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Both the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe and the 2021 Honda CR-V fall on the larger side of the compact SUV scale. In many ways, this works in their favor. They are still relatively fuel-efficient and maneuverable while offering a nice amount of interior space at the same time.
In 2021, Hyundai gives the Santa Fe several noteworthy updates. Both the interior and exterior look different than last year, and there is a new Caligraphy trim level for shoppers to consider. This model comes standard with things like ambient interior lighting, a head-up display, and premium leather upholstery with fancy accent stitching. More importantly, the Santa Fe powertrain lineup has completely changed and now includes a hybrid option.
The 2021 CR-V is a completely different story. It sees absolutely no changes for this model year. The 2021 model is part of the fifth generation, which first debuted in 2017. The CR-V did receive several significant changes in 2020, however, including a new hybrid engine and new look.
Does the 2021 Santa Fe leave the 2021 CR-V behind with its new updates? Or does the always-popular CR-V ultimately have the edge? The following comparison will help answer this question.
The standard engine for the Santa Fe is more powerful in 2021. Most models have a 2.5L four-cylinder that generates 191-horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque. This is an appropriate amount of power for an SUV of this size and weight, and the engine is even more fuel-efficient than the one it replaces. An eight-speed automatic transmission continues to be paired to the base Santa Fe engine.
Starting in 2021, the available upgrade engine is a turbo 2.5L four-cylinder that makes 277-horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. This is quite a bit more than the available upgrade for 2020. For this engine, Hyundai goes with a dual-clutch eight-speed automatic for a sportier feel at the wheel.
A turbocharged 1.6L engine is the heart of the new hybrid option. It, combined with a pair of electric motors, creates 225-horsepower. It works with a six-speed automatic transmission and comes exclusively with an all-wheel drive.
For the 2021 Honda CR-V, a turbocharged 1.5L four-cylinder engine is standard. It creates 190-horsepower and 179 lb-ft of torque. Honda pairs this engine with a continuously variable transmission, something that some drivers will love and others will hate.
Like the Santa Fe, the CR-V is available as a hybrid. It uses a 2.0L four-cylinder and two electric motors to produce 212-horsepower. Once again, a continuously variable transmission is used to move the CR-V around town.
Fuel economy is decent for the Santa Fe, which can get up to 25mpg city and 28mpg highway with the base engine. Going with the turbocharged engine will mean getting up to 22mpg city and 28mpg highway. For the Santa Fe hybrid, the vehicle can get 36mpg city and 31mpg highway.
The 2021 CR-V is the more fuel-efficient option in this comparison. Its traditional engine is estimated to get up to 28mpg city and 34mpg highway. The hybrid option is also more efficient than that of the Santa Fe, estimated to get up to 40mpg city and 35mpg highway.
Neither of these vehicles is meant to tow a great deal. With the standard engine, the Hyundai Santa Fe can bring along up to 2,000 pounds. The CR-V does not do quite as well, topping out at 1,500 pounds instead.
As for drivetrains, the CR-V is a front-wheel drive with all-wheel drive available on all models. The Santa Fe also comes standard with front-wheel drive but can be upgraded to all-wheel. One exception is the Caligraphy trim, which comes exclusively with AWD.
When it comes to warranties, the Santa Fe comes out far ahead of the CR-V. The CR-V comes with what many consider the standard warranty, which is three years or 36,000 limited vehicle and five years or 60,000 miles powertrain. As for the Santa Fe, it gives buyers five years or 60,000 miles basic and ten years or 100,000 miles powertrain.
Both the 2021 Santa Fe and 2021 CR-V prioritize comfort. The rides are relaxed, and the suspensions absorb the majority of bumps found on average roads. Between the two, the CR-V has a slight edge when it comes to steering responsiveness and braking power.
There is a bit more room for passengers in the Santa Fe in comparison to the CR-V. The total passenger volume for the Santa Fe is 110.7 cubic feet, in comparison to the CR-V's 105.9 cubic feet. Interestingly, the specs for the backseat of these two SUVs are nearly identical. The front seat of the Santa Fe is where the extra space is found. It offers 41.2-inches of front headroom and 44.1-inches of front legroom. In comparison, the CR-V has 40.1-inches of front headroom and only 41.3-inches of front legroom.
The CR-V gets back in the game when looking at cargo space. It gives drivers 39.2 cubic feet behind the second-row, and the ability to go up to 75.8 cubic feet when the second-row is out of the equation. The Santa Fe comes close, giving drivers 35.9 cubic feet behind the backseat and a total capacity of 71.3 cubic feet.
When it comes to maneuvering and parking, the CR-V may be the easier option. It measures in at 182.1-inches in length and 73-inches in width. The larger Santa Fe is 188.4-inches long and 74.8-inches wide.
The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe has the technology features needed to stay current. Standard features include an 8-inch touchscreen, four USB ports, and wireless versions of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The SEL trim level and higher add BlueLink connected services and are available with a 10.25-inch touchscreen. These same models have wireless device charging.
As for the 2021 Hond CR-V, it has a four-speaker stereo system on its base level. That is it. If buyers want smartphone integration and a 7-inch touchscreen, they will have to move up to the EX trim. One has to go all of the ways up to the top Touring trim of the CR-V if they want wireless device charging.
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The 2021 Honda CR-V performed well in tests by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The NHTSA gave it five stars for everything except rollover testing, where it received four stars. From the IIHS, the CR-V received the top score for everything except its standard halogen headlights, where it got a score of "marginal" rather than "good."
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has officially tested the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe. The similar 2020 model received five stars from the NHTSA. It also received the top "good" in all categories, including the standard headlights.
The IIHS also evaluates the frontal crash prevention systems of different vehicles. Both the Santa Fe and the CR-V received the best possible score, which is "superior," in this category.
Like the 2020 model, the 2021 Santa Fe has a generous amount of standard driver aids. Highlights include lane-keeping assist, trailer sway dampening, adaptive cruise control, and forward-collision mitigation. SEL models add a rear-passenger safe exit system as well as blind-spot monitoring. Other available driver aids for the 2021 Santa Fe include a rear-seat reminder, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a surround-view camera system, and even an automated parking system.
The 2021 Honda CR-V has very similar standard equipment when it comes to driver aids. On top of what the Santa Fe gives drivers, the CR-V also comes with automatic high beams. Blind-spot monitoring and rain-sensing windshield wipers are also available for select CR-V trims. There is no automated parking system currently available for the CR-V.
When it comes to the popular head-up display feature, only the Santa Fe offers this to drivers. The feature is meant to reduce driver distraction by projecting the info needed onto the road in the driver's line of sight without obscuring their vision. While this is standard for the top Santa Fe Caligraphy model, it is unavailable on any version of the CR-V in 2021.
On top of the high-tech driver aids, these two SUVs also have similar equipment when it comes to traditional safety features. They include daytime running lights, electronic stability control, and traction control.
Which Has the Best Value?
For an entry-level 2021 Santa Fe, buyers are looking at $28,035. The top trim, called the Caligraphy, starts at $43,285. At the same time, buyers can get an entry-level CR-V LX for around $26,525. Its top trim is called the Touring and starts at $34,825 for a standard model and $37,525 for the hybrid version. If buying a hybrid is the top priority, the most affordable Santa Fe option will cost around $32,000. The CR-V EX-L hybrid costs $31,735, more or less the same.
Not only will the base Santa Fe cost drivers more upfront, but it is also expected to cost more over the course of five years. According to Kelley Blue Book, an entry-level model of the Santa Fe will cost $36,257. These numbers break down to $19,658 for out-of-pocket expenses and $16,599 in depreciation.
Moving on to the 2021 CR-V, KBB estimates this vehicle to cost $33,540 over the span of five years. The out-of-pocket expenses are $18,540, while the depreciation is $15,000. Fuel costs for the CR-V are lower than that of the Santa Fe's. At the same time, drivers will spend much more on repairing the CR-V than the Santa Fe, thanks to Hyundai's excellent warranty. The CR-V seems to hold its value better than the Santa Fe.
Another useful way to look at these numbers is cost-per-mile. For the Santa Fe, the estimate is $0.48. The CR-V is estimated to cost $0.45 per mile to drive.
Although the CR-V is the more affordable option, it is important to also factor in the standard features. The Santa Fe has many more tech features in its base model and comes with a more powerful engine. Buyers will have to decide if things like wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are worth paying more for, both upfront and as the years go on.
Which is Better?
The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe is a very appealing vehicle. The new powertrain list is exciting, and the standard number of technology features is very enticing. While this vehicle may cost more over the course of five years, many buyers will still feel like they are making the smart buy thanks to its extensive warranty.
As for the 2021 Honda CR-V, it is in no way a bad SUV choice. This is particularly true if buyers are willing to spend a little extra and go with a higher trim level. Still, its shorter warranty and lack of front-row space have it falling short when compared to the Santa Fe.
The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe is a better choice than the 2021 Honda CR-V for the bulk of drivers.