So, two sizes of the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe are on the menu. It seems familiar.
Mitsubishi recently got the ball rolling in this direction for the 2011 model year when it introduced the Outlander Sport, which is a shortened version of its regular-length Outlander. On a grander scale, General Motors and Ford employ this approach with their big-and-beefy sport utes while a number of minivans once offered two body sizes. Even Hyundai-owned Kia made two sizes of its Sedona minivan.
But since passenger-car-based tall wagons have replaced much of the minivan trade, Hyundai is also applying the two-sizes-fits-all approach to its third-generation Santa Fe that launches later this summer.
Actually it’s the shorter-wheelbase iteration, labeled the Santa Fe Sport that arrives first, followed by the extended-length Santa Fe in early 2013. The face of each, while differing slightly, feature Hyundai’s signature hexagon grille. A prominent crease extending along each side and flowing over the taillights replaces the previous Santa Fe’s more rounded look. The entire design is both conservative, yet entirely stylish, and should be greeted by approving nods from most shoppers.
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Dimensionally, the five-passenger Santa Fe Sport is similar to the 2012 Santa Fe, as both have identical distance between the front and rear wheels.
The upcoming seven-passenger non-sport Santa Fe, however, is 8.5 inches longer overall, nearly four-inches longer between the front and rear wheels and has 16 percent more cargo space behind the second-row seat.
The bigger Santa Fe is understandably heftier than the Sport — by more than 400 pounds, actually — which explains why it’s sole powerplant is a 290-horsepower 3.3-liter V6 that replaces the previously optional 274-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. Conversely, the Sport, now lighter than the outgoing Santa Fe by an impressive 266 pounds, can be had with a base 190-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder, or an optional 264-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder.
Regardless of your chosen powerplant, a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift controls is all that’s offered.
That might not be welcome news for the relatively small percentage of manual-gearbox fans, but at least Hyundai will allow you to match your selected engine with its latest all-wheel-drive setup. The system includes what Hyundai calls Torque Vectoring Corner Control (TVCC) that continuously monitors driving conditions and can instantaneously direct the correct amount of power or braking force to any single wheel at a time. This helps steer the vehicle in the desired direction (which is the vectoring part). TVCC is most helpful in slippery road conditions, but it also helps the driver negotiate turns with added precision.
Hyundai claims TVCC also helps conserve fuel. In fact, the front-wheel-drive and TVCC all-wheel-drive V6 versions are both rated at 19 mpg city and 26 highway. Usually AWD adds a slight penalty. The front-wheel-drive 2.4-liter four-cylinder gets 23 mpg city/33 highway (22/31 for the turbo), while adding AWD drops these numbers to 20/29 (20/28 for the turbo).
Santa Fe features plenty of standard convenience items, along with some unexpected treats such Driver Selectable Steering Mode with a “Normal” setting, “Comfort” (reduces steering effort by 10 percent) and “Sport” (increases effort by the same amount). Turbo models add performance suspension components (stiffer shocks and stabilizer bars) 19-inch wheels (17s are standard), fancier gauge cluster, push-button start, heated front seats (eight-way powered for the driver).
Similarly, the up level V6 Santa Fe Limited offers a wider selection of content over the base GLS, such as dual-zone climate control, leather seat covers and second-row captain’s chairs that reduce maximum capacity to six from seven passengers.
As of this writing, pricing has yet to be released, but the Sport will likely start at about $24,500 (including destination charges), with the longer Santa Fe adding $3,000. Both versions promise to provide spirited performance and impressive fuel economy as their primary virtues, with good looks and practical packaging also coming along for the ride.