2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Review and Prices

Last Updated: Apr 12, 2012

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2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Buying Advice

The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe is the best SUV for you if you want a value-packed midsize crossover that’s newly available in five- and seven-passenger sizes.

The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe is the fully redesigned version of this South Koran automaker’s midsize SUV. It has all-new styling, four- and six-cylinder power – including a sporty turbo four -- and promises outstanding fuel economy. This third-generation Santa Fe adopts Hyundai’s eye-catching “fluidic sculpture” design. And it continues the brand’s progressive approach to features; a navigation system, for example, is available on every trim level, a claim no direct competitor can make.

Should you buy a 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe or wait for the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe? Wait for the 2013 Santa Fe to get the significantly improved new model that’ll look fresh and be mechanically relevant for several years. Buy a 2012 Santa Fe if you need a five-passenger crossover that’s by no means obsolete. As the last of the 2005-2012 generation, it’ll suffer accelerated depreciation but should be available at close-out prices.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Changes back to top

Styling: The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe line divides into five-passenger Santa Fe Sport models and the longer, seven-seat Santa Fe. Both get the sheetmetal scallops, wind-swept profile, and prominent hexagonal grille that help Hyundais such as the Sonata midsize sedan stand out from rivals. The 2013 Santa Fe is actually an evolution of the look. Hyundai calls it “Storm Edge” and dresses it with trendy LED lighting accents. It also gives the Santa Fe Sport rear side windows that taper along with its roofline. The longer Santa Fe’s taller windows and boxier roofline emphasize its increased rear passenger and cargo room.

No other manufacturer splits its midsize SUV line this way. In overall length the two 2013 Santa Fes bookend such popular crossovers as the Ford Explorer, which has three rows of seats, and the Chevrolet Equinox, which has two. Essentially, Hyundai takes advantage of the Santa Fe Sport’s  two-row layout to make it relatively nimble and light while allowing the 8.5-inch longer Santa Fe to stretch and become a dedicated three-row SUV.

Hyundai dubs the latter the “LWB” Santa Fe because its wheelbase – the distance between the front and rear axles – is a significant 4 inches longer than the Sport’s. That key dimension gives the long-wheelbase model 1.9 inches more second-row legroom than the Sport and contributes to an additional 5.6 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the third-row seat.

The 2013 Santa Fe lineup consists of the base Sport model, the Sport 2.0T, and LWB versions in GLS and top-line Limited trim. All come with front bucket seats and an interior design that incorporates a dual-cove dashboard and a prominent central control panel to create cockpit-style front seating. The Limited has a pair of second-row buckets and the others come with a second-row bench with a 40/20/40 split/folding seatback. Standard on the GLS models and optional on the Sports is a sliding feature for the second-row seat.

Santa Fe LWB models add a 50/50 split third-row bench that folds into a well in the floor. They have a relatively generous 31.5 inches of legroom and come with second-row climate controls and a standard power liftgate.

Mechanical: The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe assigns the Sport versions four-cylinder engines and the LWB a V-6. All use a six-speed automatic transmission with a floor shifter that affords manual-type gear control. Every 2013 Santa Fe is available with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive.

Being a crossover means Santa Fe has a car-type unibody substructure rather than truck-style separate body and frame construction, like old-school SUVs such as the Toyota 4Runner. The 2013 Santa Fe in fact shares the basics of its underskin architecture with the Sonata and its stretched cousin, the Azera. Santa Fe also shares with those sedans a trio of available engines, all if which employ advanced direct fuel injection.

The 2013 Santa Fe base Sport model has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder preliminarily rated at 190 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque (think of torque as the muscle behind acceleration). By comparison, the 2012 Santa Fe’s base engine was a 2.4-liter four with 175 horsepower and 169 pound-feet of torque.

The 2013 Santa Fe Sport 2.0T is named for its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. It has 264 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. That compares favorably with the 2012 Santa Fe’s less-fuel-efficient 3.5-liter V-6, which was rated at 276 horsepower 248 pound-feet of torque. The 2013 LWB Santa Fe replaces that V-6 with a new 3.3-liter six that debuted in the Azera; here it rates 293 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque.  

Like its crossover competition the 2013 Santa Fe comes with front-wheel drive, which places the mass of the engine and transmission above the tires that also propel the vehicle. Front-drive promotes predictable handling and good traction on wet roads. Available at extra cost is all-wheel-drive (AWD) for greater grip in snow or on steep gravel driveways or other loose surfaces. Typical of AWD systems in other crossovers, it normally operates in front-drive and automatically sends power to the rear wheels as necessary to counteract wheel slippage.

The 2012 Santa Fe is not among the very few crossovers designed for serious off-roading. Its AWD system doesn’t have low-range gearing or a provision to lock in extra traction at low speeds. It does, however, incorporate sensors that distribute torque front-to-rear to enhance dry-surface grip and control. All ’13 Santa Fes also have Hyundai’s new Driver Selectable Steering with three power-assist modes: low-effort Comfort, Normal, and firmer Sport. 

Alloy wheels are standard on all 2012 Santa Fes. The base Sport has 17-inch rims and tires. The LWB GLS has 18-inch wheels, the Limited 19s. The Sport 2.0T gets 19s, plus handling-optimized suspension tuning. 

Features: The 2013 Santa Fe follows Hyundai’s successful formula of feature-laden cars and SUVs packaged to sell at prices lower than those of similarly equipped rivals. Among popular items standard on every 2013 Santa Fe are Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity, a USB iPod interface, and XM satellite radio with three-month trial subscription.

Also included is Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system, a fee-based service that delivers emergency assistance, turn-by-turn navigation, remote unlocking, voice text messaging, and stolen-vehicle slowdown. Blue Link also includes “Geofence” capability in which the owner can be notified by email or text if the loaned-out vehicle has violated preset geographic boundaries.

Numerous rivals reserve many of the features noted above for their uplevel models. The 2013 Santa Fe further stands out in its competitive set because each iteration is available with such upscale touches as leather upholstery, heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats, and a GPS navigation system.

All 2013 Santa Fes come with a tilt/telescope steering wheel with audio and cruise controls. Remote keyless entry also is standard, with pushbutton start included on 2.0T and Limited trims and optional on the base Sport. Leather upholstery, heated second-row seats, and front dual-zone automatic climate control are standard on the Limited and optional on the others

Among features standard on the 2.0T and LWB Limited models and optional on other 2013 Santa Fes are a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and heated mirrors. A windshield wiper deicer and Homelink remote garage and gate opener is standard on the Limited and optional on the others.

A power moonroof is optional on all but the GLS. The LWB Santa Fe is also the available with blindspot detection to warn of unseen vehicles in adjacent lanes. All but the base Sport have fog lamps. 

The GPS navigation system is controlled by voice commands or an 8-inch dashboard touchscreen and includes a review camera. It’s optional on all 2013 Santa Fes and depending on model, is paired with various audio systems topped by a 12-speaker, 550-watt Infinity Logic 7 setup. Without the nav system, the rearview camera displays on a 4.3-inch color dashboard screen that’s part of an audio system standard on the Limited and optional on the Sport models.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Prices back to top

Prices for the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe were not available in time for this review, but every Hyundai is priced to be a value leader in its class, and this redesigned crossover should be no different.

This suggests an estimated starting price for the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe base Sport model of around $24,000 with front-wheel drive and around $26,000 with AWD. (Base-price estimates in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Hyundai’s fee for the 2012 Santa Fe was $795.)

Estimated base price for the 2013 Santa Fe Sport 2.0T is $27,000 with front-drive, $29,000 with AWD. Expect a base-price range for the 2013 Santa Fe LWB models of $30,000-$36,000 with front-drive and $31,500-$37,500 with AWD.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Fuel Economy back to top

EPA gas-mileage ratings for the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe weren’t available in time for this review, but Hyundai issued preliminary estimates likely to reflect final ratings. All its estimates put the 2013 Santa Fe among the most fuel-efficient midsize crossovers of similar size, weight, and power. 

Hyundai projects the base Sport model at 23/33/26 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 20/29/23 mpg with AWD.

It estimates the Sport 2.0T at 22/31/25 mpg with front-drive, 20/28/22 mpg with AWD. And it says the LWB models should rate 19/26/22 mpg with front-drive and 19/26/22 mpg with AWD.

All versions of the 2013 Santa Fe use regular-octane gas and all come with Hyundai’s “Active ECO System.” This furnishes a dashboard button to automatically modify engine and transmission control for increased real-world fuel economy.

Hyundai deserves credit for weight-saving design that also benefits fuel economy. Each successive generation of its vehicles is significantly lighter than the car or crossover it replaces. The base 2013 Santa Fe Sport, for example, is 266 pounds lighter than the comparable 2012 model, while the 2013 Sport 2.0T weighs 300 pounds less than the 2012 V-6 model it replaces. In all, Hyundai’s cars and crossovers are among the lightest in their competitive sets.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Release Date back to top

The 2013 Santa Fe Sport goes on-sale in late summer 2012. The LWB 2013 Santa Fe will hit dealerships in January 2013.

What's next for the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe back to top

The Santa Fe line dates to model-year 2000 when it launched as a compact-class SUV. The subsequent addition of the compact Tucson enabled Hyundai to elevate Santa Fe to midsize status with a model-year 2005 redesign. Now, by dividing the 2013 Santa Fe into five- and seven-passenger models, the automaker signals the end for its Veracruz crossover, a three-row V-6 SUV that bowed for model-year 2007 and is being discontinued after model-year 2012.

Don’t expect the core of this third-generation Santa Fe lineup to change much over the next three years or so. A midcycle facelift is likely around model-year 2016. Meantime, however, Hyundai could well add a gas-electric hybrid model, perhaps as early as model-year 2014.    

The Santa Fe Hybrid would share its powertrain with the Sonata Hybrid and use a modified version of the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine augmented by an electric motor/generator and a lightweight lithium polymer battery pack. No plug-in charging would be necessary; the system would replenish the battery pack primarily by harnessing energy from deceleration and braking.

This is a “full” hybrid system in that the electric motor alone can propel the vehicle for limited periods as well as assist the gasoline engine when extra power is needed to optimize acceleration and fuel economy. The system can also idle the gasoline engine when the vehicle is stopped to further save fuel. Most hybrids use a gearless continuous variable transmission, which provides a steady stream of acceleration without shift points. But Hyundai’s hybrid drive system works with a conventional six-speed automatic. Hyundai says this keeps costs down and provides a more familiar shift feel than a CVT.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Competition back to top

Chevrolet Equinox: Chevy’s popular five-passenger crossover is due a style freshening for model-year 2013. Expect smoother contours but little change to an overall length in between that of the regular and extended 2013 Santa Fes but with a wheelbase longer than either. The 2013 Equinox should retain a choice of two engines: a 182-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated around 22/32/26 mpg with front-drive, 20/29/23 with AWD and a smoother 264-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6 (17/24/20 mpg, 16/23/19 AWD). No reason Equinox wouldn’t continue to feel solidly built and be roomy and comfortable. Note that the GMC Terrain is the same crossover but with different styling. Estimated 2013 Equinox base-price range is $25,000-$34,000.

Ford Edge: This fashion-conscious five-seater is a foil to the performance bent of the 2013 Santa Fe Sport 2.0T model because it’s available with Ford’s turbocharged EcoBoost 2.0-liter four-cylinder. That engine should return for model-year 2013 with 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. Unlike the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T, however, the 2013 EcoBoost Edge is likely to again be offered only with front-wheel drive (and a 21/30/24-mpg rating). You’ll need one of two V-6s to get AWD; those engines should return at 280 and 305 horsepower. Overall, Edge drives nicely but always feels burdened by one of the heaviest curb weights in the class. Blessing or burden, depending on your tech acumen, is its available MyFord Touch operating system that eschews most gauges and switches for configurable LCD displays and dashboard “touch points.” Expect a 2013 Edge base-price range of roughly $29,900-$42,000.

Ford Explorer: This is America’s top-selling three-row midsize SUV and a good match for the 2013 Santa Fe LWB model. The Ford is slightly longer, though, and a sobering 700 pounds heavier. Explorer’s model-year 2011 redesign exchanged body-on-frame construction for a unibody structure. It brought new styling, too, and the most capable AWD system in this grouping thanks to standard “terrain response” automatic traction enhancement. The 2013 Explorer will again be available with Ford’s turbo EcoBoost 2.0-liter four-cylinder, although as in the Edge, with front-drive only (20/28/23 mpg). The standard engine should remain a 290-horsepower V-6 rated 17/25/20 mpg with front-drive and 17/23/19 with AWD. Ford’s full suite of infotainment, including MyFord Touch, will be on tap. Estimated 2013 Explorer base-price range is $30,000-$42,000.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Next Steps