Hybrid Adds New Dimension to Santa Fe

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CHATHAM, Mass. – We were blown away by the redesigned 2021 Santa Fe when we reviewed the top-of-the-range Calligraphy version in June 2021 and our recent week in the Hybrid variant reinforced our conclusion this mid-size sport utility vehicle (SUV) represents great value within one of the most competitive market segments.

The 2021 (the 2022 model is a carryover with virtually no changes from the 21) Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid Limited comes with virtually everything anyone could desire in terms of amenities, technology and features plus the increased fuel efficiency of a hybrid-electric powertrain.

We were pleased with the Calligraphy’s 24.5 miles per gallon during our review period, but the Hybrid brought a 36-percent jump to 33.4 mpg, significant as gasoline prices go on an upward surge. (For reference, the federal Environmental Protection Agency rates the Santa Fe Hybrid at 33 mpg in city driving, 30 highway and 32 overall.)

Powertrain pieces that work

Beyond producing strong every-day fuel efficiency, the combination of the powertrain components provides all-weather reassurance and real-world performance.

The motive power begins with the Smartstream 1.6-liter, direct-injected, turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 178 horsepower. Overall output jumps to 225 hp when factoring in the 44kW (59 hp) electric drive motor. Peak torque maxes out at 195 pounds-feet.

The system (which also includes a starter-generator rated at 13kW) utilizes a lithium-ion polymer battery rated at 1.5 kWh and 270V/5.5 Ah, with a maximum battery output of 64kW, efficiently storing the hybrid’s electric energy efficiently in a compact and lightweight package.

This power flows through a HEV-tuned six-speed automatic transmission optimized for efficiency, economy and driving performance in this application.

Standard for all Hybrid Santa Fe models is Hyundai’s HTRAC® all-wheel drive (AWD) with four drive modes: comfort, sport, smart and snow. In addition, the system has the ability to lock the AWD system, thus sending equal amounts of torque to each wheel (available below 19 miles per hour for extreme traction needs). Drive modes can be switched on the fly.

Lots of components within the powertrain, all controlled by computers. And they work; providing smooth, effortless driving regardless of road and environmental conditions – including snow and ice which we experienced during our time with the Santa Fe Hybrid.

Safety and driver assistance features galore

Hyundai’s SmartSense advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) brings a comprehensive suite of modern driving aids to the Santa Fe Hybrid Limited which includes:

•           Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian, Cyclist and Junction-Turning Detection
•           Blind-spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist
•           Lane Keeping Assist and Lane Following Assist
•           Highway Driving Assist
•           Blind Spot View Monitor
•           Safe Exit Assist and Ultrasonic Rear Occupant Alert
•           Driver Attention Warning
•           Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go
•           Parking Distance Warning (Forward and Reverse)
•           Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist (Reverse)

Two of the systems might not be typical ADAS, but their inclusion as part of SmartSense is appreciated by anyone who drives a Santa Fe on a regular basis.

Safe Exit Assist uses radar to help detect cars approaching from the rear. If a passenger attempts to open the door when a car is approaching from behind, a visual and acoustic warning on the center cluster may alert the driver and the door may be locked.

Ultrasonic Rear Occupant Alert monitors the rear seats to detect the movements of passengers (especially children) and pets, reminding drivers to check the rear seats when exiting the vehicle. If the system detects movement in the rear seats after the driver leaves the vehicle, it will sound the horn and send an alert to the driver’s smartphone via Hyundai’s Blue Link connected service.

Inside amenities, features of a luxury vehicle

The Santa Fe Hybrid Limited, though not marketed as a premium or luxury product by the Korean company (the company’s Genesis marque covers those categories), provides all the comforts, amenities and features associated with upscale products.

The front leather-clad seats feature electric adjustment (driver’s with memory for seats and the power folding outside mirrors), heating and ventilation. The steering wheel, also leather wrapped, is heated, adjustable for height and reach, and contains a myriad of controls for the infotainment system, smart cruise control and voice activation (which, in turn, can control infotainment, standard navigation and other vehicle systems).

The dual automatic climate-control system has both on-screen touch and tactile dash buttons for operation, like the infotainment system. Speaking of which, the 10.25-inch color touch screen provides this system’s heart and can be split 2/3-1/3 to provide information on two systems simultaneously. For instance, you can have the navigation map in the larger area while the smaller one shows outside weather – including, thanks to the standard SiriusXM information, forecast information.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also part of the infotainment system along with AM/FM radio and streaming Bluetooth audio, all amplified through the Harman Kardon® Premium Audio System.

The large screen also provides the monitor for the surround-view/rear-view camera system.

Other amenities which make living with the Santa Fe Hybrid Limited even less stressful are the power rear liftgate, wireless mobile-device charging as well as USB outlets front and rear for the same purpose, and a 115-Volt outlet to power more conventional electric devices.

Also, standard is Hyundai’s unique Remote Smart Park Assist which can pull the Santa Fe into or out of a parking space too tight to allow you to open the door and get into the SUV. And this works!

Hyundai value is the bottom line

On the road, the 2021 Santa Fe Hybrid Limited does its job with aplomb. It comfortably manages to transport up to five persons for short trips and four for longer hauls and has a reasonable cargo area to accommodate their stuff.

This extremely well-equipped vehicle carried a sticker price of $41,290 which included $1,185 inland freight & handling charge and one option – carpeted floor mats for $155. In addition, buyers of the Santa Fe Hybrid (base versions starting at $33,900) may be eligible for an additional $6,587 tax credit, making it an even better deal!

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The 2021 Santa Fe Hybrid Limited offers the mid-size, two-row SUV buyer a lot of vehicle for not a lot of money. Coupled with terrific fuel economy and solid build quality the bottom line for it is high value and worthy choice.

Next week TBR Drives the 2022 GMC Sierra Denali full-size pickup truck.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.