Head to Hyundai’s website, and you’ll see that Hyundai touts the Santa Fe as an adventurous family SUV. It certainly looks the part as you watch it tackle some rugged off-road driving in a video. But alas, my recent journeys in the 2021 Santa Fe were limited to trekking to some of my favorite weekend spots for take out. An experience that was enjoyable all the same.
The 2021 Santa Fe receives a bunch of great updates for the model year, inside and out as well as under the hood. Also new for 2021 is my model’s range-topping 2021 Calligraphy trim.
The 2021 Santa Fe lineup introduces new powertrains. The Calligraphy is equipped with a new 2.5-liter turbocharged engine that delivers 277-Horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. The power and acceleration feels really great. The engine is mated to a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic shift-by-wire transmission with paddle shifters, which serve this SUV well. It’s also equipped with all-wheel drive with downhill brake control. You’ll notice idle stop-start, but can be turned off.
It’s been two years since Hyundai redesigned the Santa Fe, and it’s aging well. Or rather not aging at all. Hyundai keeps things fresh with updates for 2021 like new alloy wheel designs, an enhanced wider grille and new Advanced Lighting Signature Technology. (All exterior lighting is LED and all models also receive high beam assist.)
This model is equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels and the Calligraphy trim features a premium finish dark chrome grille along with satin chrome door handles. The Calligraphy is among the trims equipped with new power-folding side mirrors and puddle lamps.
A body colored rear spoiler is standard across the lineup, and all but the base model feature silver roof rails.
The Santa Fe Calligraphy’s well-designed black interior is user friendly with premium trim on the door panels. The Calligraphy trim means you’ll be sitting in quilted Nappa leather seats underneath an eco-suede headliner, and helming a leather-wrapped perforated, heated steering wheel. The driver’s seat is 8-way power adjustable with 4-way power lumbar - and what a nice surprise to have a power leg cushion extender. The passenger’s seat is 6-way power. Both front seats are heated and ventilated. A huge panoramic sunroof sits above and ambient lighting looks great at night.
A key focal point is a new high-center center stack and console design. It’s a virtual candy store of buttons, so this is a great SUV choice if you prefer those over digital controls. The wide center stack area houses a knob to change drive modes, along with a new shift-by-wire transmission mode selector, and buttons for auto brake hold, the panoramic camera and to turn off stop/start. Down on the console area you’ll find a new vertical wireless phone charger (but you’ll need to know it’s there, or if you’re like me, you’ll miss it at first.)
The second row is impressively roomy in terms of both leg- and headroom. The middle seat is comfortable too, though it loses a bit of head room. The outboard seats are heated, and it’s a fantastic surprise to have reclining seats. Passengers can also keep cool with manual sunshades.
The lineup comes with dual USB outlets in the front and rear.
The 2nd row also has a 60/40 fold-flat split, and surprise again, there’s a 2nd-row power release button in the cargo area. Speaking of which, the cargo space is impressive and it’s not just what you can see. There is hidden storage as well, and a lot of it, underneath the cargo mat. Hyundai says it increased rear cargo area volume by one-half cubic foot. It’s also easy to access with the hands-free power liftgate with a power close button.
The Santa Fe features a 7-pin trailer wire connection and a new trailer sway control function for towing up to 3,500 pounds. If you end up taking this off the beaten path, you have 8.2-inches of ground clearance.
Hyundai’s shine in the technology department and the 2021 Santa Fe Calligraphy is no exception. The Calligraphy is outfitted with a new, larger 10.25-inch widescreen navigation display that’s top-notch both in terms of responsiveness and graphics. The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster display you’ll see in many of Hyundai’s models is terrific, too. It also includes Hyundai’s Blind Spot View Monitor that displays when you use your turn signal.
Hyundai’s Dynamic Voice Recognition impresses, recognizing voice commands well. The multimedia system features Sounds of Nature and Rear Seat Quiet Mode. The Calligraphy trim also includes a great-sounding 12-speaker Harman-Kardon premium audio system.
Important Note: Santa Fe models equipped with Navigation don’t feature wireless Apple CarPlay or wireless Android Auto. It’s newly available for 2021 on other Santa Fe models, but navigation-equipped models still come with non-wireless versions.
The Calligraphy also comes equipped with Remote Start and Remote Smart Park Assist.
Ride and Drive
The Santa Fe 2.5T’s confident and peppy acceleration is a real highlight for me. Though I found the accelerator pedal a bit jumpy from a stop. Steering is on the looser side but tightens up and gets more responsive in Sport mode. I also found it easy to maneuver in parking lots. The ride was overall enjoyable and on the quieter side.
The Santa Fe adds standard Smart Sense safety features for 2021. They include new cyclist and junction-turning detecting to the forward collision avoidance assist system, New Parking Collision Avoidance Assist – Reverse Function, New Lane Following Assist, and new Navigation-based Smart Cruise Control with Road Curve Control. Other Smart Sense features include Blind-spot Collision-Avoidance Assist with Blind Spot View Monitor, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, Safe Exit Assist and Ultrasonic Rear Occupant Alert
I’m a fan of Hyunda’s semi-autonomous driving system which works well in highway driving. The 2021 model features an updated Highway Drive Assist System with next-generation convenience functions.
My Calligraphy trim’s 8.5-inch color Heads-Up Display is terrific, too.
What You’ll Pay
I’m impressed with the pricing on the Santa Fe Calligraphy - I consider it a great value at $43,430 as equipped. $155 carpeted floor mats are my test model’s only listed option.
- What I Liked Most: Acceleration. Looks. Technology.
- What I would change: I would say add a little more plushness to the Calligraphy interior.
- Fuel Economy: 21 mpg city /28 mpg highway /24 mpg combined.
- Odometer reading when tested: 5,966 miles.
- Weight: 4,076 pounds.
- Spare Tire: Tire Mobility Kit.
- Length-Width-Height: 188.4” long/ 74.8” wide /67.3” high (w/roof side rails).
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 18.8 gallons with the fuel filler on the driver’s side.
- Towing Capacity: 3,500 pounds.
- Official Color: Shimmering Silver.
- 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe: An excellent two-row SUV with terrific features that’s a great value in its segment.
- Warranty: 5 year/60,000-mile New Vehicle Warranty; 10 year/100,000-mile Warranty; 7-year anti-perforation warranty. Complimentary Maintenance: 3 years/36,000 miles of normal oil changes and tire rotations
- Final Assembly Location: Montgomery, Alabama.
- Manufacturer's website: Hyundai