Face Time: 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Drops the Towel

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
face time 2021 hyundai santa fe drops the towel

It seems potentially controversial front end treatments are today’s theme. After teasing its upcoming Santa Fe last week, Hyundai let it all out on Tuesday, debuting a wildly different fascia with which to temp buyers on the hunt for an “ultimate family adventure vehicle.”

If you’re not up on your corporate marketing-speak, that’s how Hyundai refers to its popular midsize crossover. Despite bowing in fourth-generation form in mid-2018, the Santa Fe rolls into 2021 with a new platform in tow, begging to be noticed — not that it already wasn’t.

Indeed, that 2019MY revamp sent Santa Fe sales soaring, earning smiles among company brass eager to see its crossover surge pay off. With this new, strategically reworked Santa Fe, buyers might be confronted with something that turns them off; however, that’s a danger that comes with any attempt at facial improvement. The past half-decade, it should be noted, was not kind to refreshed Hyundais (*cough* previous-gen Sonata and Elantra *cough*).

Stretching the full width of the vehicle’s face, the new grills is big and comes filled with geometric shapes that reflect the light in a visually striking way. And clearly the 2020 Sonata is no longer alone in the adventurous external lighting club. The Santa Fe now sports a pair of T-shaped daytime running lights that either resemble a snake’s eyes or its fangs… or both. Below it all is a fairly conventionally shaped lower air opening.

As before, a strong crease connects headlamps to tail lamps, and the wheel arches grow in size.

Out back, the Santa Fe grows new taillights that, like the grille, span the with of the vehicle via an LED light bar. I guess it’s another heckblende for Corey to gush over. Hyundai insists the “majestic” new Santa Fe is more than just a refresh, though specs on this new, “roomier” Santa Fe remain a mystery. Within the wheel wells you’ll find standard 20-inch hoops, though — something this writer takes issue with, given the terrible state of much of the continent’s pavement.

Significant changes occur inside, too, as the ’21 Santa Fe loses its traditional shift knob. In its place is a push-button array, joined by quick access to other oft-used functions. The console also rises in height, “giving the driver and front passenger the feeling of sitting in an armchair,” Hyundai claims. Elsewhere, soft-touch materials abound. Hyundai calls the cabin “classy,” which amuses this writer. More automakers should use this swaggering, mustachioed term.

Should you go for an all-wheel drive model, a new terrain mode selector arrives to bolster the vehicle’s off-road cred. Sand, snow, and mud modes are included, as are eco, sport, comfort, and smart modes.

The Santa Fe’s dash seems to ape that of its big brother, the Palisade. There, you’ll find an available 10.25-inch touchscreen.

As Hyundai didn’t make any mention of additional power, it’s assumed that the previous model’s 2.4- and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinders carry over for 2021. When it goes on sale (likely) later this year, buyers of the Santa Fe will be greeted by new paint choices and interior color combinations.

[Images: Hyundai]

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  • Goatshadow Goatshadow on Jun 04, 2020

    What an unfortunate looking car.

  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Jun 08, 2020

    Cheese grater front end. Std 20" rubber Push button shift system Answers to questions nobody was asking! Instead they should have put some of this money into upgrading to the new 2.5 engine from the Sonata with a higher torque rating and some type of improvement to the not very powerful 235 Hp 2.0T and the way the 8 speed downshifts and hesitates with this engine. A revised grille and the current headlights would have sufficed for a visual upgrade!

  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI coupe....it's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark V.....it was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"
  • ToolGuy When Farley says “like the Millennium Falcon” he means "fully updatable" and "constantly improving" -- it's right there in the Car and Driver article (and makes perfect sense).