Gearing up to release the third-generation Santa Fe, the decision makers at Hyundai plotted a strategy that would put the crossover on as many shopping lists as possible. With three engines and two different wheelbase models to choose from, Hyundai will offer a five-passenger Sport model as well as a 7-passenger LWB (long wheel base) Santa Fe that replaces the slow-selling Vera Cruz.
But the differences don’t end there, with some desperately needed refreshed styling and much-reduced body weight. Reemerging onto the market as a sleeker, more functional and more efficient vehicle, the Santa Fe has shed 266 lbs from the old model, allowing five out of the six versions to weigh less than 4,000 lbs.
CHOICE: PICK YOUR OWN SANTA FE
In renewing and reviving the brand’s top-selling crossover, Hyundai engineers have empowered the new Santa Fe Sport with a four-cylinder engine lineup with a choice of either front-wheel or all-wheel drive.
Powered by the same engines found in the Sonata - with the ability to tow up to 3,500 pounds - the Santa Fe Sport models will have two options. Starting at $24,450, the base 2.4-liter direct-injection engine makes 190 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy for the FWD is reasonable, giving consumers 22-mpg city, 33-mpg on the highway for a combined 26-mpg. The AWD model achieves a 21/28-mpg rating for 23-mpg combined
To satisfy consumers looking for more power and performance there’s a 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection model making 264-hp and 269 lb-ft of torque, starting at $27,700. Front-drive fuel economy is rated at 21/31-mpg for a combined 25-mpg, while AWD models get 20/27-mpg or 22-mpg combined.
The base engine is somewhat lacking in comparison to the more efficient 4-cylinder compact crossover set, though the Santa Fe is quite large. The turbo motor is competitive in power compared to rivals like the RAV4 and Chevy Equinox V6 as well as the Ford Edge turbo, and fuel economy is better too – though closer in some comparisons than others. Hyundai's Active ECO system does, however, come standard, adding in fuel efficiency by optimizing engine and transmission control.
Early next year, mid-size SUVs like the Honda Pilot, the new Nissan Pathfinder and the Edge will be joined to battle it out for class-leading domination with the arrival of the LWB (long wheel base) Santa Fe. Debuting in January 2013, it will be powered by a 3.3-liter V6 engine with 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, with a 19/26-mpg rating for the FWD model and 22 mpg combined.
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