Electric revolution

The automotive industry’s electric revolution is now in full swing as battery prices continue to drop and electrification becomes more accessible.

Hyundai’s approach to this shift is an interesting one: the automaker is releasing new offerings left and right, including everything from standalone battery electric vehicles to electrified iterations of mainstream models.
Dig into the latter, and things get even more curious. Sometimes, hybrids become exclusive to top trim levels. Here on the 2021 Santa Fe mid-size two-row SUV, though, a hybrid powertrain is available
on a lower grade and standard on a higher grade, while the top grade can only be had with a turbocharged gasoline engine.

It’s a lot to wrap one’s head around. So, the better play is to simply go into the shopping process with a laser-focused vision of what you want.

To that end, the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Luxury – the previously mentioned upper-tier trim that’s offered exclusively as a hybrid –is certainly want-worthy. Priced at $46,155 including a $1,925 destination charge, this grade’s balance of powertrain drivability and feature content makes it one of the top value propositions in its segment. It’s one of the more attractive mid-size SUVs on the road inside and out, and it’s also arguably the best-looking product in Hyundai’s current line-up.

Hybrid models receive a powertrain based on a 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder internal combustion engine that produces 178hp and 195lbs-ft of torque on its own. Paired with a 44.2kW electric motor mounted on the front axle, the total system output becomes 226hp and 258lbs-ft of torque, 195 of which
is available from a complete stop thanks to the electric motor’s instant response. Mechanical all-wheel drive is standard on the Santa Fe, regardless of powertrain.

This produces a very satisfying power dynamic, the movement through which is aided by Hyundai’s decision to pair this with a six-speed automatic transmission, as opposed to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) as is typically employed on hybrid powertrains. The latter may have improved fuel consumption, but the Natural Resources Canada rating of 7.4L per 100km in combined driving is already above average for this vehicle class. Our observed fuel rating of 7.1L/100km included roughly 300km of highway driving with four passengers and a full load of cargo, meaning that the Santa Fe performed better than expectations with no special effort from the driver.

Speaking of cargo, the Santa Fe impresses in this department with 1,032L of cargo space behind the second row, hybrid or otherwise. This is one area where the Santa Fe holds a significant advantage over
its closest competitor, the Toyota Venza, which returned for 2021 as a hybrid-only model. While the Venza has significantly better fuel consumption estimates (6.1L/100km combined), it offers only 816L of rearward cargo space. For our weeklong summer getaway with two adults and two children, that extra 200L made the difference between stretching out versus tucking backpacks and life jackets into footwells.

Equipment offering
As is typical for Hyundai, packaging on the Santa Fe is priced all-in: the only option is a $200 colour charge for applying any shade other than white. The equipment offering on the Luxury Hybrid grade is very strong including heated and ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, wireless smartphone charging, a very attractive 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 19-inch wheels, and a power-operated panoramic sunroof. By choosing this top hybrid model instead of the top Ultimate Calligraphy grade and its gas-only engine, you leave upgrades on the table such as 20-inch wheels, a head-up display and overhead camera, upgraded Nappa leather seats, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, Hyundai’s Blind View Monitor system (which projects a camera view of each side’s blind spot onto the instrument cluster when the turn signal is activated), and Highway Drive Assist, a semi-autonomous but not hands-free technology. For a $3,700 difference in cost, we recommend choosing the hybrid, not only for its better fuel efficiency but also because the Luxury grade uses Hyundai’s legacy eight-inch infotainment system instead of the newer 10.25-inch widescreen, which comes with some quirks that are less easy to live with.
Between the quality of the drive, the interior space, the fuel efficiency, and the well-packaged list of features, the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Luxury Hybrid makes an extremely compelling case for itself as an SUV for daily driving.