Sleeker, bigger and more torque than any others in the class, says Hyundai of the 2013 Santa Fe. Let's get over being surprised by the innovation and consistent good products coming from Hyundai -- once deemed a bargain-basement automotive brand. But the fact is Hyundai continues to surprise and delight.

As its sales in the U.S. approach 700,000 vehicles, the automaker is now the forth best-selling car brand in America. We took a closer look at what's innovative about the Santa Fe.

For starters, there?s a completely revamped exterior, more upscale interior amenities, a host of advanced safety technologies, and a more powerful lineup of motors, with impressive fuel economy. The big news is the choice between the short wheelbase (106.3 inches/length 184.6), five-seater version and the new long wheelbase (110.2 inches/length 193.1), three-row, six- or seven-passenger model. Starting at $24,450, the 2013 Santa Fe is available in four trim levels: Sport, Sport 2.0T, GLS and Limited.

There are three powertrain options. Base is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that produces 190 horsepower and 181 lb.-ft. of torque; it has improved fuel economy and acceleration. Stepping up is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that gets 264 horsepower and 269 lb.-ft. of torque; a 3.3-liter V-6 that delivers 294 horses and 252 lb.-ft. also is available. All are matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting capabilities and can be ordered in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive configurations.

We drove the 2013 Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T (20/27 mpg) over a course of 150 miles in the Park City, Utah region. Our motoring took us on a wide variety of roads, including unpaved forestry roads. Despite the high-elevation of more than 8,000 feet, we had ample power on tap at all times and the well-modulated brakes (ventilated front and solid rear discs), include ABS with brake assist technology.

On the road, Santa Fe is supported by front MacPherson struts and rear stabilizer bar suspension components. Standard are traction control, stability control and seven airbags, including a driver's side knee airbag.

The 2013 Santa Fe's exterior is more taut and tailored, defined by a wide grille, powerful shoulders and a snipped rear. Designers say the new look is a more robust evolution of Hyundai's design philosophy of "Fluidic Sculpture." Chrome shines up the grille and door handles, while LED accents brighten headlamps. A roof spoiler is standard, and emphasizes Santa Fe's crouching stance.

Stepping inside, we found increased room, a cushier feel and more technology options than ever. Notable is the comfortable and airy cabin, which is well-appointed without a cluttered feel. Storage options abound, including an overhead console sunglass holder, two front and two rear seat cupholders, door bottle holders, cooled glovebox, enlarged central storage console, front storage bin, front seatback pockets and an innovative cargo under-tray and floorboard storage. The Sport also features reclining second row seats.

Standard is an AM/FM/Satellite Radio/CD/MP3 audio system with six-speakers and iPod/USB/auxiliary input jacks and wireless audio streaming. Set up with a long list of standard Comfort and Convenience features, the base price for our model was $29,450; added content included a Leather and Premium Equipment Package, Technology Package and other options, bringing the total price to $35,925 (including the $825 destination and delivery).

The long and short of it is there are no surprises here. The midsize Hyundai Santa Fe is a strong contender in the popular crossover utility vehicle segment.



VEHICLE TYPE__________________ 5-passenger AWD midsize CUV

BASE PRICE____________________ $29,450 (as tested: $35,925)

MOTOR TYPE___________________ 16-valve turbo 4-cylinder w/GDI

DISPLACEMENT_________________ 2.0-liter

HORSEPOWER (net)______________ 264 at 6000 rpm

TORQUE (lb.-ft.)________________ 269 at 1750-3000 rpm

TRANSMISSION________________ 6-speed automatic

OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 184.6 in.

TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb)___ 35.8 ft.

CURB WEIGHT__________________ 3,706 lbs.

FUEL CAPACITY________________ 17.4 gal.

EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway