The Veracruz never stood a chance. With a lackluster advertising and promotional campaign behind it, the 7-seat Hyundai crossover never gained traction with consumers.
|1. The three-row Santa Fe comes standard with a 3.3L V6 making 290 hp and is available as FWD or AWD.
2. Two trims are available, a GLS with 7-seats and a Limited with 6.
3. Pricing starts at $28,350 and tops out at $37,750 for the fully loaded Limited Technology AWD.
4. The FWD Santa Fe is rated at 18 MPG city and 25 MPG highway, while AWD gets 18/24.
So, when it came time to redesign the 7-seat crossover, Hyundai decided to ditch the old name, instead banking on the market-strong Santa Fe badge to succeed where the Veracruz failed.
Instead of building a one size fits all body that would either be too large for two row seating applications or too cramped for three rows, Hyundai is building two lengths of Santa Fe. The shorter Santa Fe is the Sport which was released earlier this year. Available with a choice of four cylinder engines, one turbocharged and one not, the Santa Fe Sport is more of a compact crossover and seats only five passengers.
As it stands, the American made Santa Fe Sport is maxing out its production capacity and sales are up 35% from September to February, compared to the same time period a year before. But the Santa Fe Sport is bought primarily by members of the pre or post family cycle; empty nesters, singles, childless families, etc. Hyundai is fully aware, and fully admits that they are lacking sales, and a product, from those within the ‘family’ cycle – those with kids. To address this, the built in Korea long-wheelbase Santa Fe is being introduced.
The new Santa Fe will be available in two trim levels, GLS and Limited, which brings the total to four trims. As a handy cheat sheet, the Sport and Sport 2.0T = 5 seats, the GLS = 7-seats and the Limited = 6 seats thanks to a pair of captain chairs in the second row in lieu of a bench seat. To accomplish the addition of a 3rd row seat in the Santa Fe, all new sheet metal was added from the B-pillar rearwards and the wheelbase was stretched 3.9-inches while the overall length grows by 8.5-inches.
Besides extending the length, the regular Santa Fe also receives an additional set of cylinders, bringing the count to six. In this application, Hyundai’s 3.3-liter direct injection V6 is good for 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque. This engine is based off of the one found in the Azera, but ruggedized to handle a full load of passengers, towing duties, or light off-roading. This was all achieved while only lowering power 3 hp and 3 lb-ft compared to Azera. The 3.3 L engine features a fairly flat torque curve and runs on regular grade fuel. Any trim of the Santa Fe is available with either front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD); both paired to a six-speed automatic. Officially, fuel economy is rated at 18 MPG city and 25 MPG highway for FWD Santa Fes awhile AWD Santa Fes achieve a similar 18 MPG city and 24 MPG highway.
Despite being the smallest sized V6 engine amongst key competitors like the Pilot, Highlander and Pathfinder; it ties for most power. Still, even with this robust 290 hp, the vehicle feels a bit hesitant climbing the hills east of San Diego. With only two people onboard, a lot of downshifting is needed to keep pace and we’re not sure how weak it will feel fully loaded with seven people, or with the standard 5000 lbs towing capacity being fully utilized. In this segment, no vehicle sets the world on fire power wise, but being the only mid-size 6-cylinder crossover that undercuts the 4,000 lbs barrier, more oomph is expected.
The long-wheelbase Santa Fe’s suspension set-up is softer than that found in the Sport as Hyundai realizes this will be a more family orientated vehicle and spirited driving jaunts will be few and far between. That said, the Santa Fe does hold on quite well in the corners for a large seven-seat crossover.
Not that this is an apex clipper, the Santa Fe’s responses inspire more than enough confidence for a typical mid-size crossover driver. What doesn’t inspire confidence though is the steering. Although it can be adjusted through three modes of resistance, it still suffers from being devoid of any feeling; a plague of many a Hyundai model. It is easier to accept in family-hauler-vehicle like the Santa Fe though.
Where the Santa Fe really shines is in the ride quality department as well as noise/harshness/vibration (NVH) levels. The combined longer wheelbase and softer suspension settings give the Santa Fe a more pleasant ride than that of the ’Sport’. Plus, it will trump all of its key competitors in a U-turn test with a turning radius of only 36.9 ft.
Inside, the Santa Fe’s front seats prove to be very comfortable over a long drive. The second row in the Limited, which features the dual captain chairs, is just a comfortable as the front; the GLS middle row bench also receives high comfort marks.
However, contrary to what Hyundai claims, the 3rd row seats feel like an afterthought. The seat height is set low, but still offers a distinct lack of headroom. The seat back itself is not the best shape, but does recline and offer ample legroom. Armrests do not exist in the 3rd row thanks to cup holders and storage areas, but the HVAC controls are a nice touch. Ingress and egress to the 3rd row is a hampered as well due to the rear wheel well.
The rest of the interior is appointed in quality feeling soft touch materials. There are four interior color combinations available, with the two tone interiors looking the best. Standard in all long-wheelbase Santa Fes are seven airbags, hill assist and downhill brake control. Cargo capacity is 13.5 cu-ft behind the 3rd row seats, which grows to 40.9 cu-ft when they are folded. Fold down the middle row of seats and cargo capacity balloons to 80.0 cu-ft.
The exterior of the Santa Fe differs from the Santa Fe Sport namely in revised head, tail and fog lights, as well as the addition of a fourth bar on the front grill. The long-wheelbase GLS and Limited trims look identical on the outside except for the wheels. No matter which way you look at it, this is a handsome machine that has enough style to draw over buyers from other brands.
So, the Santa Fe now has two drivetrains, 3 engines, two wheelbases and three seating configurations. What’s next? Well, there could be a rumored hybrid model, but the official word is that none are being developed currently.
Already on sale, pricing for the new, extended Santa Fe will begin at $28,350 for the front-wheel drive GLS and top out at $37,750 for the all-wheel drive Limited Technology.
Taking the already popular Santa Fe Sport and adding more of everything to it, it’s hard to think the three-row model will be anything but a hit with families.