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When it comes to the mid-life cycle on a model refresh, some manufacturers tend to lean towards tweaking some of the minor inconvenient imperfections while others lean towards a revamp that appears as if it’s an all-new model. Hyundai leaned toward the latter end of that equation on its mid-sized Santa Fe.

Taking note from its rival sister company, Kia, this refresh Santa Fe carries a lot of similar counterparts from the mid-size Kia Sorento. While they are dramatically different from each other, they both share the same fundamental underpinnings, performance spec’s and overall pleasantries. Like the Sorento, Hyundai too drop its previously 2.4-liter and 2.0-liter engines for a more efficient, streamline 2.5-liter engine. This new engine is offered in two variations, naturally-aspirated or turbocharged form. The NA 2.5-liter is subjected to the entry models like the SE and SEL models with 191-horsepower and 181 lbs-ft of torque while the turbocharged offering is limited to, well, the Limited and above models.

Because our sampler here happened to be a Limited and above model, it happily featured the saucy tail of that turbocharged engine and all of its 281-horsepower thrills. While both engines use an all-new 8-speed automatic, the turbocharged engine uses a new 8-speed dual-clutch system that glides through the gears like a hot knife through butter. Despite a hint of turbo-lag from the initial set-off, the Santa Fe is always down for a quickie as it scoots from 0-60 in under 6-seconds. With its HTRAC all-wheel drive system working similar to a torque-vectoring system, the all-wheel drive is always alert and active on or off the road. Its all-wheel drive system comes with a $1700 increase in price and is available on all trim options; including the entry-level SE starting at $27,000.

Like the Sorento, there is an all-new hybrid form entering the Santa Fe playing field, but unlike the Sorento, the Santa Fe hybrid will be available in three trim options with the Blue, SEL Premium and Limited models starting at $33,350. Equipped with a 1.6-liter turbocharged hybrid engine it can produce upwards of 36-mpg on the highway.

Having refreshed the front and rear fascia of the Santa Fe, there is a bolder presence to its aesthetics. The front headlights carry a striking T-shaped daytime running light that accent the large chrome grille. The rear taillights have also been updated with a signature LED look. The dramatic change however occurs inside; the center console has been completely transformed into an improved, premium appealing cockpit. All the buttons and switchgear hold a luxury, tactile feel and are more comfortably in line with the driver and passenger for ease of access. Even the newly equipped wireless charging pad is conveniently placed in the center, next to the driver for an easy slide of the phone down into the holder.

Significant updates have been made to the technology side of the Santa Fe as it incorporates the newly 10.25-inch touch screen infotainment system and information cluster. Fun to customize between different themes, both displays produce a rich output but sadly requires a plug-to-play when it comes to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, something that is wireless on the standard 8-inch sized screen. All Santa Fe’s however come with its latest in safety gear as a standard featuring Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go and Lane Keeping Assist.

While these changes aren’t as big as the interior or performance alterations, the all-new Calligraphy model holds a surprisingly hierarchy to the Santa Fe’s lineup. Being the most expensive model, its $40,750 starting price is not an easy price to look at; however, considering how extremely well packaged the Calligraphy model is, we’d almost say it competes with some of the more premium German brands… almost. The Calligraphy really separates the Santa Fe line up with a highly-boosted premium feel by featuring a black suede headliner, even finer upgraded finishes throughout the interior, quilted Nappa leather seats, a beautifully crisp Heads-up Display system and exclusively sheik 20-inch wheels. 

Hyundai has figured out that the premium lifestyle doesn’t always represent the largest wheels, and those seeking a confident, supreme ride quality will opt for the $42,250 Calligraphy model with standard all-wheel drive and 19-inch wheels. The 19-inch wheels generate a creamy smooth ride that also isolates any road noise from the cabin. The Santa Fe drives like a premium crossover with a satisfyingly feel to the steering motions and self-assured chassis control.

Sitting as if this Santa Fe costs more than its retail price, the interior is exquisitely comfortable with ample space for front and rear passengers. Seeing that it also sits in the mid-size range of the crossovers, it also carries significant cargo space with folding rear seats. The Calligraphy model also implements power folding rear seats for that added ease.

Being that the Santa Fe in its current generation is only a couple years old, this refresh makes it feel like a completely different vehicle and dramatically separates itself from the Santa Fe it once was. Shining a new light into Hyundai’s premium world of possibilities, the Santa Fe is full of surprises and delight.


Vehicle: 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy
Base Price: $27,000
As-Tested Price: $43,430


Engine: 2.5-liter Turbocharged Four-Cylinder
HP | Torque: 281-HP | 311 lb-ft of Torque
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic
Drivetrain: All-Wheel Drive
MPG: 21 | 28 | 24 (City | Highway | Combined)
As-Tested MPG: 21.9-MPG Combined | 28.9-Highway (400-mile road trip)
Fuel Range: 350 miles
0-60 MPH: ±6.0 seconds


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