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Mudfest 2013: Tom's Hardware Helps Test 23 SUVs

Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Hyundai’s Santa Fe series is all-new for 2013. The previous-gen Santa Fe was a five-seater that took on the compact class. This time around, the Santa Fe Sport seats five, while a vanilla Santa Fe seats seven. We're covering the Santa Fe Sport here, but a lot of the features apply to the standard Santa Fe as well.

The company entered a fully-loaded Santa Fe Sport with all-wheel drive and a 2.0-liter turbocharged motor into the compact class. Notable standard features for our Santa Fe Sport include downhill brake control, hill-start assist, push-button start, and the Hyundai Blue Link telematics system. The option list consisted of the leather and premium equipment package (heated rear seats, automatic climate control, a back-up camera, and sliding/reclining second-row seats), technology package, and manual rear sunshades.

The infotainment system is Hyundai’s third-generation effort that mounts an eight-inch touchscreen LCD on the center stack surrounded by a number of physical buttons. Hyundai employs a standard 800x600 display, but switches from the standard analog interface to a digital one that looks both crisper and cleaner. In the time we had to test, iOS-based devices with the Lightning connector worked fine. We weren't able to experiment with Bluetooth connectivity, though. Fortunately, in a previous experience with the Santa Fe Sport, it had no trouble with our Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Hyundai does a commendable job updating its infotainment system, and we really dig the new hardware and software.

Hyundai employs an electric power steering system in the Santa Fe Sport. Driver Selectable Steering Mode (DSSM) technology enables three steering modes (comfort, normal, and sport) that cater to different driving tastes. The different modes really do have an impact on steering response and feedback. Comfort mode was feather-light at the cost of response. Sport mode made the wheel a lot heavier, but improved road feedback for more spirited driving. Normal mode was somewhere in between.

The powertrain consists of Hyundai’s 2.0-liter GDI turbo engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Hyundai employs the Magna Dynamax active all-wheel drive system that reacts to changing driving conditions. This system supports torque-vectoring for better cornering, too. In situations where you require the traction of full-time all-wheel drive, the Santa Fe Sport includes a convenient 4-high lock button to keep the wheels engaged. We took advantage of 4-high on the dirt course and found that it maintained traction throughout our drive.

The turbocharged motor accelerated smoothly, exhibiting minimal lag. It performed well, too. However, we did observe the same delayed throttle response mentioned on the previous page during aggressive driving. In most situations, this shouldn't be noticeable. But it is going to nag at enthusiasts.

Hyundai employs its latest “storm edge” design language for the Santa Fe Sport. It's attractive enough and, humorously, even looks a bit like a Storm Trooper when you order the Santa Fe in white. The styling isn’t as aggressive as Ford's, but it isn't boring, either.

Vehicle Specifications
Vehicle2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
Trim levelAWD 2.0T
Engine2.0 L I4 Turbo Gasoline Direct Injection
TransmissionSix-speed Automatic w/ Shiftronic
DrivetrainActive On-Demand AWD w/ AWD Lock
InfotainmentNavigation System w/ eight-inch Touchscreen
Notable featuresDriver selectable steering modes (DSSM)Downhill brake controlHill-start assist controlRear view camera
Fuel economy19 city, 24 highway, 21 combined MPG