Road Test

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T AWD

Hyundai bring it’s “A” game to the compact CUV/SUV segment

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T - AJAC winner, best new SUV/CUV $35,000 - $60,000
$26,499 base. $35,299 as tested.
NR Canada (L/100 km): 10.0 city. 6.0 highway. 9.0 combined.
Turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with direct injection, 264-horsepower, 269 lb-ft of torq
Pros & CONS
  • Powerful and responsive engine
  • Configurable seats/cargo area
  • Enough variations to satisfy anyone
  • Confusing array of models
  • Suspension needs further development
  • Little steering feedback
The compact SUV segment is a critical component of the Canadian automotive market. Every serious player is there and competition is intense as most have introduced a new model in that last 12-to-18 months. 

Hyundai has been one of the stars of the auto business in recent years with astounding growth and a continual stream of new product. So it comes as no surprise that it would bring it’s “A” game to this segment in the form of  the 2013 Santa Fe.

The compact SUV segment has grown 26% over the past four years and it's where more than one in five new car buyers are expected to land in the coming three years, according to Hyundai’s research. 

Hyundai already has the Tucson at the smaller end of the segment so the new Santa Fe slots in closer to the top-end.

Multiplicity of models

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport - rear cargo area, rear seatbacks up.jpg
To make sure it has something for everyone there are seven Santa Fe models spanning the $26,500 to $38,500 range – and more to come! 

There are two engines, front or all-wheel-drive and numerous trim designations. So far, there are seven models: Santa Fe in 2.4 and 2.4 Premium FWD, 2.4 Luxury AWD; 2.0T Premium FWD and AWD, 2.0T SE AWD and 2.0T Limited AWD. 

A longer wheelbase version with three rows of seats and a third engine choice arrives in early 2013 to replace the slow-selling Veracruz. That addition will stretch the lineup into the mid-size segment and to at least 10 unique models.

Confused? Try to remember it this way: there will be two Santa Fe sizes with three engines, front or all-wheel-drive and a wide array of trim levels. 

My test vehicle was the short-wheelbase version in SE trim – the one Hyundai figures to be the most popular. For that reason, the assembly plant in Georgia has been geared up to produce more of this model. 

The beauty of having an assembly facility in North America is that if the marketing wizards got it wrong, the line can be quickly altered to suit consumer/dealer demands. 

The test car was a duplicate of the version that was recently named Best New Sport Utility Vehicle over $35,000 for 2013 in AJAC’s annual  Canadian Car Of The Year slugfest.

Uplevel features

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport - engine.jpg
The SE comes with the more powerful of the two available engines, all-wheel-drive and a full slate of standard features. 

The base engine is a 190-horsepower, 2.4-litre four-cylinder making it the most powerful in the competitive set. The engine in my test vehicle was a turbocharged and intercooled version of that same engine displacing  2.0-litres and belting out 264 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque, peaking at only 1,750 rpm. 

Both engines feature variable valve timing and direct injection and operate on regular fuel.  

The new all-wheel-drive system operates in front-drive until slippage is detected, then some power is sent to the rear wheels. It also boasts “active cornering control,” a brake-based torque vectoring system that applies the brake on the inside wheel slightly during cornering to counter understeer. 

Hill start assist, downhill brake control, brake assist and electronic traction control are also included. 

Regardless of engine choice, you get an excellent six-speed automatic transmission. The 2.4 carries with a 682-kg (1500-lb) tow rating and the 2.0T is good for 1591 kg) 3500 lbs.

On the road

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport - front seats and instrument panel.jpg
I had driven the 2.4 previously and can report it is a most capable engine. You would only need more power to tow something or if you regularly carry several passengers or heavy items. 

Having said that, there is no such thing as too much power and the 2.0T spoils one in that respect. There is very little turbo lag and with that much torque available barely off idle, a mere touch of the right-foot rewards. Passing and hill climbing are a breeze.

On the road the Santa Fe provides a comfortable ride with a more planted feel than the older model as the company continues to improve its suspension systems. 

It is still too stiff over nasty surfaces but the new multi-link rear suspension helps it cope with that situation much better than was the case with previous versions. The turning circle is commendably short, which will be appreciated in tight parking lots.

A button to the left of the steering wheel with settings for Normal, Comfort and Sport alters the amount of effort. There is indeed a difference in feel but very little feedback. I suspect that button will gather dust in the vast majority of cases.

Smaller and lighter

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport - rear seats.jpg
The 2013 Santa Fe has the same wheelbase as the outgoing model but is 14-mm longer, 14-mm narrower and 35-mm shorter. All of these changes are barely detectable but, significantly, interior space has been increased and overall mass cut by 120 kg.

Externally, it showcases the latest version of Hyundai’s “fluidic precision” design language. While not as dramatic as the Sonata or Elantra it brings some style to the segment. 

The interior is well finished with quality materials and obvious attention to detail. Soft touch materials and brushed aluminum and wood trim result in an upscale impression. 

The dominant feature is a geometric centre stack with angular vents on either side of a large (20-cm) colour screen. There are solitary large round knobs flanked by buttons for the audio and HVAC systems.

The front seats are soft and supportive and the rears recline and slide fore/aft so you can choose between rear seat legroom or cargo space. They are split 40/20/40 so there are numerous combinations of people and package space. 

There are 1000 cubic litres of space behind the second row and that doubles with those seat-backs folded flat. There is also a hidden cargo storage area beneath the cargo floor.

This new Santa Fe seems to have what it takes to capture a significant share of the compact SUV/CUV segment. It appears Hyundai has done it again. 


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