Road Test: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe
Parents who vacuum fossilized French fries and scrub -- vainly -- to remove grape juice spills from their cars' seat cushions are likely to appreciate the stain-resistant interior of Hyundai's new seven-passenger Santa Fe.
Those who unwittingly commit these childhood crimes, meanwhile, could very well appreciate the duplication of front-row amenities in the seats just behind their parents, most notably heated and reclinable captain's chairs.
It's all part of Hyundai's bid for price-minded families who yearn for a midsize crossover to haul the boogie boards, the bicycles and the suitcases without cramping anybody's style. The larger Santa Fe starts at $29,195, including freight and handling.
A replacement for Hyundai's Veracruz, which is being put out to pasture, the longer Santa Fe is available in two versions -- a six-seat Limited and a seven-seat GLS.
There's a good amount of leg room in the second row, even with a tall driver in front. But the third row will only be comfortable for children who haven't reached puberty.
To help move this larger load, there's a new direct-injection 3.3-liter V-6 tweaked for greater efficiency and fuel economy.
Maneuvering the Limited, it didn't feel like a car that could carry an entire peewee football team. It angled into parking spaces without the drama of a five-point turn. It had good power off the line, and its six-speed automatic transmission was unobtrusive.
More impressive was its customizable electronic power steering. At the press of a button, the steering effort can be softened or hardened by 10 percent with distinctly different comfort and sport modes that, according to Hyundai, appeal to women and men, respectively.
Other steering wheel controls include Bluetooth and audio, which can also be operated with the Santa Fe's standard 4.3-inch touch screen. An optional technology package included in the Limited that I tested upgrades the car with a larger 8-inch touch screen, 12-speaker surround sound, built-in sun shades for the rear side windows and a panoramic sunroof, which elevated the price to $38,730.
For that kind of money, Hyundai lacks some of the safety technologies that are now standard on less-expensive vehicles, such as blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control that keeps the car at a safe following distance. Both technologies are no-brainers for parent drivers who may be distracted while negotiating backseat bicker battles, but Hyundai opted against including them, even as options, to keep the price more affordable.
2013 HYUNDAI SANTA FE
Base price: $29,195
Price as tested: $38,730
Engine: direct-injection, 3.3-liter, V-6
Power: 290 horsepower at 6,400 rpm
Curb weight: 3,933 pounds
Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
EPA fuel economy: 18 mpg city, 24 highway
Height: 66.1 inches
Width: 74 inches
Length: 184.6 inches
Bottom line: Hyundai gives Santa Fe a stretch