Car Review: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe for Families

The Vacation Gals were invited to test drive the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe in Park City, Utah, last weekend; however, all three of us had prior commitments. Thankfully, we knew just the right person to send in our stead: Traci L. Suppa of Go Big or Go Home. This fun-loving travel blogger road-trips a lot with her family, checking out all sorts of big attractions in the United States. Since she travels by car quite a bit, we figured she’d have a lot to say about the new Hyundai model — and she did! –Kara Williams

The right car makes a road trip all that much better. At the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport media preview, I put the model’s “road–tripability” to the test. The five-passenger Sport model is similar in size to the 2012 model, and it’s already available in dealerships across the U.S. At the end of this year, an even longer seven-passenger model — with a third row of seating — will be rolled out.

The snazzy, 5-passenger Santa Fe Sport parked in front of Park City’s Utah Olympic Park.

The Hyundai Santa Fe: Design and Amenities

I focused on all the features which would convince me to load up my family of four and hit the road. By these standards, the Santa Fe is a great choice. For one, it has good highway fuel economy (EPA estimated 31 mpg) relative to other CUV/SUV in its class, and it uses regular unleaded gas. It also has Hillstart Assist Control (HAC), which minimizes backward roll when you stop on steep hills, and the Downhill Brake Control (DBC), which helps you maintain control down steep hills.

From a safety perspective, there are not only seven traditional airbags, but also a driver’s knee airbag, which would prevent the driver from sinking under the steering wheel in a collision.

Then there are several design features which enhance the experience of being in a car for long periods of time, including:

● The panoramic sunroof, which extends over the second-row passengers. My kids would love that view of blue sky or twinkling stars!

Built-in window shades protect back-seat kids from the sun.

● Heated rear seats, and manual rear side window sunshades. These are so helpful in keeping the sun off the kids’ faces while they nap.

● Dual-zone climate controls and a CleanAir Ionizer which automatically cleans the air when the heater or air conditioner is running.

● The cloth seating is treated with “YES Essentials,” which gives the fabric soil-resistant, anti-odor and anti-static properties.

● The power tailgate helps you load luggage more easily, because you can lift and shut the back hatch door automatically.

● There are 60 cubic feet of interior volume, which includes ample space in the back for luggage and gear. There’s even a storage well hidden under the floor for smaller items. The spare tire is now underneath the car.

That said, this isn’t a minivan, so don’t expect the same roominess. While the Sport model technically seats five, that’s only if you put down the middle console in the back seat, and squeeze a third person in the back. This car seems best suited for a family of four.

The 8-inch touchscreen is your digital command center.

I’m a sucker for the smaller bells and whistles, like the cooled glove box, and the “Proximity Key,” which lets you start the car with a push of the button. The 8-inch touchscreen in the dash is your digital command center, with rearview camera, GPS, and audio entertainment controls. And while there are several traditional cup holders, there are also narrower bottle holders to keep slimmer drinks from falling over.

The Hyundai Santa Fe: Driver Review

We were only able to see an early model of the 7-passenger Santa Fe with a third row, because this model won’t be available until the end of 2012. Instead, we drove the 5-passenger, turbo model Santa Fe Sport, which has two rows of seating and all-wheel drive.

Our test drive route began at the upscale, yet family-friendly, Montage Deer Valley resort in Park City. We drove 50 miles to Sundance for lunch, stopped at the Utah Olympic Park, and returned to the resort – eight hours and nearly 200 miles later. Hyundai clearly wanted us to see how well the Santa Fe performs at altitude and over varied terrains, because we drove up and down steep, winding mountains roads, highways, and narrow back roads. We even cut through a forest on an unpaved, pitted gravel road. Through it all, the steering was responsive, and the ride was smooth.

Off-roading with the Santa Fe in the hills and forest around Park City, Utah.

We own a Mazda CX-9, and I’ve also driven the 2011 Santa Fe, so I came to this test drive with some perspective. The “third generation” design of the new Santa Fe is a complete overhaul from previous years. It offers a lot of the features and design qualities I like in our CX-9, with a lot of extras. The design even incorporates padding to make it a quieter ride.

I felt very comfortable in the driver’s seat, with effortless reach to the dashboard controls. It also passed my test to see if I could reach behind to pass imaginary snacks to the imaginary kids in the back seat! The only thing I missed was a place to rest my right elbow, because the center console was set too far back.

The most fascinating feature to me – as a helicopter mom – is the Blue Link® connectivity system, which comes standard. If your teenager is driving the car, you can track their speed and location, and be alerted via email when they exceed a set speed, or go outside the boundaries you’ve set. The only downside is that after the complimentary trial period, you have to pay a fee for the service.

Hyundai Motor America hosted this writer’s travel expenses to Park City, Utah as part of the media review event. Photos courtesy Traci L. Suppa.

“GoBIGGal” Traci L. Suppa drags her small-town family to see a quirky array of the “world’s largest” attractions, and blogs about it at Go BIG or Go Home.

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