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2021 Honda Passport vs. 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe: Which Is Better?

The 2021 Honda Passport and the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe are midsize SUVs with two rows of seats. Which is better?

Quick Facts

  • The Honda Passport is related to the three-row Pilot.
  • The Hyundai Santa Fe was updated for 2021.

2021 Honda Passport

2021 Honda Passport

Base Price: $33,710 / Read our 2021 Honda Passport Review

What we like: Muscular V6 engine; decent off-road capability; Honda reliability and resale value

What we would change: Just-average fuel economy; upgrade the interior; switch to a conventional shift lever

Overview: The Honda created the two-row Passport in 2019 by snipping six inches off the tail of the three-row Pilot and removing the third-row seat. The Passport also received mildly ruggedized styling but uses the same powertrain as its larger sibling. That is a 3.5-liter V6, which delivers a stout 280 horsepower and can tow up to 5,000 pounds. It’s paired with a 9-speed automatic that unfortunately is shifted via a fussy assemblage of buttons. The V6 is smooth and powerful but not so economical: EPA combined estimates are 22 mpg with FWD and 21 mpg with AWD. AWD models have extra ground clearance to give them an edge off-road, while on pavement, the Passport is quiet and composed though not at all sporty. The Passport’s cargo hold is among the biggest of its peers, and the interior is roomy for five, although the design is drab.

What’s new for 2021: The base Sport now gets the same display audio system as the rest of the lineup. It features an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but lacks a tuning knob.

Features and technology: The Passport is available in Sport, EX-L, Touring, and Elite trim levels. The Elite comes standard with AWD, which is a $2,000 option elsewhere. Standard active-safety features include forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. EX-L and higher trims also get blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. It’s worth moving up to the EX-L also because it adds leather, heated seats, and a power liftgate. The Touring brings navigation, heated rear seats, roof rails, parking sensors, and premium audio. The Elite gets ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and wireless charging.

What does the future hold: We expect the Passport soon will adopt a version of the front-end styling that just debuted on the facelifted Ridgeline pickup. See 2021 Honda Passport models for sale near you

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Front Left Side in Dark Gray

Base Price: $28,035 / Read our 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Review

What we like: Loads of tech features; attractive pricing; choice of three powertrains including a fuel-efficient hybrid

What we would change: An off-road-themed variant would expand the Santa Fe’s appeal as would a sporty version; ditch the pushbutton gear selector

Overview: Already a strong contender, the freshened 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe boasts more features, better fuel economy, and two new standard engines plus a gas-electric hybrid. Powering the base SE and the SEL is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with 191 hp and an 8-speed automatic. EPA estimates are 26 mpg with FWD and 24 mpg with AWD. Limited and Caligraphy models get a 2.5-liter turbo that makes 277 hp and pairs with an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic. With FWD the turbo’s combined fuel economy is just 1 mpg lower than the base engine, while the AWD turbo is the same as the AWD base engine. The turbo’s max towing capacity is 3,500 pounds versus 2,000 for the base engine. The hybrid (offered in SE and SEL form) combines a 1.6-liter turbo, an electric motor, a 6-speed automatic transmission, and standard AWD. It puts out 225 horsepower while delivering 39 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. The Santa Fe is strictly a 5-seater, but there’s lots of room for people and cargo. The interior has been upgraded for 2021 — particularly in the luxurious new Caligraphy versions.

What’s new for 2021: The Santa Fe has been treated to an extensive makeover for 2021, with new engines, additional tech features, an enhanced interior, revised exterior styling, and a new top trim level.

Features and technology: The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe is offered in SE, SEL, Limited, and Caligraphy trims. Forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability are standard even on the base model. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert arrive with the SEL trim level. An 8-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is standard on the SE and SEL, with a 10.25-inch unit optional on the SEL and included on higher grades (although the larger system has only wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto). A digital instrument cluster, smartphone-as-key, leather, and Hyundai’s impressive Highway Driving Assist automated lane-centering feature are optional on the SEL and standard on the Limited and higher, which also get Hyundai’s neat blind-spot view monitor and remote parking assist. The top-drawer Caligraphy comes standard with AWD as well as Nappa leather stitched in a quilted pattern.

What does the future hold: The Santa Fe was just freshened for 2021, so Hyundai is likely to stand pat for a while. See 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe models for sale near you

Passport vs. Santa Fe: Strengths comparison

Passport Benefits: Standard V6; 5,000 pounds max towing; impressive reliability; better-than-average off-road capability

Santa Fe Benefits: Attractive pricing; tech features; available hybrid; great warranty and 3-years free scheduled maintenance

2021 Honda Passport vs. 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe: Which is better?

The Honda Passport and the Hyundai Santa Fe are two top choices in the segment. Those who intend to tow a heavy trailer or venture off-pavement will prefer the Honda. Otherwise, the Hyundai holds sway with its significantly lower pricing, greater feature content, and multiple powertrain offerings. See 2021 Honda Passport models for sale or See 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe models for sale

2021 Honda Passport 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Popular Powertrains
Engine 3.5-liter V6 2.5-liter I4
Horsepower 280 hp  @ 6,000 rpm 191 hp  @ 6,100 rpm
Torque 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm 182 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission 9-spd automatic 8-spd automatic
Fuel Economy 22 mpg (20 city/25 hwy) 25 mpg (22 city/29 hwy)
Also Available AWD 2.5-liter turbo I4; hybrid; AWD
Basic Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 10 years/100,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety 5 stars n/a
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 111.0 inches 108.9 inches
Overall Length 190.5 inches 188.4 inches
Width 78.6 inches 74.8 inches
Height 71.6 inches 66.3 inches
Turning Diameter 39.5 feet 37.5 feet
Headroom, Front 40.1 inches 41.2 inches
Headroom, Rear 40.1 inches 39.0 inches
Legroom, Front 40.9 inches 44.1 inches
Legroom, Rear 39.6 inches 41.7 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 62.0 inches 59.1 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 61.9 inches 58.3 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 115.9 cubic feet n/a
EPA Cargo Volume 41.2/77.9 cubic feet 36.4/72.1 cubic feet


Joe Lorio
Joe Lorio
Joe Lorio is an author specializing in automobiles. He says, “I have been into cars ever since I started with Matchboxes, and have been sharing my opinions about them for almost as long. Granted, I was pretty young at the time, but my parents really should have listened to me when I told them not to buy an Austin Marina.”

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