For 2021, Hyundai has upped the ante in the fiercely competitive mid-size SUV market with the fully-outfitted, upscale top trim Calligraphy Santa Fe boasting standard features that are often offered as options by most competitors.
The automotive market offers more than 40 mid-size two-row SUVs with the popular Santa Fe among the least expensive when similarly equipped to the competitors. The Santa Fe was third in sales last year after Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4 – the top niche leaders.
The Calligraphy comes with numerous standard features including the ability to remotely moving the car forward or backward in tight parking spaces, as well as wireless charging, expanded voice commands, three-years of free maintenance, digital key functions, camera video of adjacent lanes when signaling, and a larger dashboard display. In addition, Santa Fe has received top crash safety scores.
We test drove the Calligraphy 2.5T All-Wheel-Drive.
Our test drive had a SmartSense 2.5-liter turbocharged engine.The redesigned sleek profile includes a wider front grille, extended hood, side character creases, T-shaped LED head/taillights, low chrome side striping and
new five-spoke alloy wheels complete with 19-inch tires, not that 20” are standard but were unavailable when Calligraphy launched.
An HTRAC AWD system uses driver-selectable Normal, Eco, Sport and Smart modes to improve traction and control. Using manual paddles, Sport provided peppy acceleration with increased rear wheel torque. Handling was excellent and the ride nicely cushioned with McPherson front strut and rear multilink suspension.
The Premium ($3,950) and Convenience ($1,800) packages are standard and SmartSense includes a full suite of advanced driver assist systems, like a color heads-up display (HUD) with rich content.
Heated/Cooled Nappa leather seats are comfortable with the spacious cabin outfitted with soft padding and premium materials. Our all-black interior, hot in summer, was easily pre-cooled remotely.
Audio is excellent, there are 4 USB ports, a new 10.25-inch touchscreen, excellent voice recognition with Blue Link® Connected offering numerous apps, tech interfaces and remote programming, we found it to be somewhat challenging at first to navigate.
Cabin storage space is excellent with a large tray under the center spine. Under the trunk floor, there are three deep storage trays along with a mobility tire kit.
At a Glance
LIKES: Price, mileage, luxurious vibe, spriteliness, visibility, ride, handling, spacious cabin/cargo areas, voice recognition, options now standard, value
DISLIKES: No spare tire, some road noise at highway speeds, HUD height limitation
BOTTOM LINE: Now a more capable competitor among 2-row SUVs
Fact File: 2021 Hyundai Santa FE Calligraphy AWD-19″ Wheels
74.8 inches (excludes mirrors)
2.5-liter, turbo, 4-cylinder, direct injection
281-hp @ 5,800 rpm
311-lbs.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm
8-speed automatic w/manual paddles
21 mpg city/28 hwy
0-60 in 6 seconds
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Tom Crosby has written more than 1,000 automotive reviews and is a retired Vice President of Communications for AAA Carolinas. He has seen dramatic changes in the automotive industry over the past 25 years and ponders the advent of self-driving vehicles, electric-only vehicles, sophisticated in-car telematics, and the financial challenges facing automotive manufacturers in an increasingly congested worldwide market.