Good looking and practical with a slightly upscale vibe, the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe offers families a roomy cabin, desirable features, and plenty of curb appeal. Buyers can choose from a pair of four-cylinder engines—one a turbocharged 2.5-liter—and front- or all-wheel drive; a hybrid powertrain is also available. But in any configuration, the Santa Fe is largely satisfying to drive and delivers decent fuel economy. Those interested in safety features will be happy to know that Hyundai offers a host of driver-assistance technologies as standard; the same goes for those after the latest in infotainment tech, which the Santa Fe offers a good deal of. Add to all this Hyundai’s unbeatable warranty, a pleasant and controlled ride, and a more striking exterior design for 2021, and the Santa Fe looks mighty enticing.
What’s New for 2021?
The Santa Fe receives a visual freshening for 2021 that includes bolder front-end styling and improvements to its interior. Three new powertrains are offered: A 2.5-liter four-cylinder replaces the standard 2.4-liter unit, a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder replaces the optional turbocharged 2.0-liter, and a hybrid variant powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder and an electric motor joins the lineup. The Santa Fe gains a push-button shifter, several new optional driver-assistance features including a semi-autonomous driving mode, larger 8.0-inch and optional 10.3-inch infotainment displays, an optional 12.3-inch digital gauge display, and standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Following in the larger Palisade’s footsteps, the Santa Fe also gains a fancy Calligraphy trim level with quilted leather upholstery, a color head-up display, standard all-wheel drive, unique exterior accents, and more upscale interior embellishments. Hyundai also says a plug-in hybrid variant is on its way but won’t go on sale until later in 2021.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The 2021 Santa Fe has thrown out its standard 185-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and optional 235-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter in favor of a trio of available powertrains that now includes a hybrid option. The standard engine is now a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 191-hp, and buyers can opt for the more powerful turbocharged 2.5-liter mill that makes 277-hp. Both pair with an unobtrusive eight-speed automatic transmission and standard front- or optional all-wheel drive. The hybrid model makes do with a six-speed automatic, uses a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder and a pair of electric motors to make 226-hp, and comes standard with all-wheel drive. In our test drive of a loaded Calligraphy model with the turbocharged four-cylinder, we recorded a sprightly 6.0-second zero-to-60-mph time. The Santa Fe provides a relaxed and stable ride during everyday duties and just enough agility and steering feedback to satisfy those who enjoy driving. Those looking for a more vivid driving experience in their SUV should see the Chevy Blazer or Honda Passport.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The EPA estimates the 2021 Santa Fe with the non-turbo four-cylinder will earn up to 25 mpg city and 28 highway. The optional turbocharged version has ratings as high as 22 mpg city and 28 highway. On our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test, part of our comprehensive testing regimen, our all-wheel drive Calligraphy test vehicle managed 27 mpg. For more information about the Santa Fe’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Hyundai interiors are better known for their solid build quality and worthwhile features rather than edgy designs and upscale materials. Still, the Santa Fe has an attractive cabin that offers a variety of contemporary options that include a digital gauge cluster, head-up display, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, and more. The 2021 model receives slight tweaks to the interior design that align it more closely with the larger and more luxurious Palisade SUV. Its most impressive attribute is generous passenger space in both rows that are a boon on long road trips. The Santa Fe also has ample cargo space behind the back seat where we stuffed 15 carry-on bags and an additional 18 with the rear seat folded flat.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Outfitted with a dashboard-topping 8.0- or 10.3-inch touchscreen that includes user-friendly controls and desirable features, every Santa Fe delivers a pleasant infotainment experience. It serves up standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as optional wireless charging and a 630-watt, 12-speaker audio system.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The Santa Fe comes with a ton of standard driver-assistance technology, including adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. For more information about the Santa Fe’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology
- Standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist