Two years after unleashing the fourth-generation Santa Fe, Hyundai has given its popular midsize SUV a new face, a slew of new engines, a modified chassis, and a host of comfort and luxury features. In essence, we’re talking about a new vehicle since the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe is slightly bigger in all aspects than the outgoing model.
The first-generation Hyundai Santa Fe came at the turn of the new millennium. It instantly won SUV buyers’ hearts with its affordable price, roomy interior, and superb warranty – and the trend continues today. In 2020, we drove the Santa Fe with both the naturally-aspirated engine and the turbo engine. Our preference was for the turbo powertrain, but we enjoyed driving both and believe the Santa Fe will be a solid option for SUV buyers in 2021.
The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe’s aggressive new fascia makes it stand out amidst friendlier faces like the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, Ford Edge, Nissan Murano, and Honda CR-V. The new Santa Fe is brandishing a distinctive three-dimensional front grille, and new T-shaped LED running lights. Meanwhile, the new rear bumper has a lower and broader appearance with its rear diffuser and full-length reflector.
The new Santa Fe has the silhouette of Hyundai’s seven-seat Palisade, and that’s a good thing. We particularly like the new LED taillights connected via a center reflector strip on the tailgate. Overall, the new Santa Fe is a stylish commuter, although we think the 2021 Kia Sorento – platform sibling of the Santa Fe – is better looking with its Telluride DNA.
New 2.5-Liter Four-Cylinder Engines
The outgoing model made do with a base 2.4-liter four-banger and a smaller yet more powerful 2.0-liter turbo four-pot mill. But in the 2021 Santa Fe, you get a 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder with both multi-port and direct-injection. It now has 191 horsepower and 181 lb-ft. of torque, a slight increase over the outgoing base engine. Power is sent to the front wheels (Hyundai’s HTRAC AWD system is optional across the range) via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Higher trim models receive a turbocharged version of the 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 277 horsepower and 311 lb-ft. of torque. This engine is not only bigger than last year’s 2.0-liter turbo variant, but it also has 42 more horses and 51 more lb-ft. of torque than before. Harnessing the extra power is a new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Fuel Mileage by Model
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Fuel Economy
Model & Powertrain
2.5 L, 4 cyl, FWD
2.5 L, 4 cyl, Turbo, FWD
2.5 L, 4 cyl, AWD
2.5 L, 4 cyl, Turbo, AWD
New Hybrid Powertrain
The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe also has a hybrid option. It combines a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-four motor (177 horsepower, 195 lb-ft. of torque), a 59-horsepower electric motor, and a 64 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery for a total output of 225 horsepower. Hyundai has yet to release the official EPA numbers, but we reckon the Santa Fe hybrid will have no trouble achieving 35 mpg.
Also, Hyundai confirms a Santa Fe plug-in-hybrid is in the works. Naturally, the PHEV model will have a larger battery pack for an extended all-electric range.
New Legs & Stronger Bones
The chassis of the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe has been improved versus prior models. The front and rear suspension have new sub-frames to improve crash performance and ride comfort, while a new one-piece rear cross member and aluminum front bumper beam optimize the center of gravity and reduce weight.
Additionally, Hyundai angled the front struts by seven degrees to improve the steering response while reducing friction within the bearing rotation shaft. The new Santa Fe also has new hydro sub-frame bushings, new engine mounts, and an acoustic windshield with thicker glass to offer better noise isolation.
The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe is available in four trim levels, including a new Calligraphy trim. Regardless of which trim level you pick, the 2021 Santa Fe offers 36.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row. Fold them down, and the available space increase to 72.1 cubic feet.
Trim Levels & Features
The base Santa Fe SE is equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, wireless Android Auto & Apple CarPlay, and an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It also gets forward collision-avoidance assist, lane-keeping assist, and a driver attention warning system.
On the other hand, the SEL model has more safety features from Hyundai’s Smart Sense portfolio. This includes blind-spot collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic alert, a proximity key, and Blue Link connected car services. The Santa Fe SEL is available with two optional packages. The Convenience package adds a digital key and a 12.3-inch instrument cluster, while the Premium package adds more features, including leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, and updated exterior accouterments.
The Santa Fe Limited comes standard with the 2.5-liter turbo engine. Additional standard features include 19-inch alloy wheels, remote smart parking assist, ventilated front and heated rear seats, and a surround-view camera with blind-spot monitoring. The hybrid Santa Fe is available in SEL (with either the Premium or Convenience package) and Limited trims.
New for 2021 is the Santa Fe Calligraphy with the larger turbo engine, HTRAC all-wheel drive system, 19-inch or 20-inch wheels, and a heads-up display. The Calligraphy model includes premium Nappa leather upholstery, a suede headliner, and interior ambient lighting.
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Warranty
Every new Santa Fe is covered by a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile limited warranty, and an anti-perforation warranty for seven years. Complimentary maintenance, which includes oil changes and tire rotations, goes for three years or 36,000 miles. If you have questions on how to extend your Hyundai warranty, please see this comprehensive guide.
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe: Pricing & Availability
The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe is available for a starting MSRP of $26,850 for the SE model. The SEL starts at $28,650 while the Limited begins at $38,600. The Calligraphy, at the top of the range, starts at $42,300.
If you are in the market for a new Santa Fe, this free and helpful search tool* will show you dealer inventory in your area. That tool will also help you secure the invoice price, which is beneficial to have if you are negotiating with the dealership.
The hybrid model will arrive in the first quarter of 2021 and will be made in Ulsan, Korea, while gasoline models will come from the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing plant in Alabama.
Alvin Reyes is an Automoblog feature columnist and an expert in sports and performance cars. He studied civil aviation, aeronautics, and accountancy in his younger years and is still very much smitten to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also likes fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine.
Photos & Source: Hyundai Motor America.
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