2013 Hyundai Santa Fe at the 2012 New York Auto Show

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  • Competes with: Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer
  • Looks like: Hyundai saved money on badges for its crossovers
  • Drivetrain: 290-hp, 3.3-liter V-6 engine; front or all-wheel drive; six-speed automatic transmission
  • Hits dealerships: January 2013

What once was known as the Hyundai Santa Fe is now called the Santa Fe Sport. The vehicle taking the shorter moniker actually adds size and seating capacity.

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The company’s new approach — its current three-row crossover is called the Veracruz — may confuse buyers at first, but the Santa Fe has been a strong seller for many years and has strong name equity. Why not spread it around, especially where you have need for it.

Both cars are based on the same platform, but whereas the Santa Fe Sport is about as long as a Ford Edge, the Santa Fe is almost 9 inches longer. It is about 2 inches longer than the Honda Pilot and 4 inches shorter than the Ford Explorer. Total passenger volume in the new Santa Fe is 146.6 cubic feet, which is equivalent to the Highlander but falls short of the Pilot and Explorer by more than 7 cubic feet.

Powering the Santa Fe is a 290-horsepower V-6, making it one of the most powerful three-row crossovers on the market while weighing 438 pounds less than a Pilot. That helps with fuel efficiency, which is estimated at 19/26 mpg city/highway versus the Pilot’s 18/25 mpg. Mileage figures for the all-wheel-drive model were not given.

These are important measurements to solidify the Santa Fe in the segment ahead of its on-sale date next year. That’s good because other details on the model, including interior images showing the three-row configuration, were absent, including standard features.

We expect the dashboard to be similar to that in the Santa Fe Sport, which you can see here, but other than that we’ll have to wait and see if this is the three-row crossover Hyundai shoppers have been waiting for.

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Former managing editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David Thomas

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