There was nothing wrong with the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe. Sure, it was eclipsed in the media by the award-winning and larger three-row Hyundai Palisade, but the Santa Fe still outsold the Palisade by a healthy margin. After three years, the South Korean brand has brought big changes to its cash cow via a mid-cycle refresh. Let's take a closer look at what they've done both inside and out... but mostly out. 

2021 hyundai santa fe front white
The grille change is significant, but we can't say it's better than the previous model's.

The first thing you notice (and the most prominent change) is the bigger grille. Surprisingly, it actually eschews the cascade grille that shows up across the Hyundai lineup, most recently on the all-new Elantra sedan. It's less distinctive in its shape, but the overall size and mesh add presence. The front fascia also incorporates T-shaped light signatures that extend from the top driving lights to the lower headlights. Dare we say it kinda looks like the Tesla logo. 

2020 hyundai santa fe blue
The 2020 Santa Fe was attractive but perhaps not distinct enough in a competitive segment.

The metallic wing bar that topped off the grille and undercut the driving lights in the 2020 model is now at the base of the grille and the headlights. There's also a prominent metallic bar with wings on the lower fascia that draws the eye to the bigger grille. While there's definitely a lot more going on here, it gives the new Santa Fe more presence, and buyers care about that.

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The rear fascia hasn't changed as much as the front fascia, but it is more refined.

Looking at the new Santa Fe from the side, things are pretty much the same with only some minor changes such as wider wheel arches and bigger 20" wheels. The Santa Fe is well-proportioned from front to back and has body creases and chrome in the right spots to make it look both SUV-like and refined. The rear gets modest changes such as a thin light bar that connects the taillights, as well as new reflectors and metallic trim. The goal was to make the new Santa Fe more distinct, and we think they pulled it off.

2021 santa fe

The Santa Fe's interior was one of its many high points. The 2021 model keeps the same layout but upgrades the materials even more with better soft-touch points. The biggest change is the center console that now rises to meet the HVAC vents. It's very similar to the Palisade's. Moreover, the conventional shift knob has been replaced by a pushbutton gear selector, which makes room for more storage.

Higher trims look like they will get a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and there's a new 10.25-inch touchscreen for higher trims, upsized from 8 inches. We're guessing the lower trims will upgrade from the 7-inch version to 8 inches. The infotainment control buttons have moved from the frame to the center console, so they should be easier to reach for the driver.

2021 santa fe interior
The revised interior incorporates technology and style from the Palisade.

The 2021 Santa Fe will be offered in the typical standard front-wheel drive mated to an automatic transmission with all-wheel drive as optional. Not that the Santa Fe has ever been considered an off-road vehicle, but the 2021 model gets a new Terrain Mode for AWD models. This will allow the driver to select sand, snow and mud, eco, sport, comfort, and smart driving modes via a center-mounted dial. Comfort and smart modes assess driving style and automatically adapt to choose the correct setup

santa fe hybrid engine
The new hybrid powertrain should offer better efficiency for the new Santa Fe Hybrid trim.

One of the biggest changes is the new Hybrid trim. Although Hyundai hasn't provided much detail, the Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid Santa Fe models have been confirmed for the European market. We think hybrid technology makes far more sense on bigger vehicles than they do in compacts and already efficient gas models. It's a good move for the brand, and the success of the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is evidence of that. 

The 2021 Santa Fe will show up later this year, and the brand will release more powertrain information and specifications in the next few weeks. All this should help bolster the Santa Fe's position in the brand lineup, as well as in the market.

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Is the Santa Fe right for you and your family? Read our full review below.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T FWD Review

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