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

The redesigned 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe, a three-row SUV, is stylish and functional ... if you have a family of three or four. Unfortunately, if you are a party of five or more and need that third row on a regular basis, this stunning Santa Fe likely isn't for you.

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.

More 2012 L.A. Auto Show Coverage

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.

With the third row seats in use, the Santa Fe's cargo area could handle a small grocery run, but there will be no trips to Costco with the whole family in tow.

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.

By far, my favorite aspect of Blue Link is for the parents out there: the ability to monitor how fast your teen is driving, where they're going and when they're doing it. Yep, much like Ford's MyKey system, you set the parameters and if (or when) those parameters are broken you're alerted via text message, email or automated phone message. It may seem too intrusive to some, but for this mom of three daughters, I'll be first in line once they hit that dreaded driving age.

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



It's interesting that you'd feel that way about the third row seats, because a 6-foot-tall commentator, from another highly respected vehicle review blog, gave positive remarks about the Santa Fe's third row, saying "...I can definitely say that this is not kid's only..." - and it was clearly demonstrated [in the video] that he fit back there quite comfortably. He did, however, say that taller people would likely find the second row more comfortable. I think the new Santa Fe will do just fine, and the passenger and cargo space will suit most average families perfectly. Consider the 10.3 cubic feet of cargo space and the super cramped third-row in the second-gen Toyota Highlander, which went on to become a runaway hit. So, I think Hyundai's got another winner here :)


Well as a woman that is of average height, I was personally uncomfortable. Did I fit? Yes but the seats were just too low to the ground to be considered comfortable. Like I said in the review, the new Santa Fe is a great SUV for a family of four or less...but for a larger family that is going to need that third row consistently- not so much.

farzad mohamadi

how many this car?

Big V

I have been highly anticipating this car since I love Hyundai cars. This sounds like an answer in the 3 row crossover category, but as soon as saw the specs I knew there would be some concerns. 193 inches in total length just seems smallish, but you never know until you sit in one. The Mazda CX-9's third row is barely passable at 200 inches so I just needed someone (with a family perspective) to confirm the actual 3rd row impressions. I'll keep this in mind, but generally keep hunting, good review.


Any idea of the pricing?


We are about to have a 3rd child and all 3 will be in car seats of some kind. So my problem is the same. Short of purchasing the Toyota Sienna, have you found a car with the 3rd row option that would work for a family like ours?

Waleed Bakr

following this category for some time I think the best 3rd rows are in the:
1. Lambda (Acadia/Enclave)
2. Honda Pilot
3. Nissan Pathfinder.


Our family of 5 has 3 grown teenagers (2 girls and 1 boy) and they love the CX-9. Don't rely solely on specs and numbers. The CX-9 has sliding second row which dramatically increases rear legroom and has the most ergonomic third row seating: nicely padded cushion, great thigh and back support. No more rear-seat MMA fighting, everyone is comfy and quiet. We have tested everything from Hyundai Veracruz to Toyota Highlander and even the Infiniti JX35, the CX-9 is by far the most versatile and comfortable of them all. And the equipment of the Grand Touring version rivals luxury SUVs that cost twice as much (Audi Q7). Just my two cents...

Alfonso Kelly

Why are people so adverse to minivans? They are roomy, and much more practical than a three row crossover or suv. Forget about the Hyundai Santa Fe, just go buy a Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Dodge Grand Caravan or Chrysler Town and Country. These vehicles are functional, practical and somewhat cool looking. Do not have a large family and then expect for automakers to accomodate you with a three row suv that is useless.

Ben meline

I own the new Santa Fe limited and I can say the third row is comfortable enough for me and I'm 6'3" and with the adjustable seats in the third row you can make room for a sizable grocery run and if your going get that much stuff that you can not fit it than you should be looking for a suburban or van not in the crossover SUV market


Just got my Santa Fe Limited...last month.
Love every bit of it. Great handling...More features than an X5.
Use the 3rd row quite often.
I traded in my much bigger Enclave for Santa Fe. A downgrade on the size...but a super upgrade on features, reliability..etc...so net-net totally worth it!!!

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