2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Getting Facelift, New Powertrains
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.
A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.
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