Skip to main content

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
MSRP$35,925
  • Super_Nova
    Very slow newsweek
    Reply
  • flong777
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.
    Reply
  • Johnny_C13
    Well, at least the Grand Cherokee can (literally) run (on) Crysis... but I wonder if it starts faster with an SSD?
    Reply
  • MU_Engineer
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10968917 said:
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.

    Its a great offroad vehicle for the price. The other two are capable vehicles, but the buyer demographic will never take them offroad.

    10969315 said:
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.

    Mechanical technology has its uses but the WWII Era vehicles are awful for comfort and driving feel. Not going to lie though, the G-wagen is one sexy beast IMO. The Wrangler is only a 6-speed auto iirc, but there's a company that offers HEMI conversions :D.

    10969432 said:
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.

    Toyota didn't submit any vehicles, disappointingly. Was hoping the 5th Gen 4Runner and new RAV4 would be there :(.
    Reply
  • joe gamer
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10969918 said:
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.

    Nothing wrong with an old Isuzu, before GM raped and pillaged them :(. Cars are so expensive nowadays, you're about as poor as I am, but add in two kids and a wife. The WRX has a nice manual because its a performance vehicle. Manuals in economy cars are usually sloppy. long throws and not very exciting, which is why I hate to say to get the auto in economy cars. But, the XV Crosstrek could probably be fixed with a short throw shifter, that usually does wonders.

    Reply
  • JPNpower
    Why are you using SUVs in the mud!!! These things belong in parking lots at the mall!
    Reply