By Greg Zyla

This week, we’re driving Hyundai’s all-new 2013 Santa Fe FE LTD AWD, another member of the SUV/crossover class we’ve been driving the last four weeks. With a larger wheelbase than last week’s test of sibling Kia Sorento SX, where the two share 3.3-liter V6 engines, the Korean built Santa Fe offers consumers more passenger space, cargo room and impressive “satisfaction quotient” on owner lists and blogs.

Unlike the American-built Sorento, there is, however, a smaller Santa Fe that is built in America, notably the Santa Fe Sport. Sport is a turbo charged Hyundai assembled on the same platform in Georgia as the 2014 Sorento line with an entry price of $26,505. Other than this share of Sorento and Sport components, the “bigger” Santa Fe is autonomous, and comes in both front or AWD traction.

Two Santa Fe models are available including GLS or an upscale Limited. Both are well equipped and come standard with a third row of seating. Additionally, Santa Fe now replaces the Veracruz, and comes well equipped regardless of trim. Our upscale Limited featured leather interior, two rows of heated seats, Captain Chair second row, power liftgate, tilt-and-telescoping, Bluetooth, six-speaker sound stereo CD, satellite, USB, 19-inch alloys and more.

The interior is inviting and offers lots of room for adults. Although the dashboard information systems and gauge clusters are real busy with information (you’ll get used to it), you’ll come to be thankful for its bevy of information and the safety back up camera. Overall, Santa Fe offers a modern and comfortable layout and an extensive number of safety and amenity features. (Your dealer is waiting to explain in detail).

Our tester came with a $2,900 Technology Package that adds a panoramic sunroof, eight-inch touch screen Navigation, 12-speaker 550-watt Infinity Logic 7 Surround HD system, heated steering wheel and manual rear side window sunshades.

All safety items expected on modern cars are in place, including traction control systems to help in AWD weather conditions. The 4×4 system is an active AWD with a lock, resulting in much safer negotiation during bad weather.

The powerful 3.3-liter V6 produces great acceleration characteristics from its 290 horsepower and 252 torque design, while the undercarriage mechanicals are upgraded to handle power and AWD performance while still delivering surprising comfort. We timed our Santa Fe to 60-mph in 7.8 seconds, which is quite impressive for a seven passenger vehicle. The EPA average is identical to last week’s Sorento, at 18 city and 24 highway for the AWD model.

On the highway or on a twisty road, the ride is quiet and tight, with good overall handling. As with the Kia, it’s no sports car, but Santa Fe is better or as good as most others when pushed in a corner.

Regardless of trim, Hyundai expects over 100,000 2013 Santa Fe models on the road this year, a tremendous success for a company that was laughed at 15 years ago. Additionally, now may be the best time to check with your dealer for leftover savings and incentives, as few if any changes are expected for 2014.



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