2020 vs 2021: What's the Difference?
Slated somewhere between the compact crossover and mid-size SUV segments is the Hyundai Santa Fe. Roomier than your average compact but not quite as spacious as a regular mid-size SUV, the Santa Fe makes for a rather unique entry. Its price tag is more affordable than a mid-size SUV's, which gives it an edge over that segment. It certainly creates an appealing balance of space and affordability.
And the 2021 Santa Fe is packed with nifty features. It was given a refresh inside and out, so there are new styling elements that distinguish it from the 2020 Santa Fe. Under the hood, you will find a whole bunch of upgrades. The base engine is now a mildly larger 2.5-L 4-cylinder engine that puts forth 191 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque . There is also a new turbo 2.5-L that generates 277 hp an 311 lb-ft of torque. The outgoing turbo 4-cylinder only got 235 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, so this is quite the improvement. The new turbo is even more efficient at 25 mpg combined on the front-wheel drive model.
There is even a new hybrid model with a 1.6-L turbo engine with a hybrid powertrain that generates a power output of 225 hp. We don't have the EPA estimates on it yet, but it should range in the 35-40 mpg combined area.
What Do the Various Trim Levels Offer?
The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe comes with one all-new trim level, the line-topping Calligraphy. That means you can now choose from the SE, SEL, Limited, and Calligraphy. Starting with the SE, you get cloth upholstery, reclining rear seats, smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a noise-reducing windshield, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and automatic emergency braking.
The SEL comes crammed with all kinds of tech features, including the Blue Link connectivity system. You also get a feature called Safe Exit Assist, which stops the rear doors from opening out into oncoming traffic. You also get standard blind spot monitoring. Leather upholstery comes equipped, as do a power adjustable driver's seat, heated side mirrors, and heated front seats. You can opt for the Convenience and Premium, which equip features like an upgraded audio system, roof rails, a power liftgate, and a panoramic sunroof.
Upgrading to the Limited gets you everything from the SEL plus the Convenience and Premium packages. It also adds an 8-inch touchscreen display with integrated navigation, ventilated front seats, heating on the rear outboard seats, a heated steering wheel, and the Blind View Monitor.
The new Calligraphy trim level adds in more luxury-oriented features. In addition to a neat and handy head-up display (which projects driving info onto the windshield), the Calligraphy has comfy quilted leather upholstery adorning the seats.
Which Trim is Right for Me?
As much as we like the new Calligraphy trim level, budgeting out for that could be an issue for some buyers. That's why we'd pick the SEL trim level. It has more creature comforts than the SE, and it still comes at a reasonable cost. The upgraded infotainment system is a bonus, plus you get a huge list of standard driver aids. Upgrading for blind spot monitoring is absolutely worth it.
What Kind of Technology Does it Have?
We have already touched a bit on technology, but let's go over what the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe has equipped. The touchscreen infotainment system that gets equipped is genuinely easy to use, especially given that all the key functions are listed right there on the main page. All of the buttons are sizable and clearly labeled. Surrounding that screen are a handful of physical controls, all of which are large enough and clearly marked as to what they do.
One of the things buyers will enjoy is how easily they can integrate all of their devices. Pairing your smartphone is efficient, and there are multiple USB outlets throughout the cabin. The higher trims come with a 115-volt outlet and a wireless charging pad for extra accessibility.
Voice command works better than expected with how well it recognizes natural speech patterns. You can use it with navigation, phone, and the radio.
How Does It Perform?
The new engine options make the Santa Fe a bit more powerful and give it a boost in acceleration. The old turbo engine wasn't very responsive at lower rpms and needed a moment to kick in, but the new one seems somewhat more efficient. The transmission is quick to upshift too. Steering is rather lackluster, and the brakes take a little longer than average to make a panic stop. On the positive side, the Santa Fe's handling capabilities are on-point.
Is It Safe and Reliable?
NHTSA rated the 2020 Santa Fe for a full five stars overall, and it should ideally receive the same score this year. The thing that took it down last year was the front barrier crash rating, which received 4/5 stars overall . With all the safety features that get equipped, the Santa Fe is regarded as being safe. Not only that, but with many design improvements over the years, Hyundais in general have become more reliable.
What's the Interior Like?
A lot of interior changes were made to the Santa Fe, and they're all for the better. What hard plastics you do see are well designed and don't look cheap. The leather upholstery you get on the SEL even looks and feels nice, and the quilted leather on the higher trims is downright amazing. The cabin is one that is user-friendly, and you get plenty of utility from it.
What are the Alternatives to this Model?
Top rivals for the Santa Fe include the 2021 Honda CR-V and the Mazda CX-5. The CR-V has a roomy interior design with plenty of cargo space available. Its turbo engine is a surprising blend of power and fuel efficiency. The CX-5 has superb handling and steering that make for a thrilling ride, plus it remains quiet while zipping along on the highway.
Note: All Hyundai Santa Fe MSRP, Lease Payments and down paymnet figures above are approximate amounts. Prices are subject to change without notice.