Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Hyundai’s Santa Fe Crossover Hauls With Verve

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Story & Photo

By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

From the second you hear the welcome jingle that plays when you shut the door, you feel something is different about the new Hyundai Santa Fe. Step down on the gas pedal and feel the zesty acceleration of this five-passenger, compact crossover’s new power plant: a 2.0-liter, four banger, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, that pushes out  264 horses and 269 pound-feet of torque.
What the Korean automaker seems to understand is that driving a bantam-sized crossover designed to pull double duty as a family hauler doesn’t have to be boring.
The third-generation transporter, which began rolling off the assembly line at Hyundai’s North American factory in Alabama in 2012, is anything but boring thanks to the near-complete overhaul the car maker has given its entire fleet.
The new Santa Fe’s base model 2.0-liter, four-cylinder tranny, for example, replaces the outgoing V-6 for overall improved fuel economy (20/27 city/highway miles per gallon, respectively), while offering better acceleration thanks to a turbocharged direct-injection system.
An optional all-wheel-drive transmission makes the vehicle better equipped for handling inclement weather and occasional off-road treks (though the Santa Fe is by no means a 4×4 rock eater). On highways the AWD can be turned off to deliver maximum power to the front.
Cabin materials also received an upgrade. Quality hard plastics and soft-touch surfaces are in abundance. Premium leather upholstery is available for consumers wishing to fork out the extra cash for this upgrade. A refreshed interior offers a more eye-pleasing and user-friendly design as seen in the center console, center stack and driver’s-side instrument cluster. Well-designed nooks and cubbies offer ample storage space for smart phones, maps and notepads. A smart, duo-tone color palette is accented by faux polished-wood flourishes, all of which add a surprising touch of elegance to a car that doesn’t boast a luxury badge.
One design flaw I found in the cup holders was that they are not designed to conform or accommodate containers of varying size.
With ample leg room and headroom in front and back, the new Santa Fe seems better designed for long hauls and road trips without the driver getting an earful of complaints from cramped backseat passengers. A pull-up panel in back creates additional rear cargo storage, though segmenting this under-surface space into quadrants seems at cross-purposes with the goal of a free-flowing storage design. Coming to the rescue are 40/20/40 split-folding back seats which, when folded forward, create a cargo zone that puts the Santa Fe on par with other vehicles in its class and segment.
If the Santa Fe can finally stake a claim as a serious competitor against chief rivals that include the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Chevy Equinox and Mazda CX-5, chalk it up in part to the long list of standards that come with the entry-level model: 17-inch wheels, front fog lamps, rear spoiler, cruise control, tilt-telescoping steering wheel, 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats, satellite radio, and Bluetooth and USB-iPod integration.
Starting MSRP for the base model is around $24,450. My top-trim 2.0T AWD test car cost $35,925. The Santa Fe Sport may not be the best of all possible worlds, but it deserves to be on the crossover test-drive checklist for car buyers looking for decent fuel economy, a spirited drive, and good cargo capacity.
(James Gaffney is automotive editor-at-large for Seven magazine and the former automotive columnist at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.)

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2013

Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 31, 2013 at 8:44 am

Posted in Auto

Tagged with , , ,

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