The results are in. In October the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe won the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) Best New SUV/CUV in the $35,000-$60,000 price range.
The AJAC awards are one of the car industry’s most thorough testing programs. Over 70 AJAC members test-drove the new Santa Fe, putting it through back-to-back tests with competitor’s models in the same class.
After four days of testing, the 2013 Santa Fe came out on top, mostly because of its fantastic pair of engine options that give some of the best fuel efficiency and the best horsepower in their class. But we’ll get to that later.
First, allow me to add an unexpected accolade to the many already heaped upon the 2013 Santa Fe.
My favourite feature was the driver’s seat—it is the most comfortable one I’ve sat in so far. I’m a short person; when I wake from sleep I am all of 160 cm (5’3”). Most places I sit my feet dangle. Because of my modest stature, most seats simply don’t fit me, and long drives give me a back ache, leg ache, and neck ache all at once.
The Sante Fe I drove had a 12-way Power Adjustable Drivers Seat with 4-way Power Lumbar Support. I thought I had adjusted it perfectly, but one more nudge slightly lowered the front lip of the seat and I immediately felt pressure release from my legs and back.
I felt like the car was snuggling me. This feature alone is priceless if you are spending anything over 45 minutes a day driving or you’re planning long car trips.
The fancy adjustable seat option comes with heat. Think of it as driving with the hot water bottle you take to bed. My car (whose make and model shall remain nameless) feels like a mild torture device in comparison.
Good handling, mileage
After driving the Sante Fe for a week I can confirm that it handles beautifully. The steering has three settings for stiffness. I agree with the guys at Car and Driver—set it to “sport” and stay there if you like stiff, sensitive steering. If you have tiny arm muscles go ahead and select “comfort” or “normal.” I was just impressed that it wasn’t a useless button. You can actually feel the difference.
Because of the Santa Fe’s 2.0-litre turbocharged GDI engine, the 264 horsepower made me want to repent my lead-footedness. With 269 lb-ft of torque, part of the benefit of gasoline direct injection, I found I was making my kids a bit carsick until I got used how responsive the car was.
A friend suggested I roll my foot on and off the gas pedal, instead of stomping on it like I do in my minivan. Part of the reason for my shock—besides monstrous torque—is the lack of turbo lag.
The other benefit of a 4-cylinder 2.0 litre GDI engine is improved gas mileage. The 2.0 Litre turbo model actually gets 9.1 L/100 km combined gas mileage, even better than the 2.4L Santa Fe without turbo (8.7 L/100 km combined).
Once you get used to all that zip, the turbo will do you in good stead if you are pulling a cute little camper or boat.
Still, we don’t generally drive SUVs because we’re going into the wilderness—we drive them to feel safe and high enough off the ground to get a good view of traffic.
I can affirm that the back seat fits three kids perfectly. No more than one of them can need a car seat though, or it is too cramped. I’d stick with two adults unless they are small, and pretty close friends.
The Bluetooth link from the phone was actually easy to use, without any extra features that just cause confusion and potential car accidents. Rear park assist—how did we ever live without you?
The second row 40/20/40 split fold-flat and reclining rear seat option is a smart option. You will eventually need to haul home some medium-sized pieces of furniture. The Santa Fe has 4060L of cabin volume, and fold-flat seats allow you to make the best use of it.
Price starts at $28,259, but many of the upgrades are very worthwhile, including the comfy driver’s seat, so for a little over $30,500 you’ll get all the features I mentioned.
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