By on May 26, 2020


Hyundai apparently feels that boasting the freshest faces in the industry will help it woo the American buying public. With a full stable of crossovers now realized, it’s not a terrible strategy.

Just two model years after its debut, the midsize Santa Fe crossover (which replaced the Santa Fe Sport and necessitated a name change for the existing, larger Santa Fe to Santa Fe XL before that model’s metamorphosis into the less confusingly named Palisade) stands to gain a fairly radical new front end design.

Teased in a head-on photo by the manufacturer, the 2021 Santa Fe — which was no slouch in the looks department, in this writer’s opinion — gains T-shaped daytime running lights, plus a reshaped grille and front fascia. The current model is shown below for comparison.


It’s not an inconsequential refresh. The Santa Fe’s new face, which likely previews the visage of the upcoming 2021 Tucson to some degree, takes the CUV in a styling direction well removed from the brand’s safe-but-bland strategy of the mid-2010s. It’s aggressive, it’s sporty, and yet it remains affixed to a midsize family hauler.

Hyundai prefers to call the new look “rugged yet refined,” which is its prerogative. Were it not for the generously sized lower air openings, one could be fooled into thinking this face came with a sport coupe body in tow. Far from it. Still, the ’21 Santa Fe maintains the over/under headlight arrangement seen elsewhere in the brand’s crossover stable. A rear view was not provided (and would surely be less interesting had one been available).

The Santa Fe proved a hit when it landed for the 2019 model year, with sales rising markedly, despite the removal of the Santa Fe XL mid-year.

Clearly, Hyundai was counting on a June Detroit Auto Show at which to reveal the made-over midsizer. The coronavirus kiboshed those plans, leaving the automaker no choice but to debut its latest product online. More details, and presumably a full reveal, will occur over the coming weeks, Hyundai says.

The automaker didn’t offer up any details regarding powertrain changes for ’21; the model’s two four-cylinder engines are expected to carry over, though Hyundai did speak of “technological enhancements” inbound for the coming model year.

[Images: Hyundai]

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11 Comments on “2021 Hyundai Santa Fe: Refresh Time Already...”

  • avatar

    The headlight reminds me of the current design direction taken by Peugeot with their 508 and 208.

    I’ll reserve my judgement until we see the car in full, but it does stand out alright.

  • avatar

    The bigger change is actually underneath – platform and powertrains.

    The Santa Fe switches over to the new, lighter weight platform that also underpins the Sonata and new Sorento.

    This switch allows for the new hybrid and PHEV variants which are crucial for the EU market with its upcoming tougher emissions regs, as well as getting the new 2.5T.

  • avatar

    I shopped the new Santa Fe a year ago. The problem for me was that the 2.4 liter NA engine just wasn’t powerful enough for me. Moving up to the 2.0T needed the Limited model and a variety of things I wasn’t looking for. The lease payments for a FWD Limited model were about $400/month, and just didn’t seem worth it. A few weeks later a got a private offer (via USAA insurance from my Army service) for a generous discount on a Mercedes GLC and low and behold, for $1000 more down, I was still at $400/month. Not identical equipment, but it had a 2.0T and a sunroof, so I went for it. As I have mentioned before, the upmarket moves of the mainstream manufacturers and the downmarket moves of the luxury marques are converging on the same territory.

    • 0 avatar
      CKNSLS Sierra SLT


      Not exactly. I would venture to say that the luxury makers have sky high residuals on the lease deals-nobody buys those things and that’s the only way they can keep the factories running.

      My son just turned in his leased F150. Street price (used) on those are the mid 20’s. The residual on the truck was $31,000-so Mercedes isn’t the only one.

  • avatar

    It looks like nobody is interested in Santa Fe, so I found it beneficial to add this comment to support TTAC.

  • avatar

    I just occurred to me yesterday that I can’t recall having yet seen a 2020 Escape. Lots of older ones around still, and I’ve seen a few Ecosports, but no Escapes. Is it that bad?

    • 0 avatar

      I can tell you that they’ve hit the rental fleets. I tried one about a month ago. SEL with the 1.5l 3 yl. You haven’t missed anything. The interior looked and felt cheap, right down the the fuel economy gauge cluster from the previous gen Focus/Escape. It wasn’t slow, but I can tell you that it certainly wasn’t fast. When you look at the pricing Ford slapped on it, you’ll understand why you haven’t seen many of them.

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