Given how much critics, reviewers, and drivers loved the 2020 Santa Fe, it would’ve been perfectly reasonable for Hyundai to sit back and decide that it had done good enough with the midsize crossover SUV and not change a thing in 2021.
But that’s not what happened. Instead of producing the exact same vehicle in 2021, the automaker decided it could take “good enough” and turn it into “amazing.” Hyundai made several upgrades to the 2021 Santa Fe.
The beloved 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe
It’s likely that if you were to interview three Santa Fe drivers, each would give you a different reason why they chose to purchase the 2020 Santa Fe over other midsize crossovers. One might say the vehicle’s stylish exterior won them over. Another would list an assortment of practical features that make the vehicle the smart and economical choice. Another might rattle off the list of features they can no longer live without. It all boils down to this: Hyundai designed an SUV that appeals to a wide range of customers. The 2020 Santa Fe’s reasonable price and reliability are bonuses.
According to Consumer Reports, the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe’s best qualities included user-friendly controls, good handling in all conditions, rear-seat space and accessibility, and standard safety features. The biggest cons were its stiff ride, especially over rough roads, and somewhat uneven power delivery.
The all-new 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Because the 2020 Santa Fe was such a hit, Hyundai could’ve easily released a mostly unchanged 2021 model. But that’s not what the automaker did. It introduced several compelling upgrades.
If you saw a 2020 and 2021 Santa Fe parked side-by-side, you’d notice the newer version is just a bit larger. Additional exterior changes include a new front grille and stylized LED lights.
Kelley Blue Book describes the interior as bearing a strong resemblance to a spaceship rather than an automobile. One of the biggest changes is a space-saving button replacing the traditional gear shifter. Drivers also appreciate that Hyundai installed a larger infotainment system in the 2021 Santa Fe.
But the most significant improvements are the ones you can’t easily see. In his AutoWeek review, Mark Vaughn wrote that Hyundai’s upgrades to the Santa Fe represent likely one of the most extensive face-lifts he’s ever encountered in a car that doesn’t represent a brand-new generation of the vehicle. He reported that each of the 2021 Santa Fe trim options boasts an upgraded engine.
You probably wouldn’t notice the stronger frame, improved brake booster, and enhanced drag coefficient either.
How much for all of these upgrades?
Well, upgrades aren’t cheap. All of the 2021 Santa Fe’s improvements come with a higher sticker price. According to Hyundai, the minimum you should plan on spending is around $27,000 for the base model. The most expensive trim is the Calligraphy, which starts around $42,000. There are three other trims of varying prices in between.
For comparison, you can probably find a new 2020 Santa Fe starting around $25,500. That includes a $500 incentive if you take last year’s model off the dealer’s hands by March.