two mpg on the highway.
Sloppy handling: Despite shedding 266 pounds compared with the last-generation model, the Santa Fe Sport feels larger than its size and leans more than a compact SUV should.
Numb steering: Part of the reason the Santa Fe isn't fun to drive is the lack of road feel through the steering wheel. Owners can choose from three levels of steering heft, but they all lack feedback.
Confused transmission: On our test drive, the 6-speed automatic transmission shifted prematurely and clunked into gear. To be fair, the test was at 8,300 feet. It should perform better at sea level.
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