2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Review
Have you shopped both small and midsize SUVs and not yet found what you're looking for? The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe could be the solution. It lands squarely between both SUV types on price, size and feature availability. This gives the Santa Fe strong middle ground appeal, and the significantly updated 2021 model is even more enticing than its predecessor.
On tap for this year is revised exterior styling, a larger touchscreen, a new push-button gear selector and a new top-level Calligraphy trim level. The Santa Fe's engines are new, too. Notably, the Santa Fe now offers a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a strong 277 horsepower as well as a new hybrid powertrain that gets an EPA-estimated 34 mpg in combined city/highway driving.
These are very significant changes but this is a competitive class, and the Santa Fe has a wealth of established competition on its hands. The Honda CR-V, long a perennial favorite, has been upgraded with a hybrid version, and the midsize Toyota Venza also boasts stylish looks and high mpg. What should you get? Read our Expert Rating of the 2021 Santa Fe below to help you decide.
The Santa Fe delivers impressive acceleration and fuel efficiency as well as luxurious accommodations at a price that undercuts most of the competition. A spacious cabin and a smooth ride quality are also highlights.
How does the Santa Fe drive?
We tested the Santa Fe with the 277-horsepower turbocharged engine. It's pretty potent and our test vehicle covered 0-60 mph in just 6.6 seconds, which is quicker than most other small and midsize SUVs. However, if you aren't asking for maximum speed, its power delivery is a bit inconsistent and unrefined. Hyundai seems to have tuned the eight-speed automatic transmission to get up to its highest gears as quickly as possible, which can also be off-putting.
Around turns, the Santa Fe leans a lot as you go around turns, so it's definitely not as planted as a Mazda CX-5. This is an SUV for highway cruising, not sporty driving. But the Santa Fe's steering is pleasantly tuned, making for easy low-speed maneuverability and decent highway stability.
How comfortable is the Santa Fe?
The Santa Fe's suspension soaks up most bumps and road impacts, but the ride can sometimes feel a little too soft and wallowy. But the front seats are very comfortable and have a broad range of adjustments and available heating and ventilation. The rear seats are also comfortable and have lots of recline adjustment, though we'd prefer thicker padding on the door armrests.
The Santa Fe has excellent cabin insulation thanks to dual-pane front windows and comprehensive sound deadening. Wind, road and ambient noise is very much kept at bay. The climate controls are easy to adjust and do a great job of keeping cabin temperatures pleasant.
How’s the interior?
The Santa Fe's interior quarters are relatively spacious, especially in legroom. The available panoramic sunroof does eat into headroom in both rows, but the rear seat's generous recline serves to off-set that. All controls are laid out well and within easy reach, and the most often-used controls are real buttons and knobs.
The large door openings make it easy to get in and out, and both front and rear rows offer plenty of space and legroom. Visibility is good too, with a decent-size rear window and very little obstruction from the rear headrests. The door-mounted sideview mirrors help you avoid blind spots, and the optional surround-view camera system makes parking a breeze.
How’s the tech?
Our test vehicle had the optional 10.25-inch screen. Unfortunately, we found it slow to respond to our inputs at times, and its graphics aren't particularly eye-catching. The Santa Fe's premium audio system produces accurate sound and plenty of volume, but it isn't as fully immersive as we'd like it to be. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration is included, though CarPlay only uses about two-thirds of the 10.25-inch screen.
The wireless charger is a spring-loaded slot that saves space but could also easily swallow loose coins and other small objects that might be hard to fish out. There are plenty of power ports and USB ports.
Hyundai's advanced driver aids are some of the best around. The adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist work smoothly and ease the stress of rush-hour traffic. The blind-spot monitoring and forward collision mitigation also work pretty well, but some drivers might find them to be a little too sensitive.
How’s the storage?
The Santa Fe's cargo space is decently roomy (36.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats) and has some helpful underfloor bins. Remote seat releases allow you to drop down the second-row seats from the rear of the vehicle and at the rear passenger doors. This is a very smart use of space and allows for storage of the cargo cover as well.
There's a pleasing amount of space for personal items in the cabin. Hyundai's electronic gear selector frees up a sizable space underneath the center console. The cupholders have good anti-tip design and there's usable space in the armrest bin as well as around and in the glovebox. The maximum towing capacity for the Santa Fe is 3,500 pounds when properly equipped. That's better than many small SUVs but not as much as bigger SUVs such as the Honda Passport and Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport can pull.
Got small children? There's plenty of room for child safety seats, and the anchor points are reasonably accessible.
How economical is the Santa Fe?
The EPA says the Santa Fe with the upgraded turbo engine gets 24 mpg combined (21 city/28 highway). We achieved 27.3 mpg on our 115-mile evaluation test route, which is a strong indication that the Santa Fe can meet the EPA estimates. This is impressive given the power output of the Santa Fe's engine — it outperforms some competitors with V6 engines.
Is the Santa Fe a good value?
On a price-per-feature basis, the Santa Fe remains an excellent choice. The quality of materials and design are standouts even if a few small areas, particularly thinly padded door armrests, aren't perfect. But even the top-of-the-line Calligraphy trim level undercuts similarly equipped competitors yet offers a powertrain that is both quicker and more efficient.
Hyundai's five-year/60,000-mile basic and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranties are industry-leading, and the automaker has added three years of free scheduled maintenance. Value continues to be a strong appeal of all Hyundai vehicles.
The Santa Fe does well at its intended purpose: comfortably hauling people and giving you lots of value. But it isn't particularly fun to drive, even with the upgraded turbo engine, and the latest styling update makes it seem like Hyundai is trying a little too hard to make its vehicles stand out.
Which Santa Fe does Edmunds recommend?
We think the SEL is a good place to start. For not much money over the base SE, you get heated seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, wireless charging, and keyless entry with push-button start. It also includes blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. The SEL can also be bolstered by some fairly comprehensive option packages not available on the SE.
Hyundai Santa Fe models
The Hyundai Santa Fe is a five-passenger SUV available in four trim levels: SE, SEL, Limited and Calligraphy. On the SE, SEL and Limited trim, front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. The Calligraphy comes standard with all-wheel drive.