All the Things We Love About the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe


Hyundai ups its game in the midsize crossover utility segment.


Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe SEL Edition.

From top to bottom, Hyundai’s product line is far different than the one we saw just five years ago. Updated and overhauled models, new segments, and a long list of powertrain, tech, and safety improvements are transforming this brand. There is little wonder why Hyundai is routinely performing at or near the top of consumer lists for satisfaction. Included in that mix is the Santa Fe crossover, which is Hyundai’s midsize, two-row crossover utility vehicle with room for five.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe

The Santa Fe occupies a place in a segment that has been expanding rapidly in recent years. Indeed, up until five years ago, the Nissan Murano, Jeep Cherokee, and the Ford Edge controlled the market. For some reason, most manufacturers were content to offer three-row vehicles only. But that’s changed.

Among the new competitors are the Honda Passport, Toyota Venza, Buick Envision, Chevrolet Blazer, and the Volkswagen Atlas Sport. Most models in this segment come with naturally aspirated or turbocharged four-cylinder engines, with standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive. But we’re not looking at those models. Instead, our focus is on the 2021 Santa Fe and the many things we love about it.


Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy
Hyundai offers the 2021 Santa Fe in four trims, including an all-new range-topping Calligraphy model.

1. It’s new and improved.

Marketing people use the term “new and improved” so often that it doesn’t have much of a meaning anymore. While the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe doesn’t launch a new generation, it has undergone a big refresh in the third year of its fourth generation.

Specifically, those changes include the inside, outside, powertrains, and tech features, with each area overhauled. Moreover, two hybrid models join the product line, strengthening the Santa Fe’s presence in an expanding segment.

2. The Santa Fe is affordable.

You can pay more than $40,000 for a Santa Fe, but you should also know that a well-equipped model can be had for thousands of dollars less. Indeed, our test SEL trim started at $28,800. And with all-wheel drive and after freight charges added, the cost came up to just over $31,000. This trim adds such features as connected service, wireless charging, and additional safety features.

3. A range-topping Calligraphy trim.

For 2021, Hyundai added an all-new, top-trim Calligraphy model. This one comes by way of the flagship Palisade and brings with it full LED lights, Nappa leathering, every tech and safety feature imaginable, and a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.

You’ll pay handsomely for the price, about $45,000 for one with 19-inch wheels and all-wheel drive.

4. Here come the hybrids.

2021 Santa Fe SELThe 2021 Santa Fe doesn’t come with one, but two hybrid electric vehicle choices.

Notably, this is the first time Hyundai brought hybrid technology to the product line.

Thanks to all the work the company has done with its electrified Ioniq line, the Santa Fe benefits.

And we like what Hyundai did with this hybrid too: it comes with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, two electric motors, a six-speed automatic transmission, and a lithium-ion battery pack.

That’s a winning combination good for 34 mpg combined fuel economy.

As for the plug-in hybrid, it arrives later in the calendar year as a 2022 model. We’ll have full details later, including the various federal and state incentives in place.

5. Safety features galore.

Starting with the base SE trim, Hyundai includes driver-assist technologies. Here, you’ll find adaptive cruise control with stop and go, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, and driver attention warning.

Beginning with the SEL or Limited trims, other features, such as blind-spot collision-avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, parking distance warning (forward and reverse), and remote smart parking assist is included.

All in all, Hyundai has among the best roster of safety features in this segment.


Hyundai Santa Fe SEL technology
Thge 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe comes with a standard 8-inch touch-screen display or an available 10.25-inch screen. A 12.3-inch digital instrument panel is included with the Calligraphy trim. Shoppers will also find an available 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

6. Ample tech included or available.

Most Santa Fe models come with an 8-inch color display, six speakers, a pair of USB ports, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Make your move to the SEL trim and satellite radio, HD Radio, and connected car services are included.

Other features available include a 10.25-inch screen with navigation, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, and a 115-volt power outlet. A digital dashboard accompanies the Calligraphy trim and it is awesome!

7. We like the ride.

2021 Santa Fe SELGive Hyundai credit for developing a midsize model with a smooth ride and a quiet interior. That isn’t something that should ever be taken for granted, but it is easy to overlook how important both features are.

We’re still talking about a crossover, so the handling simply matches what other models in this segment deliver, with a certain amount of body roll detected, but not enough to elicit a panic response.

The available turbo 2.5-liter engine is a workhorse with excellent out-of-the-gate performance. But there is something for everyone and with the hybrids available, no other model in the segment can match Hyundai’s powertrain variety.

Yes, opt for an all-wheel-drive version wherever winter conditions prevail. You’ll be glad for the added grip.

8. Capable transmissions.

Hyundai has been using 8-speed automatic transmissions for several years with the previous six-speed automatic and seven-speed dual-clutch transmissions retired. We are experienced with both 8-speed units offered today, including the all-new 8-speed “wet” dual-clutch transmission that rolled out this year.

The first one shifts smoothly and works quietly in the background. The second one shifts faster and is better designed to handle the extra torque sent to the wheels with this model’s most powerful engine. Moreover, the “wet” designation is important as it underscores Hyundai utilizing a fluid to keep the transmission lubed continuously.

In other words, it is much less likely to wear out compared to the previous 7-speed DSG.

Parting Thoughts

The Hyundai Santa Fe never fails to impress us. It even has surprised us this year with the many positive updates that make this a formidable competitor and probably a consumer favorite for its strong price point, excellent warranties, and the many creature features already mentioned. We think the test SEL AWD model is a great place to start your search as it offers many of the amenities shoppers want as standard equipment.


Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy
The Santa Fe comes with 36.4 cubic feet of standard cargo space or 72.1 cubic feet with the rear seat folded.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe


  • Price Range: $28,035 to $43,485 (includes destination)
  • Destination Charge: $1,185
  • Seats 5
  • Engine No. 1: 2.5-liter I4 gasoline
  • 191 horsepower @ 6,100 RPM
  • 182 foot-pounds of torque @ 4,000 RPM
  • 8-speed automatic transmission
  • Engine No. 2: Turbocharged 1.6-liter I4 gas hybrid
  • 178 horsepower @ 6,000 RPM
  • 195 foot-pounds of torque @ 4,000 RPM
  • 6-speed automatic transmission
  • Engine No. 3: Turbocharged 2.5-liter I4 gasoline
  • 277 horsepower @ 6,000 RPM
  • 311 foot-pounds of torque @ 3,500 RPM
  • 8-speed dual-clutch transmission
  • Wheelbase: 108.9 inches
  • Length: 188.4 inches
  • Width: 74.8 inches
  • Height: 66.3/67.3 inches
  • Passenger volume: TBD
  • Storage volume: 36.4/72.1 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: 1,650 pounds (2,000 or 3,500 pounds trailer package)
  • EPA: 25/28/26 (2.5); 21/28/24 (turbo); 36/31/34 (hybrid) mpg city/highway/combined
  • Regular grade gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 18.8/17/7 (hybrid) gallons
  • Curb weight: 4,204 pounds (hybrid)
  • IIHS safety rating: Top Safety Pick (2020)
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 10 years/100,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 7 years/unlimited miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Montgomery, Alabama

See AlsoMidsize Performance Master: 2021 Hyundai Sonata N-Line

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Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.