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2013 Hyundai Santa Fe's Third Row Cramps its Family-Friendliness

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As the mother of three, who are all still in child-safety seats, I’m in constant pursuit of that mythical three-row crossover that delivers style, great fuel economy, sufficient cargo space and enough legroom for all.

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After spending some time with the 2013 Santa Fe at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, needless to say, the hunt is still on.

For 2013, Hyundai completely redesigned the popular Santa Fe, adding a third row and kicking its not-so-popular three-row Veracruz to the curb. It also created the two-row Santa Fe Sport for 2013.

While Hyundai earns some kudos for giving the Santa Fe’s third row its own air vents, they just don’t make up for the fact that the third row is too low to the ground to be comfortable for the average-sized adult. A younger teen, who hasn’t had a growth spurt, is the largest person I’d feel comfortable placing back there.

Another downside to the third row is when in use the cargo area is cut down dramatically. With the third row folded, there’s 40.0 cubic feet, but with the third row in place, the cargo area shrinks to 13.5 cubic feet. That’s barely bigger than the Veracruz’s 13.4 cubic feet and well behind the 2013 Honda Pilot’s 18.0 cubic feet behind its third row. The 2013 Chevrolet Traverse outsizes them all with its huge 24.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row.

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With all that said, I liked the new Santa Fe. If my family was a little smaller I’d scoop it right up. The top-of-the-line Limited trim comes with second-row captain’s chairs, which reduces seating to six, as opposed to the standard bench seat. While some may mourn the loss of the second row’s center seat, the addition of captain’s chairs makes accessing the third row much easier.

One family-friendly feature that I love is Hyundai’s Blue Link. Similar to GM’s OnStar, a subscription to Blue Link provides turn-by-turn directions, weather and traffic alerts, maintenance reminders and emergency assistance in the event of a crash.

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Until that time arrives, I’m looking forward to test-driving this SUV with my family in tow.

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