Hyundai’s Santa Fe comes in two versions

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2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Long-Wheelbase

The package: Midsize, six- or seven-passenger, V-6 powered, front- or all-wheel-drive crossover utility vehicle.

Negatives: No four-cylinder engine offered for better fuel economy.

Length: 193.1 inches.

Curb weight: 3,904-4,325 pounds.

Engines: 3.3-liter V-6.

Transmissions: Six-speed automatic.

Power/torque: 290 HP./252 foot-pounds.

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.

Electronic stability control: Standard.

Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; side-curtain, all rows.

Cargo volume: 13.4 cubic feet (third seat in place); 41 cubic feet (third seat folded).

Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds.

Fuel capacity/type: 18.8 gallons/unleaded regular.

EPA fuel economy: 18 mpg city/25 highway/21 combined (front drive); 18/24/20 (AWD).

Major competitors: Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Mazda CX-9, Kia Sorento, Chevrolet Traverse.

Base price range: $29,900-$35,550, plus $875 freight.

Price as tested: $39,540 (Limited front-wheel drive, including freight and options).

On the Road rating: 8.7 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.

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Just last year, Hyundai’s Santa Fe midsize crossover entered its third generation, coming this time in two versions: the five-passenger Santa Fe Sport, and a long-wheelbase version, called just the Santa Fe, with seating for up to seven.

This marks the return of the third row to the Santa Fe, which had that option for a while during the second generation.

The longer Santa Fe is offered in two versions: the base GLS model, and the uplevel Limited, which we tested for this report. Front-wheel drive is standard and was included on our tester, but both models are available with all-wheel drive.

For 2014, long-wheelbase Santa Fe Prices begin at $29,900 (plus $875 freight) for the GLS front-drive, and $31,650 for the GLS all-wheel drive.

Limited models start at $33,800 for the front-drive, and $35,550 for all-wheel drive. Also available for the same prices are Limited front- and all-wheel-drive models with a special Saddle interior color.

The Sport models are smaller, lighter and less-expensive, ranging from $24,950 for the base front-drive model with a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine (190 horsepower) to $32,400 for the top-of-the-line 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder all-wheel drive with (264 horsepower).

Long-wheelbase models come only with a 3.3-liter V-6, which cranks out an impressive 290 horsepower and 252 foot-pounds of torque. All Santa Fe models, short and long, have a six-speed automatic transmission.

EPA ratings for the V-6 are 18 mpg city/25 highway/21 combined with front drive, and 18/24/20 with all-wheel drive.

The Santa Fe’s exterior styling was created using Hyundai’s “Fluidic Sculpture” design theme, which has been showing up on newer models throughout the line to give all Hyundai models a similar, distinctive appearance.

It’s intended to invoke the feel of “irrepressible motion through a new design concept called Storm Edge, which captures the strong and dynamic images created by nature during the formation of a storm,” Hyundai says

To create “the illusion of constant motion,” the designers used a three-bar hexagonal grille, LED headlight accents, a low stance with a rising beltline, a roof spoiler and special wraparound taillights, the automaker said.

Standard are 18-inch alloy wheels, and the rear end is squared off more than that of the shorter Sport version, specifically to allow for more room in the third row, and more cargo space behind the third seat. Also included are dual chrome exhaust outlets and a flush-mounted tow hitch.

It’s a pleasing design, and it even carries over into the well-appointed interior, which looks more like that of a luxury crossover.

Standard on the GLS is seven-passenger seating, with two front bucket seats, a three-person middle bench seat, and a two-person third-row seat. But our Limited model came with six-passenger seating, using two captain’s chairs in the middle row rather than the bench.

Getting into and out of the third row is best left to kids and small, agile adults, as the middle seat has to be tilted and slid forward. I didn’t try going back there myself, but a couple of more-nimble young passengers did. They said the seat had barely adequate leg and knee room, but good outward visibility. The middle row bench has a 60/40 slide and recline feature, and a 40/20/20 split-folding design; the third row is a 50/50 split-folding bench.

There is just 13.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third seat, but that expands to 41 cubic feet with the third seat folded. The rear hatch lifts up in one piece, and is power operated on the Limited.

Standard features on the GLS include manual dual-zone climate control with rear-seat vents and controls, power windows/mirrors/door locks with remote, stain-resistant YES Essentials cloth seats, body-color rear spoiler, rear wiper/washer, front wiper deicer, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with three steering modes (comfort, normal and sport), Bluetooth phone connection, steering-wheel audio and cruise controls, a multi-function trip computer, and Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system, similar to GM’s OnStar.

Our Limited’s heated front sport bucket seats were quite comfortable, and they came with power adjustment on both sides. We also had leather seating surfaces, lumbar support on the driver’s side, automatic headlights, heated outside mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, fog lights, and roof side rails.

Other standard Limited features included a backup camera, smart-key access with pushbutton start, dual-zone automatic climate control, manual rear window sun shades, a power liftgate, front fog lights, heated outside mirror with turn signals, blind-spot monitoring, dual chrome exhaust tips, windshield wiper deicer, rear-seat heating and air conditioning vents, auto-dimming rearview mirror, universal garage/gate opener, compass, electro-luminescent gauges with LCD driver-information center, and BlueLink.

We also had the Limited Technology Package ($3,850), which brought 19-inch alloy wheels, Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights, LED taillights, a panoramic sunroof, rear parking assist, heated steering wheel, driver’s side seat memory, ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, a navigation system with eight-inch touch screen, a 550-watt Infinity Logic 7 surround sound audio system, premium door-sill plates, and a 115-volt power outlet.

The only other option on our vehicle was the carpeted floor mats ($135).

Hyundai offers the navigation system on the GLS model, in the Leather and Navigation Package ($5,050). That package, which includes the Popular Equipment Package, also brings to the GLS leather seats, the self-dimming rearview mirror with universal garage/gate opener and compass, heated second-row seats, rearview camera, turn signals in the side mirrors, and a Dimension premium audio system with eight-inch touch screen, XM, 10 speakers, MP3 playback, USB and auxiliary jacks, and CD player.

This vehicle isn’t intended for serious off-road driving when it has the optional all-wheel drive. But it is capable of handling fairly tame unpaved forest and park roads. The on-demand automatic all-wheel drive includes Active Cornering Control, which Hyundai says “cooperatively controls engine torque and braking in conjunction with the Vehicle Stability Management System.”

There was plenty of power with the V-6 engine, and the six-speed transmission shifted smoothly and at the right times. You can choose to shift it manually.

All Santa Fe models come with Hyundai’s Hillstart Assist Control and Downhill Brake Control, which help negotiate steep hills.

There are lots of storage spaces inside the cabin, including an overhead sunglass holder, dual front and rear cupholders, door bottle holders, a cooled glovebox, a large center console, a front storage bin, front seatback map pockets, and an storage area under the cargo floor.

Standard safety features include antilock brakes, front seat-mounted side air bags, side-curtain air bags for all three rows, driver’s knee air bag, electronic stability control, traction control, and tire-pressure monitoring.

The climate-control system includes an automatic defogging system, designed to detect humidity in the cabin and keep the windshield clear. It also features the CleanAir Ionizer, which filters the air when the heater or air conditioner is on.

With the V-6, the Santa Fe can tow trailers weighing a maximum of 3,500 pounds.

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at chambers@star-telegram.com.

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