By on October 13, 2020

Hyundai has sent the Santa Fe in for surgery for the 2021 model year, but there was little reason for us to worry about a botched facelift. With the notable exception of the mildly polarizing Elantra refresh from 2019, the brand has been on an extended roll with its refreshes. They’ve come often, typically bringing a model into the brand’s current design language without diluting the visual characteristics underpinning its own individuality. Considering most automakers can’t help but drop a steaming dud onto the carpet at least once every couple of years, we think Hyundai should be praised just for screwing things up so infrequently.

That said, the Santa Fe update goes quite a bit further than simply not ruining anything. The family-focused crossover is getting some meaningful tech upgrades, improved interior options, a whole new platform (despite this being a “refresh”) and a selection of new powertrains. A SmartStream 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine replaces the base 2.4-liter from the outgoing model and doesn’t offer much additional performance at just 191 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque (estimated). But Hyundai says customers should notice a bump in fuel economy as the motor doesn’t have to work quite so hard in its daily duties. Those wanting more might enjoy the turbocharged variant  which features a new eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission and 277 horsepower/311 lb-ft of torque (estimated)  or the brand’s soon-to-follow hybrid option.

Whereas the gasoline-driven models should be available before 2020 comes to a close with a choice between front and all-wheel drive, the hybrid option only comes in the latter flavor. Customers can expect a Smartstream 1.6-liter, direct-injected, turbocharged four-cylinder engine coupled with a new HEV-tuned six-speed automatic transmission Hyundai has optimized for efficiency. The engine is said to produce 178 horsepower by its lonesome, resulting in a combined (but still estimated) 225 horsepower with peak torque somewhere around 195 lb-ft.

While every motor in the 2021 Santa Fe’s quiver now comes with idle, stop and go to help save fuel, it’s the hybrid option targeting the largest savings. It comes with a 13kW starter-generator and an electric drive motor rated for 44kW powered by a small 1.5kWh (270V/5.5 Ah) battery pack with a maximum output of 64kW. Since the vehicles have yet to be tested/certificated by the EPA, we’ve no clue what that means for fuel economy. Hyundai says everyone should be ready to be impressed, however.

On the safety side of things, the crossover gets a slew of advanced driver assistance features  including Lane Following with Assist, Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist, and Highway Drive Assist. The Santa Fe’s adaptive cruise control system has likewise been updated to utilize the GPS network while its Forward Collision Avoidance-Assist (with Pedestrian Detection) has been modified to better identify cyclists and identify hazards at junctions. But we’ve never been all that confident when it comes to driving nannies and think the interior upgrades will ultimately be the things offering drivers peace of mind.

While the nicest items come via the new range-topping Calligraphy trim, all trims now come with a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen navigation system that can now facilitate both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Wireless device charging has also been added, along with voice commands that we doubt anybody is going to use for anything more important than asking the car about the weekend forecast. Customers can similarly option the brand’s new roof rails, power-folding side mirrors with turn-signal indicators, and puddle lamps to complement the new exterior and a deluge of wheel designs on offer.

Of course, those going with the nearly premium Calligraphy trim get all that and then some. Pretty much anything on the Santa Fe that can be changed has its own unique Calligraphy version. The model also comes with the 2.5-liter turbo by default, adding HTRAC all-wheel drive (with downhill brake control), 20-inch alloy wheels, quilted Nappa leather upholstery, eco-suede headliner, a head-up display, premium grille, premium accenting (both inside and out), and additional ambient lighting themes.

Hyundai said more details (including pricing) will be made available closer to launch. Fortunately, the internal-combustion versions of the new Santa Fe are supposed to hit dealerships before the end of this year  giving us an extremely short wait. Meanwhile, the Santa Fe Hybrid is expected in the first quarter of 2021 with a plug-in variant hot on its heels.

[Images: Hyundai]

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9 Comments on “2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Getting Facelift, New Powertrains...”

  • avatar

    I guess it’s safe to assume that this is what the front clip and powertrain options will be for the Santa Cruz as well…

    • 0 avatar

      Not necessarily, as the Santa Cruz shares its platform with the new Tucson; plus Hyundai has stated that its lineup will have varying looks.

      • 0 avatar

        Really? Aw rats. I thought it was a Santa Fe platform-mate. Bummer. That just dashed all my hopes for a little truck I could use. Guess I’ll be sticking to the midsizers for the time being.

    • 0 avatar

      That front end, though! It’s an anguished grimace, as if the Santa Fe were saying, “I get nauseous on dirt roads! I hate dirt roads! Get me off this horrible dirt road!” or it was being forced to eat Brussels sprouts.
      The interior is probably pretty comfortable, but it looks like they couldn’t decide on the color, so they went with three or four instead.

  • avatar

    I like the look of this refresh. A lot.

    What’s the deal with “Smartstream”? That sounds like that brand of make-it-at-home-for-less soda machines. Doesn’t make me think of the powerplant for a car.

  • avatar

    Strange to see a “refresh” that includes an all new platform and all new powertrains. Certainly smaller evolutions from other brands have been marketed as “all new” in the past. Interesting marketing strategy.

    Generally speaking, I’m quite impressed. There is a lot to like here – including the comprehensive powertrain lineup. The only real drawback is the polarizing front end design with the massive grille and bizarre lighting, and for me that would be a sizable drawback. The Sorento is the better looking fraternal twin, but the Sorento’s interior isn’t as appealing, and it comes with a mandatory (and nearly useless) third row of seats.

    • 0 avatar

      Not the 1st time H/K have done this (last time it happened, it was the Sorento that switched to the new platform for its refresh) – for H/K models that are on varying timelines.

      The switch to the new platform is of particular importance, as it allows for a hybrid and PHEV powertrains – which is crucial for the European and other markets.

  • avatar

    Oh, look! A giant meat mallet.

    There’s a word for that grille. Garish.

  • avatar

    Amazing how Hyundai can slip in all new engines and hybrid options on a 2019 based platform but GM not only pushes back the Equinox/Terrain refresh using Covid as an all too convenient excuse but also drops the 252 HP 2.0T engine from the lineup leaving the weak sauce 170 HP 1.5T as the only engine even in the highest trim levels for 2021! Just goes to show who is trying and who is doing barely good enough these days.

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