The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe has received an—ahem—refresh. We almost spit out our coffee at the description. The word “refresh” in automotive parlance gets a lot of exercise. We’ve seen it used when a model gets a new fascia and a new color. We have also seen automakers refer to a vehicle as “next-generation” when it continues to ride on the same platform with an engine tweaked to coax out a bit more power—on top of the new fascia and new color.
So, when I lined up an interview to hear the latest about the facelift for the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe midsize SUV, let’s just say the editors weren’t waiting with bated breath for the details.
Imagine my surprise when Hyundai execs outlined the serious changes to the 2021 Santa Fe. For starters, it switches to a new platform, one shared with the 2021 Kia Sorento, which isn’t shy about calling itself the new, fourth generation of the vehicle. What on earth? It’s a technicality. The degree of modification drove the move to a new platform, we are told, but the number of parts changed was just shy of legally calling it a full model change.
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Adds Hybrid, New Engines
The 2021 Santa Fe has three engines to choose from. Gone are the 2.4-liter and turbocharged 2.0-liter. For 2021, the base engine is a 191-hp, 182-lb-ft 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine with the carryover eight-speed automatic transmission. For more, step up to the 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that generates 277 hp and 311 lb-ft and is mated to a new wet dual-clutch eight-speed automatic transmission. And the family welcomes a hybrid that pairs an electric motor with a 175-hp, 195-lb-ft 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine for a total output of 225 hp. It is mated to a next-gen six-speed automatic transmission unique to the hybrid. A plug-in hybrid will follow in late 2021, likely for the 2022 model year.
And yes, it has a new fascia and new colors, as well as a new look with a wide front grille, T-shaped headlights, sharper shoulders, and 20-inch wheels on the new top Calligraphy trim.
Inside, the Santa Fe adopts some of the classy materials and styling elements of the larger Hyundai Palisade three-row SUV. The new Santa Fe is a bit longer, slightly wider and lower than before, but the wheelbase is unchanged.
So why undertake such a significant refresh, and why so modest? The desire to add a hybrid for the 2021 model year and a plug-in hybrid for 2022 drove the Santa Fe to a new platform. The automaker wanted to be able to add the battery packs without compromising cabin space. The new platform kept passenger and cargo space intact in the hybrid, where the batteries are beneath the second-row seat on the left side. For the plug-in hybrid they will stretch across the second row, eating a small amount of the interior space. Engineers also wanted to keep the same fuel tank size for the hybrid; it will be slightly smaller in the plug-in hybrid. By any reasonable definition, all this would make it a brand-new car. Chalk up the refresh label to the maddening intricacies of the law.
Call it what you will, the heavily face-lifted 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe, made in Alabama, goes on sale in mid-December. The hybrid, which will come from the Ulsan plant in South Korea, follows in mid-February 2021.
Calligraphy Is New Santa Fe Top Trim
There are four trim levels: SE, SEL, Limited, and Calligraphy, which is the new top trim level. With quilted Nappa leather and other high-end materials and amenities, Hyundai uses the Calligraphy to help differentiate the Santa Fe from the Kia Sorento.
The hybrid comes in SEL or Limited trim only. The 2.5-liter turbo is introduced at the Limited level. All-wheel drive is available on all trims and is standard on the hybrids and Calligraphy, which also has a Class III tow hitch with a seven-pin connector. On the hybrids, the motor is in the front; there is a mechanical AWD system for power to the rear wheels.
Hyundai offers the Santa Fe as a seven-passenger vehicle in other markets but has no plans to add a third row for the U.S.—the Palisade covers that territory.
Upscale Cabin Similar to Hyundai Palisade
Inside, the center stack now flows like the one in the Palisade. The base models have a new 8.0-inch center screen with standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The larger 10.3-inch center display adds navigation, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not wireless yet; that capability is still under development. Wireless charging, however, is standard now. The driver has a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster available in all but the base trim. The new shift-by-wire transmission mode selector frees up room in the center console.
Engineers say the new platform provides more rigidity for a smoother ride and should be quieter with thicker matting as well as new fillers and structural materials. The windshield and acoustic glass are also thicker.
Safety Comes Standard on 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
The Hyundai Smart Sense system provides a variety of standard safety drive assist features such as forward collision avoidance assist that can now detect cyclists as well as pedestrians, blind-spot collision avoidance and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, lane-keeping and lane-following assist, driver attention warning, and alerts to ensure people exit safely. The Santa Fe has adaptive cruise control, and instrument cluster camera views to better see objects in the blind spot (when a turn signal is active).
There are new goodies, including ambient lighting and the same Smart Park system that is in the 2021 Hyundai Sonata, which allows the driver to get out of the vehicle and remotely park it. The hands-free power liftgate opens automatically.
|2021 Hyundai Santa Fe|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.5L/191-hp/182-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4; 1.6L/178-hp/195-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus 59-hp elec motor, 225 hp/195 lb-ft comb; 2.5L/277-hp/311-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed auto; 6-speed auto; 8-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,800-4,200 lb (est)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||188.4 x 74.8 x 65.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.0-8.5 sec (MT est)|
|EPA FUEL ECON||21-39/27-35/24-37 (est)|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||86-160/96-125 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.52-0.83 lb/mile (est)|
|ON SALE||December 2020; hybrid February 2021|
The post 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe First Look: Serious SUV Makeover appeared first on MotorTrend.