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2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Review: Standing Out in a Packed Segment

Hyundai has offered a model in the midsized crossover segment for years but with the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport – the Korean automaker finally has an alternative that can stand out in just about any comparison in the class.


In my opinion, few automakers doing business in the US has grown as much as Hyundai in the past 10 years and the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is a fine example of the transformation from affordable, efficient and bland to fun to drive, sharply design and still very affordable. There was nothing wrong with the previous generation Santa Fe but with a curvy exterior design, it simply didn’t offer enough curb appeal to draw in buyers in a segment packed full of models taking a more aggressive approach to their styling. The 2013 Santa Fe Sport fixes that problem with a bold new exterior and as it the case with the rest of the Hyundai lineup, this roomy crossover packs an impressive interior layout and a ton of power that make it one of the most entertaining options in the class.

My 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport test vehicle was fitted with all wheel drive and the 2.0L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that delivers 264 horsepower and 269lb-ft of torque with the help of a 6-speed automatic transmission. Optional features include the Leather & Premium Equipment Package, the Technology Package and the carpet floor mats – which when added to the standard price of the 2013 Sana Fe Sport AWD 2.0T model gives this vehicle a sticker price of $35,755.

The Exterior
Nearly every segment in the modern American auto industry demands a certain level of edgy, aggressive design to compete and the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport definitely answers the bell in that category. The most prominent feature is the bold front end design that features a large, chromed up grille flanked by some sharply angled headlights above and equally angular foglights below. The headlights sit at the front edge of a quickly sloping hood with aggressive lines while the fog lights are fitted into a black band that runs from side to side with a mesh design. The front end is punctuated by the way that the front fascia curls under the front end with a silver roll pan style design taking up the center section and adding an extra measure of sportiness to the face of the Santa Fe Sport.

Santa Fe front end

Along the side, the 2013 Santa Fe Sport AWD has a great, low stance for an all wheel drive crossover. The low, fluid design of the top line that starts with the hood, runs through the windshield and along the long, gently sloping roofline to a sharp rear glass angle. The way that the roofline tapers down at the rear to meet the upward tapering side glass with black pillars and chrome trim around the edges gives this crossover a very sport look along the sides while a set of 19” alloy wheels fill the flared wheel wells beautifully. Adding a touch of class to the side is a set of chrome door handles that give the Santa Fe just enough bling to help this crossover ‘pop’.

Santa Fe rear end

Out back, the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport has big, bright red tail lights set under a huge rear window that is capped by a molded, low profile spoiler. The rear end wears a similar roll pan deisgn to the front end with the dual exhaust outlets poking through the lower corner of the rump and while this rear end is as quite as bold as the front – it fits nicely with the overall exterior flow of the vehicle.

The Interior
My 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport came heavily loaded with both the Technology and Leather Premium packages – a configuration that really gives this roomy midsized crossover a surprisingly high end look. I say surprisingly because while Hyundai models have come a long way, the look and feel of the 2013 Santa Fe is still a very pleasant surprise. The combination of the “saddle” (brown) leather seats in the predominantly black cabin with silver accents and a light colored headliner looks very high end – an effort which is amplified by the gorgeous and massive panoramic sunroof. Im a fan of glass roof treatments and this is one that is worthy of adoration with a huge glass opening, a large portion of which retracts to let the sunlight in. Between this great sunroof, the high tech infotainment system with an 8 inch touchscreen, the Infinity sound system and the heated leather steering wheel, the Technology Package is a big part of the luxury feel.

Santa Fe sunroof

While the saddle brown leather seats of the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport look great, they are every bit as comfortable as they are stylish. The heated front seats have deep bolsters that hug your frame a bit and as for a vehicle in this segment, there is an impressive amount of space for the driver and front passenger in every dimension. What is even more impressive is the amount of space for the rear riders as there is tons of headroom and leg room for those in the back seats – something which can be hard to find among midsized crossovers. The middle “third seat” is a bit tight but the heated outboard seats are very comfortable so in my opinion, it is better to leave the rear center armrest down but if you have three kids to drive around, this is a vehicle that will work for you.

Santa Fe front seatsSanta Fe rear seats

Those who like to have lots of gadgets in their new vehicle will definitely enjoy the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport when it is all loaded up. The 8 inch information touch screen mounted high on the dash provides for easy visual reference while driving without having to look far from the road while the assortment of buttons on the steering wheel combined allows the driver to make changes without taking his or her hands off of the steering wheel. Below the large touchscreen is a spread of buttons and knobs to adjust the stereo and navigation system and below that area is where you find the knobs and buttons of the dual zone climate control system. There are a ton of buttons in this central area but the HVAC system is very easy to use while driving and the most commonly used controls for the sound system are all located on the steering wheel so the system isn’t too busy for the driver when driving.

Santa Fe dash

While my favorite aspect of the 2013 Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0 model is how it drives, I have grown to appreciate the little “x-factor” features in modern vehicles and the rear cargo area of the Santa Fe Sport is that x factor for me here. The Santa Fe Sport (which is actually the smaller of the two current Santa Fe models) has a huge rear cargo area that turns into an even bigger area when you fold down the rear seats but what I liked the most is what you cannot see at first. The Santa Fe Sport has two panels in the base of the cargo area that flip up and under those doors are a variety of differently shaped storage compartments. This is a great place to store small items with the doors closed but this feature also allows you to haul items in the rear cargo area without any concern of them sliding around. This is one of those features that doesn’t look all that impressive but it is a great, handy use of interior space that doesn’t cut into the convenience of the flat loading floor.

Santa Fe cargo areaThe Drive
There was a point in time where the midsized crossover segment was just about the furthest thing that most people would consider when talking about “fun to drive” vehicles and while some of the models in this segment are still guilty of offering a boring driving experience - the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is a ton of fun to drive. With 264 horsepower and 269lb-ft of torque being channeled to all four wheels, the Santa Fe Sport can really set you back into the seats on a hard launch and this roomy SUV will allow you to get away from a stop light in a hurt but it also offers great midrange power for great passing performance. There is almost no noticeable turbo lag and to those who aren’t looking for it, the bit of delay before the Santa Fe between when you hit the pedal and when you are accelerating hard won’t even register. The transmission pops quickly and confidently through the gears and those who want some automated gear banging fun can use the manual shift mode.

Santa Fe front end

While the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T packs a ton of acceleration power, the low, wide stance allows for a great handling feel whether in tight quarters or out on the open road. The Santa Fe can cut through tight turns, comfortably climb through higher speed sweeping corners and still offer a nice smooth ride quality like few other crossovers available today. The Santa Fe features an adjustable steering system that allows the driver to select from Normal, Comfort or Sport with varying levels of input/output in each and the vast majority of my drive time was spent in Sport mode which offers (by far) the best feel.

The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T as my test vehicle was configured is expected to return fuel economy figures of 19mpg around town, 24 on the highway and an average number of 21mpg. I spent much of my drive time around town with lots of spirited 0-60 sprints and that had a negative impact on my fuel economy numbers. I averaged 19.9mpg but I very openly admit that I drove it harder than most people will and when I drove the Santa Fe more conservatively, I was able to achieve those expected fuel economy numbers. I was also able to achieve slightly better than the 24mpg on the highway when making a long highway drive with speeds hovering between 70-75 miles per hour so those drivers who aren’t as heavy footed as I am can expect to get far better fuel economy numbers than did I.

The Final Word
The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T is aggressively styled, fun to drive, comfortable and it comes with a loaded up interior for around $35k…features which combine to make this a very attractive option in the midsized crossover segment. This is a vehicle that can very comfortably service a family of five with three smaller children but unlike many crossovers of minivans, the Santa Fe Sport is still a ton of fun to drive. This is a vehicle that you can and will look forward to driving and that is an aspect of the crossover segment that is very hard to come by with such a low price tag. Hyundai has seen success in making their cars more aggressive on the outside, more luxurious inside and more engaging to drive and with all of those attributes poured into the Santa Fe Sport – this roomy midsized crossover offers the same strong points that have made the modern Hyundai brand such a formidable competitor in the US auto industry.

Santa Fe side

If you are looking for an all wheel drive, midsized crossover that offers real space for four adults or two adults and three kids, a huge cargo area with a unique under floor storage space, a plush and comfortable interior and plenty of high tech goodies all in a vehicle that is fun to drive in almost any situation – the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T could be the ideal vehicle for you.