The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe, an upscale family SUV with bold design and cutting-edge technologies

By: Tarek Hawchar


For quite some time, customers were opting for mid-size and large SUVs, mainly because of their rugged, durable features, making them more suitable for off-roading and tackling unpaved roads. Fortunately, customers’ behaviors have changed over time. Families are now looking for high-riding utility vehicles to ferry around five people or more on a regular basis!


First introduced in 2000, the original Hyundai Santa Fe was a compact SUV. Over the years, the five-passenger crossover has grown to become a midsize, seven-seater SUV. The current fourth-generation Santa Fe was launched back in 2018, opening a new chapter for one of the most successful SUVs in the market.


Named after a city in the American state of New Mexico, the Hyundai Santa Fe has received a facelift for the 2021 model year, bringing together a bold new exterior design with a refreshed interior and cutting-edge technologies, while a wide array of driver-assistance features is now offered as standard.


We had the chance to climb behind the wheel of the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe to discover what makes the new midsize SUV outshine other rivals like the Nissan X-Trail, Mitsubishi Outlander, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4, among others. Surely, with all its qualities, the latest Santa Fe will make life a lot harder for its competitors!



The new midsize SUV now features a bold new design with a wider “cascading” grille flanked by two restyled, slim LED headlights

Exterior

Visually, the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe comes with plenty of changes to the exterior. The new midsize SUV now features a bold new design with a wider “cascading” grille flanked by two restyled, slim LED headlights. The facelifted Santa Fe also has a new front bumper, refreshed T-shaped LED daytime running lights, and a sportier skid plate.



Other design highlights include the sculpted hood, the broad wheel arches, a choice of restyled 17-inch, 18-inch, or 19-inch alloy wheels, a new rear bumper, updated LED taillights, elevated ground clearance, and a hidden exhaust system, to name but a few.

Slotting between the smaller Tucson and the larger Palisade, the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe is 4785 mm long, 1900 mm wide, and 1685 mm tall, with a generous wheelbase of 2765 mm.


The cabin is now a much more inviting place to sit, thanks to a new “floating” center console, a new 12.3-inch full-LCD instrument cluster, and a push-button shifter


Interior

Moving to the interior, bigger changes occur inside the 2021 Santa Fe. The cabin is now a much more inviting place to sit, thanks to a new “floating” center console, a new 12.3-inch full-LCD instrument cluster behind the chunky three-spoke steering wheel, and a push-button shifter.


The redesigned elements are not the only striking features of the cockpit. A choice between an 8-inch or 10.25-inch infotainment system with GPS navigation, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto; a wireless smartphone charging system; dual-zone climate control; a head-up display; a new Harman-Kardon premium sound system; power-adjustable ventilated front seats; a rear door manual curtain; a panoramic sunroof; a power tailgate; and remote keyless entry, round up the list of standard and optional features.


The 2021 Santa Fe now offers more interior room, particularly in the second row and cargo area. That being said, the new midsize SUV offers headroom of 974 mm, legroom of 1,052 mm, and shoulder room of 1,500 mm at the front—in the models without a sunroof. In the second row, passengers will enjoy 958 mm of headroom, 1,060 mm of legroom, and 1,480 mm of shoulder room. The third row offers headroom of 917 mm, legroom of 746 mm, and shoulder room of 1,344 mm. With all the seats in place, the facelifted Santa Fe comes with a cargo space of 782 liters.


On the safety front, the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe offers a host of new driving assistance systems such as a Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA) that provides a warning once there is a risk of collision with a rear side vehicle, a Navigation-based Smart Cruise Control (NSCC) that automatically slows down the SUV when approaching curved sections, and a Lane Following Assist (LFA). The latter utilizes a front view camera on the front windshield to detect lanes and the vehicles ahead on the road, hence helping keep the SUV centered between the lanes. Other key safety features include a Forward Collison-Avoidance Assist (FCA), a Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA), and Safe Exit Assist (SEA), among other driver-assistance systems.



Fittingly, the latest iteration of the midsize SUV comes with two engine options: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder MPi engine and a 3.5-liter V6 MPi engine


Engine and Performance

Fittingly, the latest iteration of the midsize SUV comes with two engine options. The standard Santa Fe is equipped with a naturally aspirated, 2.5-liter four-cylinder MPi engine. It delivers 180 hp and 232 Nm of torque.


For customers who want something more powerful, they may opt for the punchier 3.5-liter V6 MPi engine. This six-cylinder mill produces 272 hp and 331 Nm of torque.


Both engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission that can direct the power to the four wheels. As previously claimed, the facelifted Santa Fe is still “the first Hyundai to be equipped with an electronic four-wheel-drive system (HTRAC) that actively controls the driving force according to the drive mode,” according to the South Korean carmaker.


Developed as a multi-mode system, drivers can choose from different driving modes of the HTRAC via a Drive Mode Select system, including Comfort, Sport, Eco, Smart, Snow, Mud, and Sand modes. As for the suspension, it has been updated to enhance both handling and ride comfort.


Our verdict

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe is not just another hauler from the South Korean carmaker’s line-up models. It blends comfort, style, amenities, interior space, and thrilling performance. Surely, the facelifted Santa Fe is a viable midsize SUV contender in a crowded segment. Even with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, the family SUV is one step ahead of the cutthroat competition!



Watch our test drive episode




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