Hyundai Santa Fe Crossover Gets a New Look and New Engines
Photo credit: DREW PHILLIPS
Hyundai has redesigned the Santa Fe
Two new engines, both 2.5 liters
Or you can also choose a hybrid
Some other minor updates are coming in 2021
Faced with fierce competition in a large market segment, Hyundai has made significant changes to its midsize crossover SUV in Santa Fe. The updated model will see new powertrains, front and rear fairings, and a center console inside. It's one of the more extensive mid-cycle facelifts we've seen.
The facelift part means a new grille, grille shroud, and new headlights that combine with new rear taillights to brighten up the Santa Fe's appearance. Inside the Santa Fe is a new center console that is highlighted by a 10.25-inch touchscreen display that "floats" above the dashboard. Both internal and external improvements were revealed in June.
The news now is the powertrains. All Santa Fe models will get more powerful engines for 2021, and a new hybrid is also available.
The base model receives a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with a naturally aspirated engine and 195 hp, six hp more than the previous 2.4-liter. The new in-line six-cylinder with direct injection also offers 182 lb-ft of torque. You have the choice between front or all-wheel drive. It will automatically stop and drive so it will shut off at red lights, which increases efficiency (which some find irritating, however) and contributes to an estimated four percent improvement in EPA fuel economy to 26 mpg.
One step above that is a new 2.5-liter turbo that replaces the old 2.0 T. It is also direct-injected, but makes 277 hp and 311 lb ft of torque. It's mated to a brand new eight-speed automatic that drives either the front wheels or all four wheels. This setup is expected to increase fuel efficiency by about nine percent over the previous 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, which is estimated at 25 mpg for the front-wheel drive model and 24 mpg for the all-wheel drive.
Both of the above engines are shared with the Sonata sedan.
Credit: DREW PHILLIPS
Hyundai also added a hybrid engine option to the Santa Fe. It starts with the 1.6-liter four-cylinder with direct injection and turbocharger of the Hyundai Smartstream. The stand-alone 1.6 liter engine is also shared with the Sonata. But Hyundai took this four-cylinder and added a HEV starter generator and an electric drive motor with 59 hp (44 kW) and a 1.5 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery with a nominal output of 270 V / 5.5 Ah. The estimated total system output of the hybrid is 225 horsepower with a maximum torque of 195 lb ft at 4,000 rpm.
The hybrid is linked to a new six-speed automatic and standard HTRAC all-wheel drive. HTRAC uses a variable torque clutch to constantly distribute torque between the front and rear axles. There are three modes: normal, sport and smart. The most fun will likely be doing sports that transfer more torque to the rear wheels to get that spirited crossover performance.
Credit: DREW PHILLIPS
Other improvements to the 2021 models include:
Brake booster with higher capacity that offers significantly improved braking performance.
Larger brake discs and improvements to the ABS and ESC system.
Stronger body structure through increased use of high-strength steel.
Less noise thanks to a redesigned instrument panel structure.
A drop in the drag coefficient from 0.34 to 0.33 thanks to the newly designed underbody covers.
The new Santa Fe has the phalanx of electronic safety systems now required, from forward collision avoidance with pedestrian, cyclist and intersection detection to blind spot collision avoidance aid. There are also functions such as lane departure warning, blind spot monitor and intelligent cruise control. And don't forget to use the reverse parking collision assistance. It's a long list.
Other cool features that first appeared in Sonata can now be found in the Santa Fe, like the digital key and remote smart parking assistant. The latter enables owners to park and access their cars in tight spaces while standing outside the car and control its movement with the smart key. We saw this work on the sonata and it looks downright robotic.
Finally, the Santa Fe 2021 will also be offered in a new premium calligraphy trim for buyers looking for the ultimate in styling differentiation, premium materials, exclusive features and advanced technologies. The calligraphy starts as Santa Fe Limited with the more powerful 2.5 liter turbo engine and then adds HTRAC awd with downhill brake control, unique 20 inch alloys, quilted nappa leather, full color heads up display and premium front grill, Premium Accent trim for doors and seats, eco-suede headliner, extended themes for ambient lighting and automatic rear windows up / down.
The improvements for the 2021 model year should keep the Santa Fe competitive in an increasingly competitive segment. At the end of July 2020, when Hyundai was still selling the old model, Santa Fe was lagging behind big segment sellers like the Toyota Highlander, the Honda Pilot, the Mazda CX-5 and the Subaru Outback in significant numbers. For example, it only accounts for about half of Toyota Highlander's sales. This could explain the major mid-cycle improvements. You have to be innovative man!
Expect Santa Fe prices to be closer to the release of the new model towards the end of this year. Current Santa Fes retail starts at between 35 and 38 grand.
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