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Hyundai enters family hauling market with Santa Fe

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POSTED April 4, 2012 6:58 p.m.

NEW YORK (AP) - Hyundai Motor Co., realizing it isn't appealing to families as much as it could, has rolled out two new versions of the Santa Fe crossover SUV, including one that's stretched so it can seat up to seven people.

The new crossovers, introduced Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show, are aimed at people with two or more children and need storage space and other capabilities of an SUV.

The big Santa Fe, called the "LWB" for "long wheel base," comes with three rows of seats, in either six- or seven-passenger versions. Hyundai also redesigned the standard model of the Santa Fe, which seats five people. The base model is called the "Sport."

With the big version, Hyundai hopes to take sales away from other family haulers like the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot and Chevrolet Traverse. The smaller version is aimed at the Toyota RAV4 and Chevrolet Equinox.

The Sport hits showrooms late this summer, while the LWB arrives in January.

Here are more details about the new vehicles:

UNDER THE HOOD: The Santa Fe Sport has two engines, both four-cylinders. Standard is a 190-horsepower 2.4-liter, which Hyundai says gets better gas mileage than the previous version. There's also a 2-liter, 264-horsepower turbo for those who want to go faster. Both have direct fuel injection, meaning the gas and air are mixed in the cylinder surrounding the piston. That's more powerful and efficient than engines that mix outside the cylinder. Both versions have six-speed automatic transmissions.

In the LWB, there's only one engine, a 290-horsepower direct-injection V-6 for better hauling and towing.

OUTSIDE: With both versions, Hyundai has tried to maintain its sloping design that looks aerodynamic and has high door lines and side creases. The crossovers borrowed design traits from the hot-selling Sonata midsize car and Elantra compact.

INSIDE: New interior with more second-row legroom than several competitors, Hyundai says. Standard seat material is made from a spill- and odor-resistant fabric that is anti-bacterial and anti-static.

FUEL ECONOMY: The Sport with the 2.4-liter engine gets an estimated 33 mpg on the highway, while the larger version with the V-6 gets an estimated 26. Hyundai claims the 33 mpg figure is the highest of any crossover with an automatic transmission. In the Sport, Hyundai cut out 266 pounds compared to the current model, mainly with use of lighter high-strength steel.

PRICE: Not released. Current Santa Fe starts at $23,225.

CHEERS: Hyundai is using new technology to gain fuel economy leadership with the smaller Santa Fe. The larger version should appeal to families with children who have to haul all of their gear.

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