Cross/utility vehicles easily are the hottest products on the market these days and few bring the sizzle like the ’13 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, which earns a 2013 Ward’s 10 Best Interiors award on the strength of quality materials and luxury-leaning design.

“This is the essence of a family CUV,” offers one juror. “Well-crafted, tasteful, upscale design yet appears ready to handle all the spills.”

The 5-passenger Santa Fe bowed last summer as a redesigned model but didn’t gain its “Sport” designation until this year, when a 3-row version of the CUV joined the lineup.

WardsAuto tested a well-equipped Sport model with all-wheel-drive and a 2.0L turbocharged gasoline-direct-injection 4-cyl. engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, which pushed its sticker price to $35,925, including an $825 handling fee.

The price tag puts the Santa Fe Sport into some well-heeled territory, but the CUV hardly seems out of place.

WardsAuto editors point to quality materials, such as the low-gloss wood grains framing the dashboard climate-control vents, and how well they combine with the black, beige and nickel-like trim elsewhere in the cabin. Judges also cite its excellent noise mitigation, always a challenge for CUV makers and doubly difficult with a turbo GDI 4-cyl. under the hood.

“Nice mix of beige and black, low gloss materials and a cool pattern on IP plastic and leather seats,” a judge says.

The Santa Fe Sport interior contains the auto maker’s “Fluidic Sculpture” approach with its edgy, flowing lines, epitomized in the center stack. However, the Santa Fe Sport also distinguishes itself through functional and luxurious traits expected in the segment, such as its sliding second-row seats and optional panoramic sunroof.

“Winner,” declares one tester.

jamend@wardsauto.com