Hyundai unveils an all-new, 3-row version of its midsize Santa Fe cross/utility vehicle at the L.A. auto show today that replaces the fullsize Veracruz in Hyundai’s U.S. lineup.

The new 3-row CUV is based on the original ’13 2-row model on sale now that has been renamed the Santa Fe Sport to avoid confusion.

The new 3-row model has a 3.9-in. (9.9-cm) longer wheelbase than the ’13 Santa Fe Sport and is 8.5 ins. (21.6 cm) longer and slightly wider and taller. It will reach dealers early next year.

Hyundai says the new Santa Fe has more passenger room and cargo space than the 3-row Toyota Highlander. It also claims its new CUV is 99 lbs. (45 kg) lighter than the Highlander and weighs 239 lbs. (108 kg) less than the new ’13 Nissan Pathfinder.

The 3-row Santa Fe is 320 lbs. (145 kg) lighter than the outgoing Veracruz, Hyundai says.

The larger Santa Fe is powered by the 3.3L gasoline-direct-injected V-6 used in the Hyundai Azera, and not the 2.0L and 2.4L 4-cyl. engines in the ’13 Santa Fe Sport models. However, horsepower is slightly reduced, to 290 hp from 293 in the Azera.

The 3.3L engine is paired with Hyundai’s in-house 6-speed automatic transmission, complete with a warmer to keep transmission oil at the optimal temperature for good fuel economy.

Despite its lighter weight, the 3-row Santa Fe is estimated to achieve 20 mpg (11.8 L/100 km) combined in both front- and all-wheel-drive models. This compares with 21- and 22-mpg (11.2 and 10.7 L/100 km) averages for the new AWD and FWD Pathfinder, which use a 3.5L V-6 engine coupled with a continuously variable transmission.

The 3-row Santa Fe can tow up to 5,000 lbs. (2,268 kg), matching the standard tow rating of the Pathfinder and enough for a small boat, Hyundai says.

Visually, the biggest difference from the Santa Fe Sport is the larger Santa Fe’s side windows, which are shaped to emphasize passenger and cargo room behind the third-row seat.

There’s also a different bodyside character line rearward of the 3-row model’s B-pillar, and tweaked grille and wheel designs to differentiate it from the 2-row original model.

Creature comforts standard on the 3-row ’13 Santa Fe include Hyundai’s BlueLink telematics system, with a 1-year complimentary trial. There also is a 40/20/40 split second-row and 50/50 split third-row seating.

Additionally, the larger CUV has heated rear seats and heated steering wheel and a multifunction 8-in. (20-cm) touchscreen with navigation. The third-generation navigation is “more intuitive for commonly used tasks,” Hyundai says, noting voice-recognition software now can understand street addresses and cities spoken in one sentence.

The ’13 AWD Santa Fe is equipped with a torque-vectoring cornering control system that Hyundai says improves lateral stability and removes understeer and oversteer by switching unwanted traction to either the front or rear axle.

Also available is Hyundai’s driver-selectable steering system, already on the Elantra GT 5-door, that provides a choice of normal comfort or sport mode.

The auto maker has not released a U.S. sales target for the new Santa Fe lineup, although officials have alluded to matching segment-leading competitors that sell in higher volumes.

Many Middle CUVs, according to WardsAuto segmentation, sell more than 100,000 units annually in the U.S. The best-selling model so far this year is the 2-row Honda CR-V, with 233,586 deliveries through October. The Ford Explorer is the top-selling CUV with a standard third row, with 132,023 deliveries in the first 10 months.

In addition to the 3-row Santa Fe, Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik told WardsAuto in June that another large CUV, something that would be a more direct replacement for the Veracruz but more upscale, was not out of the question.

Also debuting on Hyundai’s L.A.-show stand today is a funky Veloster concept, called the C3 Roll Top, which stands for 3-door convertible. The car uses re-purposed industrial tarps for its power-retractable soft top and has a tailgate instead of a hatchback. The car’s cargo floor is made of tiles crafted from old skateboard decks.

The C3 was inspired by the proverb, “a rolling stone gathers no moss,’” says Chris Chapman, chief designer-Hyundai Design North America, noting it’s an everyday as well as a “play-day” type of car.

Hyundai sees the C3, which employs the Veloster Turbo’s 201-hp 1.6L GDI turbocharged 4-cyl. engine, as perfect for those owning trendy fixed-gear bikes. The bold colors of “fixies” inspired the concept car’s red/black/white/teal palette.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com