Thursday, February 2, 2023
Reviews 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Luxury Hybrid Review: An Impossible To Ignore SUV

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Luxury Hybrid Review: An Impossible To Ignore SUV

The Hyundai Santa has long been a compelling midsize SUV. For 2021, it punches back first and hard

  • Pricing for the Santa Fe in Canada starts at $31,399, $27,000 in the US.

  • The hybrid powertrain is a $2,900 option from the Preferred trim in Canada.

  • For the 2021 model year, the Santa Fe gets a comprehensive overhaul.

The Hyundai Motor Group is a frightening automaker. Frightening in the sense that they themselves know no limits, have no fear, and will not back down from any challenge. While facelifts are typical, they are not usually this broad, and noteworthy. Not only is the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe updated but it gets new powertrains.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Luxury Hybrid | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Hyundai’s enormous resources have enabled them to grow at an unprecedented rate and tackle every segment with a persuasive product. The midsize SUV segment has recently been assailed by the Group with no less than two three-row menaces in the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride, but an all-new Sorento. To this trio, we can now add a “onced-over” fourth-generation Santa Fe.

Overhauled powertrain options

Before addressing aesthetics, it’s more important to share the fact that the 2021 Santa Fe gets a whole new family of powertrains. On top of the naturally aspirated and turbocharged 2.5-litre 4-cylinder, the SUV also gains a hybrid version. It features a turbocharged 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine mated to a new HEV-tuned 6-speed automatic transmission. This combo joins forces with the HEV starter-generator and the electric drive motor for a combined 226 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Luxury Hybrid | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

While modest, the output makes for a surprisingly spritely SUV to drive. The electric motor’s torque more than compensates for the Santa Fe’s 4,200-lb girth. Hyundai’s HTRAC AWD system is standard with the Hybrid powertrain. All told, the Santa Fe Hybrid is rated at a combined 7.4L/100km which, I can tell you now, will not be beaten, in the real world, by the upcoming plug-in version. In fact, this rating makes it one of the most efficient SUVs in the segment also thanks to its 1.49kWh battery that will help it cover modest distances under electric power only.

There are three on-road and three off-road drive modes. The Eco mode is the default setup and is correct for most driving adventures. The Smart mode is the best bet for all types of driving conditions. Speaking of adventure, I’m at a loss as to why this vehicle has a Terrain selection with Snow, Mud, and Sand drive modes…

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Luxury Hybrid | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

On the road, the new 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe is docile and generally comfortable. The structure’s revisions, made for 2021, were probably performed to handle the extra power and weight generated by the new powertrains. The driving experience feels unchanged from the 2019-20 model vehicles. Damping is compliant with the 19-inch wheels however the vehicles with the standard 18-inch wheels will be even more relaxed. For 2021, Hyundai’s also updated the braking system with a new brake booster which delivers better brake pedal response.

Premium approach

The deal with design today is that its impact must be nearly powerful enough to sell the vehicle. This explains in part why Hyundai’s invested so heavily in the Santa Fe’s new front and rear fascias, wheel designs, and other details. The headlight treatment is now a complex T-shaped affair that divides two light pods into sections. The bumpers are beefier and more refined visually. The changes on the outside are not quite as impactful as those in the cabin.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Luxury Hybrid | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Here, Hyundai’s gone premium+. Gone is the “old” center console and shifter, replaced by a cascading center console that bridges the with the dashboard. In the process, it has created a large storage space beneath. On the console itself, Hyundai’s set up push-button transmission controls next to the drive mode selector wheel.

The presentation and finished product could be lifted from a Genesis vehicle – it’s that convincingly premium. There’s obvious attention to detail that is absent in several the Santa Fe’s competitors. The cabin is also extremely roomy in both rows, and the trunk is huge at 1,032 litres of usable space.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Luxury Hybrid | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Standard features abound in the 2021 Santa Fe, including an 8-inch touchscreen display, wireless Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, a heated steering wheel, and so much more. The tested Luxury Hybrid includes a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, wireless phone charging, heated rear and cooled front seats, 19-inch wheels, and more for only $43,799.

That’s a key selling point

At under $44,000, the Santa Fe outfoxes the larger Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Ford Explorer Hybrid by a considerable amount. When the 4xe version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee arrives, it will also be far more expensive. This leaves the new Toyota Venza which is priced similarly to the Santa Fe, and the slightly smaller Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

There’s also the upcoming Kia Sorento Hybrid on the way. We would consider it over the Santa Fe if mostly for its more rugged and chiseled appearance. But, for any medium or long-term relationship, we cannot suggest a Hyundai/Kia product.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Luxury Hybrid | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Luxury Hybrid | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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