I was recently handed the keys to the new 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy. I decided to take Hyundai’s mid-size SUV on a beach road trip to Ocean City, Maryland. After all, what better way to learn everything about a car than being stuck in one for over four hours one way? Below is a detailed list of everything that wooed me and a few things that let me down about the new Santa Fe.
Love: Interior Loaded with Tech and Luxury
One of the best things about the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy was all of the tech and luxury you get for the price. My tester featured a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a 10.25-inch navigation screen that included Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, a Harman Kardon audio system sprinkled about the cabin, and smart cruise control as well as a multitude of camera views.s
Love: Impressive Powertrain Combo
The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy comes standard with a 2.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine which kicks out 281 hp and 311 lb.-ft. of torque. That engine is mated to an 8-speed wet dual-clutch transmission. Base models get a naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine, but I can tell you the power bump from the turbocharged variant was completely welcome. The transmission was one of the smoothest around, and you may never want to put the Sante Fe in manual mode. I thought the combo was one of the most underrated powertrain combos on the market.
Love: Sounds Like It Means Business
For a 4 cylinder SUV, the Santa Fe Calligraphy sounded pretty good — like a muffled Veloster N in a mid-size crossover body. Honestly, it sounded better than half of the performance trim level sedans/coupes out there, and it wasn’t even trying. Though the Sante Fe didn’t win top marks as the best-sounding SUV as there are plenty of more high-powered ones, I would say it was one of the best-sounding 4 cylinder SUVs on the road.
Love: Affordable Good Looks
Let’s face it, the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy is a smidge over $40,000, but it had the looks of a much more expensive mid-size SUV. For the price, the Sante Fe looked like something that cost near or above $100,000. You can finally have a good-looking crossover that doesn’t cost the equivalent of your mortgage.
Love: Calligraphy Trim Level Enhancements
The Calligraphy is Hyundai’s new cool-sounding, top-level trim. The Calligraphy trim enhances the already great standard luxury bits sprinkled throughout the Sante Fe. Specifically, the Calligraphy trim adds an eco-suede microfiber headliner, Nappa leather seats, a perforated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, expanded interior accent lighting, and a full-color heads-up display (HUD). On the exterior, it features a dark chrome accent front grille, and dark chrome satin door handles.
Hate: Not As Fuel-Efficient As You Would Like
The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy had many great things going for it, but one thing it could not brag about was its fuel efficiency. The Santa Fe Calligraphy can achieve 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, for a combined 24 mpg. One should note that my tester was all-wheel-drive. The front-wheel-drive Santa Fe’s saves 1 mpg on the EPA’s city estimate.
During my four-hour road trip, four days in the beach town of Ocean City, Maryland, then a four-hour drive back home, the Sante Fe managed 27 combined, so I can vouch for the numbers. The numbers aren’t bad per se, but when stacked against all the other options out there, the Santa Fe was behind the fuel efficiency curve.
Hate: Hard Plastics Downplay the Luxury Feel
The first thing I raved about was the interior of the Santa Fe Calligraphy. However, although tons of quality materials were sprinkled throughout the cabin, there were definitely some spots where Hyundai missed the luxury mark. Particularly, the Sante Fe has some hard plastic bits that look and feel cheap.
Hate: No Distinction Between Drive Modes
I am a big fan of drive modes, but I want the change in modes to translate to my fingertips or right foot. The drive mode dial in the Santa Fe takes up significant space on the center console. It features Comfort, Sport, Smart, and Snow modes. But to be honest, the everyday driver isn’t going to feel much difference between the four. One positive in the Sports mode was that the digital instrument cluster changed to a more sporty/red-themed gauge cluster layout. So you might not feel the change, but at least you see it with the Sport mode.
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy: Turn a Blind Eye to Any Flaws for this Bargain
At the end of the day, the positives that the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy has going for it outweigh any of its detractors. This Hyundai is simply one of the best luxury bargains for the money that you can buy right now.