by: HYUNDAI MOTOR COMPANY - The redesigned 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe includes a five-passenger Sport version with an availlable turbocharged 2.0-liter engine.For 2013, Hyundai has simplified its selection of crossovers. Unfortunately, explaining the simplification gets complicated.

Through last year, the South Korean manufacturer offered three different crossovers — the four-passenger Tucson, the five-passenger Santa Fe and the seven-passenger Veracruz. For 2013, Hyundai has dropped the Veracruz but redesigned the Santa Fe as two separate models, the five-passenger Santa Fe Sport and the seven-passenger (just plain) Santa Fe. So those who want the new version of the previous Santa Fe need to buy the Santa Fe Sport, while those who want the new version of the previous Veracruz need to buy the Santa Fe.

Hyundai hopes the change will increase sales of its seven-passenger crossover. Although the previous generation of the Santa Fe proved popular, the Veracruz never sold very well. Apparently company officals hope the Santa Fe name will attract those looking for a larger crossover, even though it has always been associated with a smaller one. The 2013 Santa Fe has a longer wheelbase and body than the Santa Fe Sport to accommodate a third row of seats, but looks the same from the rear doors forward.

But for those interested in a five-passenger crossover, the Santa Fe Sport offers a special treat this year — a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four cylinder version called the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T. It offers substantially more power than the non-turbocharged 2.4-liter inline four cylinder base engine, 269 vs. 190. But EPA mileage estimates are almost the same in either front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions.

In a week of mixed driving, our test Santa Fe Sport 2.0T proved a winner. The revised styling is crisp and contemporary, the cabin was roomy and comfortable, the engine provided plenty of power, the ride was firm and solid, and the optional all-wheel-drive system was reassuring during heavy spring rains.

Although Hyundai’s cars and crossovers once lagged behind their competitors, the 2013 Santa Fe Sport 2.0T can go head to head with the newest affordable crossovers.

An obvious comparison is the all-new Ford Escape, which the Santa Fe Sport strongly resembles. They are about the same size and look enough alike to be mistaken in parking lots, with the biggest diffrences being the front grills. The interiors are also similar, with oddly-shaped air vents located along the sides of the center console. The Escape also offers optional turbocharging — an EcoBoost 1.6-liter inline four that produces 178 horsepower or an EcoBoost 2.0 that produces 240.

For anyone who owns an older Hyundai crossover, the idea of competing directly against the highly-praised new Ford Escape may seem surprising. But, like its affiliated company Kia, Hyundai has made remarkable progress in recent years. Perhaps the most obvious improvements are the cabin’s design and materials. The interior of the 2013 Santa Fe Sport 2.0T looks and feels decidedly upscale.The pod-like center stack is now smoothly integrated into the dash and console, and the materials include both soft and cleverly textured hard plastics.

Our test vehicle included several options that increased the premium feel, such as heated front leather bucket seats, a huge panoramic sunroof, a navigation system with a large display screen and rear view camera, and an upgraded entertainment and information ready for personal electronic devices. They combined to push the price to nearly $36,000, which is about the same as a fully-loaded Escape.

Our test Santa Fe Sport also came with an electronic locking center differential, which increases traction for the most extreme conditions. Just about the only drawback we found is the location of the spare tire. It's under the rear of the vehicle, which can be hard and uncomfortable to reach in bad weather and on muddy roads.

We don’t know how much the added length and weight of the seven-passenger Santa Fe changes the driving experience. Obviously, it is more of a handful. That’s why it only comes with one larger and powerful engine, a 3.3-liter V6 that produces 290 horsepower. Then again, it includes a third row of seats and even more cargo capacity.

We also don't know how well the 2.4-liter version of the Santa Fe Sport performs. With 74 fewer horsepower, we suspect it's a little slow. It costs less than the 2.0T, of course, but only gets about one mile per gallon better with either FWD or AWD. Unless cost is your absolute bottom line, we recommend at least checking out the turbocharged engine. It was smooth and powerful through the entire rpm range, but still delivered around 22 mpg in mixed driving, which is very respectable for any midsize crossover with AWD.

Facts and figures (all models)

• Model tested: Santa Fe Sport 2.0T

• Manufacturer: Hyundai.

• Class: Midsize (Santa Fe Sport)/large crossover (Santa Fe).

• Layout: Front engine, front- and all-wheel-drive.

• Styles: Five-door crossover.

• Engines: 2.4-liter inline 4 (190 hp, 181 lb-ft); turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4 (264 hp, 269 lb-ft – as tested); 3.3-liter V6 (290 hp and 195 lb-ft).

• Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode.

• EPA estimated city/highway/mileage: 21/29/24 (2.4/FWD); 20/26/22 (2.4/AWD); 20/27/23 (2.0/FWD); 19/24/21 (2.0/AWD).

• Price: Beginning at approximately $24,456 ($35,925 as tested).

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