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2021 Hyundai Santa Fe: First Look

Small to midsize SUVs, more specifically, car-based SUVs or “Crossovers” are the hot thing these days. Given that, the Hyundai Santa Fe is immensely important to both Hyundai and consumers.

For 2021, the Hyundai Santa Fe gets some notable updates. You can easily tell the difference between the 2020 and 2021 models based on the exterior appearance but the changes go much deeper.  For instance, the 2021 Santa Fe rides on a new platform. In addition, there are two new gasoline engines – a standard version and a high-output turbocharged version. Also, hybrid and plug-in hybrid options are available.

The Hyundai Santa Fe models that are powered by either the standard or high-output gas engine will be built in Alabama. Hybrid models will be made in Ulsan, Korea.

What’s New for 2021?

The most noticeable change is the Santa Fe’s new look. The clearest example of the 2021 Santa Fe’s new look is right up front. A wide front grille, tapered at both ends, is flanked by T-shaped LED lights. The rear taillight profile has also been updated, and the overall effect is crisp and modern. Hyundai has redesigned the interior with more premium amenities and introduces a new upscale Calligraphy model. There are New, more powerful gasoline engines, plus a hybrid and plug-in hybrid in addition to new advanced safety features. See the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe models for sale near you

What We like

  • Significant refresh brings two powerful gasoline engines and a gas/electric hybrid
  • Updated styling plus refreshed, updated interior
  • The Caligraphy version is quite nice
  • Many advanced driver assists and safety features come standard

What We Don’t 

  • Some advanced driver assists are optional
  • Some people prefer the traditional shifter over the new push-button setup

How Much?

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe should start at $28,000 for the base model. The price of the highest trim level will likely near $45,000. Hyundai hasn’t announced pricing for the 2021 Santa Fe, but based on the price of the current model, just under $30,000 is about right.

Fuel Economy

Both power and fuel economy improve significantly for 2021 in the gasoline engines. The hybrid, which comes standard with all-wheel drive, is said to put out 225 horsepower. A 2020 model with a turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine gets a combined EPA estimate of 23 mpg. The base model with a 2.4-liter engine gets 25 mpg in combined city and highway driving. We expect closer to 30 mpg with the gasoline models and in the 40 mpg range for the hybrid.

Standard Features and Options

The base model of the Santa Fe, the SE, will come well equipped. Powered by a 191-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder backed by an 8-speed automatic, the front-wheel-drive SE will ride on 18-inch wheels. A wide range of advanced driver assists, such as forward-collision avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, high-beam assist, adaptive cruise control, and driver attention alert. The forward-collision system also detects cyclists and junction-turning detection, where the system can detect an oncoming car while you’re turning left at an intersection.

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe does not shy away from tech. The infotainment system is based around an 8-inch screen and comes with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. However, there is an available 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch-wide navigation screen.

A new push-button transmission shifter creates more storage space. Soft-touch material and ambient lighting are nice details. New materials, colors, and the addition of available Nappa leather make the SUV’s interior more luxurious. Hyundai added more convenience features, such as power-folding rear seats and 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio.

Under the hood, the hybrid gets a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission, achieving a total output of 225 horsepower and excellent fuel economy. It will be available in all but the base model and the Calligraphy. This hybrid system works with Hyundai’s fully mechanical HTRAC all-wheel drive. This means the Santa Fe Hybrid will still be able to distribute torque to the front and rear while providing side-to-side torque vectoring for improved cornering.

As you move up the Santa Fe’s trim level lineup, there are more powertrain choices. You can opt for the turbocharged version of the 2.5-liter engine, rated for approximately 277 horsepower and backed by a new wet 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. The SEL and Limited are available with the hybrid system. All-wheel drive will be optional on the SE, SEL, and Limited, but comes standard on the Calligraphy and the Hybrid. Nineteen- and 20-inch wheels are available.

There are more safety features, such as blind-spot collision-avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, safe exit assist, parking distance warning in the front and rear, surround-view monitor, and a blind-spot monitor. Remote smart parking assist comes on Limited and Calligraphy models.

Power and leather seats – including available quilted Nappa leather — heated rear seats, a 10.25-inch navigation system, rain-sensing wipers, an eco-suede headliner, and a full-color heads-up display round out the extensive options list for the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe.


Forward collision avoidance assist is standard on all trims, this system alerts the driver of an impending collision and can actually bring the SUV to a complete stop in low-speed braking situations. In addition, Safe Exit Assist is standard on SEL and higher trims, this system monitors approaching traffic from the rear and keeps rear-seat passengers from exiting the vehicle until the traffic has safely passed.

There’s also an automatic high beam assist feature. This feature automatically engages the Santa Fe’s high beams to provide more light when there is no oncoming traffic and dims them when it detects an approaching vehicle or a car directly ahead.

Behind the Wheel

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe will be available with two gasoline-engine choices to start at the end of 2020, with a hybrid option to follow in early 2021. A plug-in hybrid will arrive later in 2021. Hyundai replaced last year’s engines with the choice of a 191-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, or a turbocharged version of that engine that’ll put out an estimated 277 horsepower. Both power and fuel economy improve significantly for 2021 in the gasoline engines. The hybrid, which comes standard with all-wheel drive, is said to put out 225 horsepower.

When we drove the 2020 model, we found the turbo engine to be smooth and strong. We also praised the 8-speed automatic as quick to respond.

Other Cars to Consider

2021 Kia Seltos – The Santa Fe and Seltos have a similar price but the Seltos comes off as scrappier and has a slightly lower base price.

2021 Honda CR-V hybrid – Honda introduced a hybrid version of the best-selling CR-V in 2020 and it is a very good little SUV. The interior details are not up the Santa Fe’s standard, especially in the higher trims but that will really come down to personal preference.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime – If you really want the best bang for your buck when in comes to fuel-sipping hybrids AND you want a small SUV, you’re not going to do much better than the plug-in hybrid RAV4. With a total driving range of 600 miles and an EV only range of over 40 miles, it’s a good choice.

Used Toyota Highlander – The Highlander is a little bigger than the Santa Fe but find one lightly used (say 2 -3 years old) and the price is likely to be comparable. The Highlander has three rows of seating and a slightly more traditional look versus the more youthful-looking Santa Fe.

Autotrader’s Advice

We like the 2021 Santa Fe Limited. It has a 277-horsepower engine,
19-inch wheels, Power-folding side mirrors, Heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, Surround-view parking camera, and blind-spot monitoring system. This version is the best balance of reasonable price and desirable amenities. Find a Hyundai Santa Fe for sale






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