Mention the Hyundai Santa Fe at a party and chances are that someone will perk
up. The midsize crossover has been a big seller.
Yet expect blank stares for the vehicle that a new, bigger version of the Santa Fe now will replace, the Hyundai Veracruz.
The Veracruz was a perfectly fine three-row family hauler, but the problem, as explained by Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik: "Does that third-row seat require a separate marketing label," meaning its own nameplate, Veracruz? "The answer was 'no.'"
Hyundai sold just 8,232 of the Veracruz last year vs. 71,016 for the old-design, two-row Santa Fe, Autodata says. So when the redesigned two-row Santa Fe rolled out for 2013, it was dubbed Santa Fe Sport. And to replace Veracruz comes a stretched, three-row version of the Sport named simply Santa Fe. Hyundai showed it off last week as a prelude to its arrival in showrooms this month.
The new Santa Fe shares more with the Sport than a name. It's basically the same vehicle forward of the second-row seats and only a little more than 8 inches longer overall. It will come in a seven-seat layout for a big family or a six-seat version with captain's chairs. The Veracruz was a tad shorter, but a little wider, than the new Santa Fe.
The two-row Santa Fe Sport and similar midsize crossovers tend to attract an average buyer in their early 50s, about a third of them college graduates and many empty-nesters. The three-row Santa Fe takes dead aim at families.
Krafcik says the new vehicle is an opportunity, since Hyundai hasn't made much of a dent in the market for three-row crossovers, even as it has grabbed sales in cars and smaller crossovers. "Our strategy now is, 'Can we grow it?'" he said at the Santa Fe introductory event in this seaside community next to San Diego.
Hyundai is on the right track by trying to build on an existing, well-regarded brand name, says Karl Brauer, founder and editor-in-chief of TotalCarScore.com. "It is much harder to build a brand from scratch than to build on a brand that already exists."
Hyundai hopes the positive response to the redone Santa Fe Sport's interior, with its layers of textures and soft-touch surfaces along the dashboard, will extend to the three-row model. Mike O'Brien, Hyundai vice president for product planning, says interior quality has emerged as one of the chief reasons buyers give for picking the Santa Fe Sport.
The Santa Fe departs from the Santa Fe Sport -- and from the old Veracruz -- when it comes to power. The new Sport offers only four-cylinder engines, while the Santa Fe has a standard V-6. And while its 3.3-liter V-6 is smaller than the 3.8-liter in the Veracruz, it delivers 290 horsepower, up 30.
On a drive with three adults aboard through the hills east of San Diego, Santa Fe had abundant, quiet power. The engine is mated to an equally smooth six-speed automatic transmission. The combination also is good for towing up to 5,000 pounds,
The two-wheel-drive version of the V-6 Santa Fe is rated 18 miles per gallon in city driving, 25 highway and 21 in combined city/highway use. All-wheel drive subtracts one each from the highway and combined ratings. The mileage is up slightly from the front-drive Veracruz's 17 mpg city, 22 highway, in part thanks to a weight reduction of 333 pounds to just under two tons.
What hasn't changed much is the entry price. Santa Fe starts at $29,145 with shipping, about the same as the Veracruz. It tops out at $38,595 with all the bling, including a technology package, about $1,500 more than you could spend for a Veracruz. O'Brien says the base Santa Fe GLS was strategically priced to start at about $300 less than a Nissan Pathfinder S, about $1,000 less than a Honda Pilot LX and more than $2,000 less than Toyota Highlander.
Standard features in the base Santa Fe include 18-inch alloy wheels, satellite radio and projector-style headlights, but, oddly, not a rear backup camera -- considered a critical safety feature by many families. Buyers have to spring for an uplevel technology package, which includes a navigation system, to get a camera.
And a notable, family-friendly item that is missing from the option list -- which extends to a giant sunroof and heated rear seats -- is a back-seat entertainment system for the kids such as those offered in many other large crossovers. Brauer says that when he asked executives about it, the response was, "Bring your iPad."
Most Popular Stories
- Cape Cod Building Mussel Industry
- Hollywood Eager to Grasp Hispanic Market
- Frightfully Fun Films Return for Halloween
- Would Soccer Be Richer Without Small Clubs?
- Cloud Lifts Microsoft's Quarterly Results
- Sears Denies Store Closings, Layoffs Report
- Weekly Jobless Claims Rise but Remain Low
- IS Funded by Black Market Oil Sales, Racketeering
- Pfizer Approves $11 Billion Buyback Plan
- Teresa Giudice Must Serve Time in Prison