One of the best ways to judge a vehicle is to take it on a road trip. Having been provided with keys to a new 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe, I did just that. My wife and I packed up our two kids, ages 5 and 1, and all the stuff we needed for four days of theme parks and hotel stays. We ventured two hundred miles north of Boston to not-so-rural North Conway, in New ‘Live Free or Die’ Hampshire.
The Hyundai Santa Fe is all-new for 2013. It actually comes in two flavors, Santa Fe Sport, a smaller, two-row version, and a larger three-row version simply called the Santa Fe, seen here. Aside from the name, the two vehicles look very similar until you get to the C-pillar window. They also differ in engine choices, with two four-bangers offered on the Sport and a V6 on the bigger non-Sport Santa Fe.
In lieu of a typical review, I decided to do a pictorial review of the Hyundai Santa Fe. I have done this before with the Jeep Grand Cherokee with mixed results. This time I improved this review by adding more pictures (1000 words each) and more context. Feedback and constructive criticism are always welcome.
We’ll start off easy, with the side view of the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe next to a lake and some trees.
The basic 2013 Santa Fe GLS starts at $28,600. The Santa Fe Limited AWD starts at $34,850. The car seen in these pictures was equipped with a $2900 Technology Package (more on that later) and $135 set of floor-mats, which your dealer should throw in for free. The total MSRP, with $845 freight and handling, is $38,730.
With time and miles driven, the driver and the passengers alike get familiar with the vehicle and its virtues and shortcomings become apparent. One of biggest shortcomings, however, became evident before we even left home. The Limited version of the Santa Fe comes with two captain’s chairs for second row passengers (GLS has a bench seat). We kept the third row folded in order to have a decent cargo space, which left our two little kids alone in the second row. This prevented my wife from sitting with them, especially with the little guy who likes mommy’s undivided attention on car rides.
I understand that some people, probably ones with older children, prefer captain’s chair in second row as they keep two kids physically separated. To that point, Hyundai could have come up with some kind of a convertible second row bench, such as on the Toyota Sienna or Land Rover LR4, which would allow the middle seat of the second row to be folded or removed.
Obligatory picture of the Santa Fe next to some random store called Santa Fe [North].
The other thing that quickly became apparent when loading the trunk was the fact that, despite being a three row vehicle, the Santa Fe was much shorter (height wise) than the Honda Pilot or Nissan Pathfinder. This made the overall cargo area smaller, too. The Santa Fe seem to be more comparable to something like Ford Flex, rather than a typical three-row cross-over.
Playpen, fancy stroller that does not fold well, wife’s big bag, kid’s bigger bag, wife’s second bag, daughter’s backpack (pink one, with the scarf), and my small manly brown bag. This is the stuff that a family of four needs for four days. Coincidentally, that is also what what a family of four needs for four weeks.
The power hatch was a bit slow in operation. When in manual operation mode (there’s a switch), it was more difficult to use than a standard non-powered hatch. This, both the waiting and/or the required extra force, could be frustrating to a person who is used to slamming a non-powered hatch.
Water bottle pockets in doors are handy when the console cup-holders are occupied by coffee cups. Notice how the door extends all the way below the lowest chassis rail. I noticed that on the new Range Rover, too. I am not sure why manufactures began to do this.
Off-roader this is not. The ground clearance is low, as demonstrated here by front dam barely clearing a curb. No Hyundais or curbs were hurt in the taking of this photo.
If the ground clearance didn’t convince you that this is not an off-roader, the tires that say “City Venture” on them should. The ride on paved roads is very nice, quiet, and smooth, however.
The dash layout and simple and clean. The navigational system, audio system, and HVAC controls were all easy to navigate. Photo by Hyundai, because I forgot to take one.
Nice and clean gauge cluster, tells everything that the driver needs to know. The center screen can be used to display directions from navigation system, keeping the driver’s eyes on the road. It’s also where car settings are adjusted from.
The automatic one-touch window opening and closing is a nice feature, but would cost that much more to have them on all four windows?
Another feature missing from the Santa Fe, but present on all of its corporate cousins from Kia, is power folding mirrors. This comes especially handy when parking this somewhat large vehicle next to another somewhat large vehicle, in small parking spots which are at all theme parks.
This is shifter for the six-speed automatic transmission. Manual mode is easily accessed by moving the shifter to the right when in D. The manual mode gear changes are pretty quick, better than most I’d say, and nice for holding gears when traveling through mountains.
I wonder what the designers had in mind for the blanked-off spaces. Also, a similarly equipped Kia Sorento has ventilated seats and this did not.
There is a very handy cubby for cell phones and similar stuff, at the front of the center console. Two 12V receptacles, a USB port, and an auxiliary input ensure that your stuff remains close to you, charged, and connected. Great idea!
Hyundai’s BlueLink is a lot like GM’s OnStar. It can used to call for help, keep up on maintenance, stolen recovery, and directions. A handy smartphone app allows you to locate, lock and unlock, and even start your Hyundai from your phone. Cool.
To the left of the steering wheel are buttons for locking center diff (not pictured here), heated steering wheel, some Eco mode which I have not used, hill decent control, and similar. Photo, courtesy of Hyundai (mine was blurry).
The nav screen always displayed the current speed limit and it was always right. A nice feature when driving on unfamiliar roads, with constantly changing speed limits, and road signs often obstructed by trees.
I discovered a little problem with the navigational system. Here it is asking me which way I want to go; the faster way of the shorter way. The thing is that the shorter way was also the faster way. This has happened at least twice.
This low fuel pop-up screen was great, especially for anyone who has ever ran out of gas, such as my wife.
These rear side window screen were great, especially when a napping toddler is seated on the side with the sun. These are often a pricy option, or not even available, on some of Hyundai’s competition. Nice touch, part of the Technology Package.
Here is another issue with the middle row captain’s chairs. When they are slid forward to access the third row, they do not go back to the same position they were in before. This is really not right for a newly designed 2013 vehicle.
The huge panoramic sunroof makes the interior feel light and airy. It has a power-operated cover, too, for when it’s really sunny outside. It is part of the Limited’s $2900 Technology Package which also includes navigational system, Infiniti audio, heated steering wheels, and rear manual sunshades. This is another one of Hyundai’s picture because I didn’t have a lens wide enough.
In the trunk was a household 120vAC receptacle and another 12vDC receptacle. I wonder where the optimal location for the 120v receptacle is; here or on the back of the center console, near the rear seats?
Rear HVAC controls are located next to the third row seats, or in the trunk when the third row is folded. I think they should be placed where the second row passengers could access them.
Somewhere under there is a 3.3-liter DOHC V6 engine. It produces 290hp at 6,400 rpm and 252 lb-ft of torques at 5,200 rpm. Overall, it is a very smooth engine and it never felt underpowered, even in the mountains when the was car loaded with stuff. The Santa Fe Limited AWD is EPA rated at 18/24/20 (city/highway/combined).
Heated power seats, heated steering wheel, power tailgate, courtesy lights, lights that stay of after you lock the car, huge power sunroof, fancy audio system, possible entertainment system, all of those take up precious battery juice. 660CCAs should get you through many cold winter morning commutes.
Growing up, my mother owned a ’86 Hyundai Excel. It was not a good car and it was nowhere near the Japanese standards of the time. To be fair, it lived a hard NYC life. She replaced in 1991 with the cheapest new car she could afford, a ’91 Hyundai Excel. That car was even worse and it lived in a rather nice area of New Jersey.
Having recently driven the Sonata Hybrid, the Azera, and now this, I must say that I am beginning to really like what Hyundai is doing. They have come a long way, even if from just a few years ago. The cars pretty, well made, efficient, and I would say overall of quality higher standard than comparable Nissan, Toyota, or Honda, all of which seem to have been in some kind of a slump in recent years which they’re desperatly digging themselves out of. If you’re shopping for a new car these new Hyundais should not be dismissed, not anymore.