Hyundai revealed the new 2021 Santa Fe in June but kept many of the details close to the vest. We already made note of its similarities to the Palisade, Hyundai’s three-row flagship SUV — particularly the interior — but we finally have powertrain details as well as more information on what to expect from the updated Santa Fe, current winner of our most recent head-to-head comparison test of mid-size SUVs.
The powertrain upgrades, even without the addition of a hybrid option, are significant. Though the Santa Fe won our comparison test, it was one of the judges’ least favorite to drive. The Santa Fe managed the win in spite of a laggy, lower-output turbocharged four-cylinder engine that combined with the automatic transmission’s prime directive of efficiency over everything to make the act of driving less pleasant than its competitors.
Will these latest updates address this? That remains to be seen, but in the meantime, here’s everything we know about the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe.
Since the Santa Fe’s exterior redesign has been public for months, we won’t belabor the details here, but: It now looks a lot more like a smaller Palisade, particularly from the front, which features an all-new grille, lighting and front bumper. The rear bumper is new, as well, and the wheels get new designs, including an optional 20-inch set. Power-folding side mirrors with puddle lighting are also available.
The Santa Fe’s interior also does a good job of mimicking the Palisade’s, with a center console mounted high and at an angle with a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment display perched above it. The console also “floats,” allowing for extra storage beneath it. A fully digital 12.3-inch instrument panel is optional for an additional luxury touch. Another luxurious feature is available Nappa leather upholstery.
If that level of luxury isn’t enough, Hyundai is adding an upscale Calligraphy trim to the top of the Santa Fe lineup — something it’s already done with the larger Palisade. The Santa Fe Calligraphy gets quilted Nappa leather upholstery, along with trim-specific wheels and “expanded ambient lighting themes.”
Engines and Gas Mileage
Hyundai is giving the Santa Fe an entirely new set of engines for 2021. The standard powerplant is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 191 horsepower and 182 pounds-feet of torque; it’s paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Available in both front- and all-wheel-drive models, Hyundai estimates combined gas mileage ratings of 26 mpg (4% better than 2020, according to Hyundai) in the FWD Santa Fe and 24 mpg in the AWD (the same as 2020).
The optional 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (standard on the Santa Fe Calligraphy) has significantly more power than the optional 2.0-liter turbo from 2020, pumping out 277 hp and 311 pounds-feet of torque compared with the 2020 model’s 235 hp and 260 pounds-feet. For 2021, the turbo also gets an eight-speed, wet dual-clutch automatic transmission, which Hyundai says has both improved shift response and efficiency. The automaker estimates combined mpg ratings of 25 for FWD and 24 for AWD models, improvements of roughly 9% over the 2.0-liter turbo.
Also new for 2021 is the Santa Fe Hybrid, which combines a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack for a total system output estimated at 225 hp and 195 pounds-feet of torque. Sending power to all four wheels — unlike the gas-only Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Hybrid is available exclusively with AWD — is a six-speed automatic transmission “specially tuned for optimal efficiency, economy and driving performance in a turbocharged [hybrid electric vehicle] application.” Hyundai hasn’t yet reported fuel economy or performance estimates for the Santa Fe Hybrid, so just what “optimal efficiency, economy and driving performance” means specifically isn’t yet known.
Safety and Technology
The 2021 Santa Fe is expected to offer a robust set of safety features, including forward collision detection with automatic emergency braking and cyclist and pedestrian detection, plus a junction-turning detection feature for turns across oncoming traffic; adaptive cruise control; lane departure warning and lane keep assist; the semi-autonomous Highway Driving Assist; blind spot monitoring with blind spot collision avoidance and rear cross-traffic alert; front and rear parking sensors; reverse automatic emergency braking; a 360-degree camera system; a driver attention monitor; and a rear-seat alert with safe exit assist to help prevent opening a door into the path of an oncoming vehicle. A color head-up display is also optional.
Hyundai is also giving the Santa Fe the digital key feature the automaker debuted on the redesigned Sonata, as well as a remote start feature via the brand’s Blue Link smartphone app that can start the car and activate seat heaters or ventilators (a traditional remote start without that feature is also available via the Santa Fe’s key fob). The Santa Fe will also be available with Remote Smart Park Assist, allowing owners to park in or pull the car out of a tight parking space from outside the car. (You may remember this feature from the 2020 Super Bowl “SmahtPahk” commercial, which was wicked populah foah a minute.)
Pricing and Release Date
Pricing information hasn’t been released yet, but expect the 2021 Santa Fe to be more expensive than its 2020 predecessor, with the Calligraphy topping the range. Since a fully loaded 2020 Santa Fe started right around $40,000, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a loaded Calligraphy with a price of $45,000 or so.
Hyundai says the gas-only 2021 Santa Fe should be available by the end of 2020, with the Santa Fe Hybrid following sometime in winter 2021. A plug-in hybrid will join the lineup later in 2021.