$13,100 - $17,859

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe was new.


Performance: 7.5

Reviewers write that the two-row Santa Fe Sport offers powerful acceleration and decent handling. Most critics say the larger Santa Fe has a comfortable ride and a responsive V6 engine, though some note that initial acceleration is tepid.

  • "A sprightly performer, Santa Fe Sport impressed us the most with its utter refinement.” -- Left Lane News
  • "The Sport performed admirably on Utah's silky smooth mountain roads, where the crossover delivered a comfortable yet confident ride.” -- Autoblog
  • "Although we don't think it's quite on par with the CX-5, the 2013 Santa Fe's solid feel, rattle-free interior, and well-heeled moves place it light-years beyond those of the outgoing model.” -- Car and Driver
  • “‘Sport’ designation notwithstanding, the new five-passenger Santa Fe is not an enthusiast's car. It's not a machine you'll look forward to hammering when the way ahead opens up.” -- AutoWeek

Acceleration and Power

The base Hyundai Santa Fe Sport comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 190 horsepower, while the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T comes with a 264-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Both trims of the three-row Santa Fe come with a 294-horsepower, 3.3-liter V6 engine. All three powerplants are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The Santa Fe Sport’s fuel economy ranges from 22/33 mpg city/highway for a front-wheel drive model with the base engine to 20/27 mpg city/highway for a model with all-wheel drive and the turbocharged four-cylinder, according to the EPA.

Most critics write that the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T's turbocharged engine offers surprisingly smooth acceleration. The auto press is nearly unanimous in writing that this engine has plenty of power even at high elevations, where turbo mills tend to lose steam as a result of the thinner air. However, a few say the acceleration could be more linear, and that the six-speed automatic isn’t as responsive as they had hoped.

  • "Hyundai's is generally one of the strongest among the proliferating crop of 2.0-liter direct-injection turbos: stout, smooth and exceptionally linear, with so little perceptible lag or surge that it almost doesn't feel like a turbo.” -- AutoWeek
  • “The 2.0T is a capable engine, doing its business without a lick of fuss or noise, convincingly nailing the coffin shut on the idea that a V6 is a requirement.” -- Edmunds
  • "We did notice a hiccup in the performance with the engine spinning between approximately 2700 and 3300 rpm, at which point it becomes a bit difficult to modulate the accelerator and maintain smooth progress. It's only a slight annoyance, and if the twin-scroll turbo engine's performance weren't so otherwise impressively smooth, it might not even be worth a mention.” -- Car and Driver
  • "At altitude, the 2.0T performed admirably, but the lack of any of the base model 2.4L naturally aspirated cars was telling; we'll wait until we're back at sea-level to make a final judgement call. Even with our foot to the floor, the 2.0T barely broke a sweat, while the six-speed automatic did its best to minimize its presence.” -- The Truth About Cars
  • “On twisty roads, we'd want to accelerate out of a turn but would have to wait -- or mash the throttle -- for the transmission to downshift. This would be an excellent premium engine choice with some tweaks to the transmission and perhaps the turbocharger.” -- Motor Trend

Handling and Braking

Reviewers say the Hyundai Santa Fe has acceptable handling for an SUV of its size and price. They write that its ride is fairly smooth and that it doesn’t have too much body roll, although it’s not the most comfortable or flattest-cornering crossover in its class. Its steering can be set in Comfort, Normal or Sport mode, and while test drivers say this can help drivers set the steering weight to their preference, it doesn’t improve steering feedback or performance. Front-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive is optional on all models. This system won’t turn the SUV into an off-roader, but reviewers say it works well if you happen to lose control on a slippery road.

  • "Generally, the Santa Fe Sport delivers a fine compromise of good ride and steady response-neither chop nor wallow. … The brake pedal feels firm enough and linear, and Hyundai claims the largest brakes and shortest stopping distances in the class.” -- AutoWeek
  • "Steep descents of several thousand feet produced no [brake] fade. The pedal is conscious, but-as in most of the competition-its communication skills are a bit lacking.” -- Car and Driver
  • "In terms of handling, body lean could be better checked around corners, but the motion is never obnoxious.” -- Cars.com
  • "Curiously, the electric power steering has three calibrations that can be selected via a button on the steering wheel, all of which are fairly numb. While it could be argued that steering feel isn't high on the priority list of shoppers in the Santa Fe's bread-and-butter segment, we'll point out that the steering-feel-havin' Mazda CX-5 exists and feels considerably more precise from behind the wheel.” -- Edmunds
  • "If exterior and interior styling and the numerous amenities you get for the money are the Sport's strong suits, its weaknesses are steering and suspension feel.” -- Motor Trend

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