Review update: 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid Limited delivers well-mannered efficiency

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe underwent some plastic surgery and came out with an updated exterior design, revised powertrains with a hybrid option, and a slightly tweaked cabin.

The result of this mid-cycle update is a TCC Rating of 6.8 out of 10, which bests its direct competition such as the Chevrolet Blazer, Honda Passport, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Murano, and its cousin, the Kia Sorento.

I spent a week hauling the kids to camp, the water park, a water ski show, and running errands to learn where the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid Limited hits and misses.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

Hit: Smoother operator

The hybrid Santa Fe pairs a 1.6-liter turbo-4 with an electric and 1.49-kwh lithium-ion battery pack for a total system output of 226 hp. It hooks smoothly to a traditional 6-speed automatic transmission. There’s no juddering from the 6-speed and the power transitions seamlessly from all-electric at low speeds to a gas/electric mix in hybrid mode without a lot of ruckus.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

Miss: Base tech doesn’t trickle up

My loaded Hybrid Limited model cost $41,640 and featured everything from a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and leather upholstery to a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system and 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Oddly, that larger 10.3-inch touchscreen didn’t have wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto while base models feature an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The smartphone must be plugged into a 2.4-amp USB-A port on the center console in a cubby. To make matters more confusing there’s a convenient slot on the center console for wireless smartphone charging.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

Hit: Sips fuel

The 2021 Santa Fe Hybrid Limited’s EPA fuel economy ratings check in at 33 mpg city, 30 highway, and 32 combined, which is significantly better than the base Santa Fe’s 25/28/26 mpg combined. Real world fuel economy for the Hybrid Limited model nearly matched the EPA ratings with an average of 30.2 mpg over the course of 225 miles of mixed suburban driving, according to the onboard trip computer. The only direct competitors on sale today that are more efficient are the base Santa Fe hybrid model (known as the Blue model) or its cousin, the seven-seat Kia Sorento Hybrid that doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

Miss: It looks busy

The refreshed five-seat Santa Fe isn’t ugly, but it isn’t about to win a beauty pageant. It cuts a standard crossover SUV profile, which is attractive enough, but the gaping grille flanked by T-shaped daytime running lights and heavily sculpted body sides scream, “Look at me!” It’s an eyeful and not in a complimentary way. The smaller 2022 Tucson and larger three-row Palisade pull off the dramatic look much better than the Santa Fe.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

Hit: Easy-to-use controls

In an era over reliant on complex touchscreens, the Santa Fe’s controls keep things delightfully simple. Hard buttons on the dashboard augment the touchscreen infotainment system for the audio, climate, and vehicle system controls. Each is grouped into pods logically so I knew exactly where to place my hand to switch audio inputs, change the fan speed, or switch drive modes.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

Miss: Gets expensive

The base Santa Fe costs $28,035, but the base Hybrid Blue model jumps nearly 25% to $34,835; my loaded tester was priced into near luxury territory at $41,640. At $38,785, the mid-trim SLE Premium Hybrid is a better value as it retains the larger 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system, heated leather-trimmed seats, and 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, but it lacks the surround-view camera system found only in the Limited model. The hybrids simply don’t pack the same value as the regular Santa Fe models unless fuel efficiency is the main goal.

The smaller 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid is far more efficient with an EPA-rated all-electric range of 42 mpg before the hybrid system kicks in, and it costs $39,220 before tax credits.

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid is a good family hauler with plenty of space, easy-to-use controls, and good fuel economy for its size and class, but it’s no value.

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2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid Limited
Base price: $28,035
Price as tested: $41,640
EPA fuel economy: 33/30/32 mpg
The hits: Efficient, smoother hybrid powertrain, easy-to-use controls
The misses: Missing wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, gets expensive, busy exterior design

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