Hyundai’s Santa Fe Calligraphy –
The Writing’s On The Wall
If you had walked into a Hyundai showroom 35 years ago, you would have probably walked out…’cause you certainly weren’t driving out. Hyundai’s Excel, the subcompact foundation for Hyundai’s new U.S. strategy, was underwhelming in everything but its purchase point; a new car – with a warranty and new car financing – selling for $5K was a window sticker even a student could get his or her head around. It would’ve helped, however, if that student was taking auto mechanics, as the Excel was notoriously unprepared for the rigors of these United States. Walk into a Hyundai showroom today, however, and you’ll be seduced by the designs, and sold on their integrity.
Few models speak better to the Hyundai rebound than the company’s Santa Fe. At one point a 3-row crossover, that position has been assumed by Hyundai’s more substantial Palisade; the Santa Fe offers two rows. A visual freshening for 2021 provides the Santa Fe with a more bling-intensive front fascia, more power, two hybrid drivetrains and an upscale Calligraphy edition. ‘Calligraphy’, of course, is the art of beautiful handwriting; when applied to the midsize Santa Fe, it represents a high-end attention to detail fully appropriate to a near-luxury crossover.
Taking a page from the larger Palisade, the revised Santa Fe embraces the big and bold in its new front end. Fractionally wider, this new look provides a visual separation from Hyundai’s sister brand, Kia, as well as Toyota, Honda and Nissan. The balance of the exterior also gets attention, with mods made to the rear fascia and tail lamps, along with power-folding side mirrors, and new alloy wheel designs.
Inside, Hyundai products continue to represent fresh thinking in the melding of automotive design and high (and higher!) levels of tech. Touchpoints are either softened, more premium – or both. In front of you is a new center stack and console design, along with a new lower instrument panel design, while behind you is ½ cubic foot of additional cargo space. Tech, of course, gets its share of attention with a larger 8-inch audio display on lower trims, and an impressive – and well-integrated – 10.25-inch display on higher trims. You can also make the cabin temp more comfortable remotely, and voice recognition is more ‘dynamic’ than before. (Here’s hoping your tonality is more dynamic.) And no carmaker continues to combine high tech with intuitive operation better than the folks at Hyundai.
Thankfully, what’s under the hood hasn’t been ignored. The base powertrain now offers 2.5 liters of normally-aspirated four, connected to an 8-speed auto. Premium trims (and their drivers) will enjoy a 2.5 liter turbocharged four, offering an 18% bump in power relative to its 2.0 liter predecessor. And if thinking you’ll tow with a Santa Fe (perhaps to Santa Fe?), know that the trailer wire connection is now a 7-pin, and a new trailer sway control is there for that towing.
Behind the wheel, this new Santa Fe moves with an alacrity that few midsize crossovers will deliver. In testing done by Car and Driver, 0-60 arrives in but six seconds, just a fraction slower than Honda’s Passport, and much quicker than the Ford Edge with its 2.0 liter EcoBoost. And beyond the number is, of course, the feel – and I liked the immediacy of its drivetrain a lot. Obviously, with performance you’ll pay a price at the pump, but the Santa Fe’s 24 miles per gallon (combined EPA estimate) doesn’t seem too onerous.
For families on a budget, you needn’t spend over $40K to enjoy most of what a Santa Fe offers. Opt for the SEL trim with all-wheel drive and its premium appointments, and you’re in for $35K. And if you don’t need the premium, you can get to Santa Fe for under $30K. Regardless, Hyundai’s midsize crossover provides real bang for the buck. And the more bucks you have, the more bang (277 horsepower from the turbo 2.5) you’ll enjoy.