Lifestyle — 12 June 2014
In the Driver’s Seat: 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe LTD

Before you choke on the price tag affixed to a 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe, remember that it is now packaged, priced and positioned to compete against other midsize, 3-row, 7-passenger SUVs. The stylish Santa Fe is more sophisticated than expected, roomier and more comfortable than several of its competitors, and makes plenty of sense in terms of safety and cost of ownership. Stylish design and engaging driving dynamics add a layer of emotional attachment to what is an exceptionally practical vehicle.

We found the Santa Fe to be really a good-looking and distinctive and the 19-inch wheels included in the Technology Packages are perfect in terms of size, appearance and finish.

Inside, thanks to creative use of texture, pattern and trim, there’s plenty of visual contrast inside the Santa Fe’s cabin, even with my test vehicle’s Black interior color, and the interior looks suitably upscale thanks to details like convincing wood trim and tasteful silver accents. In addition to adding big 19-inch wheels, the Santa Fe’s Technology Package includes a massive panoramic sunroof that lets in plenty of light during the day and serves as a source of entertainment and wonder for children riding in the rear seats.

The bigger Santa Fe gets a 3.3-liter V6 engine making 290 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 252 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm, making this one of the more powerful crossover SUVs in the segment. A 6-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual-shift capability delivers the power to the Santa Fe’s front wheels and an Active Eco driving mode calibrates shifting to maximize fuel economy. The manual shift gate offers an intuitive shift pattern: Push up on the gear selector to execute an upshift, pull down to execute a downshift.

We drove a vehicle with an optional Active Cornering Control all-wheel-drive (AWD) system which continuously monitors driving conditions to maximize traction and employs torque vectoring to reduce oversteer and understeer when taking corners or accelerating in order to improve the Santa Fe’s handling and stability.

The Santa Fe’s 3.3-liter V6 is strong and the 6-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly as we accelerated or loafed along in rush-hour traffic. On hills, the transmission is designed to hold a lower gear in order to maintain speed going up and to employ engine braking to reduce speed going down.

Equipped with a 4-wheel-independent suspension and Kumho City Venture Premium tires, the Santa Fe provides plenty of grip in turns, making this 2-ton SUV feel athletic and responsive around city corners. The ride/handling mix is commendable. Electric steering is standard and features a Driver Selectable Steering Mode with Comfort, Normal and Sport settings. My favorite is Comfort, because I find that it feels the most natural regardless of vehicle speed, and because it allows for easy fine-tuning while traveling in a straight line.

The 8-way power adjustable seat with 4-way power lumbar support driver seat is very comfortable. In the second row, my Limited test vehicle had captain’s chairs with inboard armrests that offered impressive comfort. Install the Technology Package, and second-row occupants ride on heated seats with a panoramic view through the enormous sunroof. The view out is good, too, thanks to the large side window.

The technology is straightforward in terms of operation. Standard equipment for every Santa Fe includes Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio input jack and a USB port. Tech-related options include HD Radio, two audio system upgrades including a Surround Sound system and a navigation and infotainment system with an 8-inch color touchscreen display. A reversing camera and a blind-spot information system are also available for the 2014 Santa Fe.

Refreshingly, the 2014 Santa Fe is equipped with the standard and optional safety features that are the most useful to people, without the extraneous costs. Highlights include an available reversing camera, rear parking assist sensors and a blind-spot information system. Additionally, every Santa Fe is equipped with Blue Link telematics with 3 free years of Assurance Connected Care service, which includes Automatic Collision Notification and SOS Emergency Assistance, among other features.

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe LTD FWD – Performance Details
BASE PRICE $34,555 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 7-pass, 5-door SUV ENGINE (Standard): 290-hp, 3.3-liter V-6 TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic WHEELBASE 106.3 in. LENGTH 184.6 in. x WIDTH 74 in. x in EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 18/24

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