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The Best of 2021 Hyundai

What Does the Hyundai Lineup for 2021 Look Like so Far?

Hyundai Sonata

Hyundai is once again on the rise after experiencing a sharp decline in sales after a record-breaking 2016. After delivering 768,057 vehicles in 2016, Hyundai’s U.S. sales plummeted to 664,943 in 2017, remained at a similar level throughout 2018, and finally saw a substantial growth in 2019 when 688,771 new Hyundai vehicles got delivered across the U.S. With an influx of all-new models for 2020 like the family SUV Palisade or the subcompact crossover Venue, and fully redesigned models for 2021 like the new Tucson, the South Korean brand is expected to continue on a path of restoration. As far as their total U.S. sales go, that is. The 2021 Hyundai lineup should make sure of that.

Hyundai hasn’t exactly had the best 2019 in terms of global sales, however. Due to lower demand in company’s most important single market (China), Hyundai’s and Kia’s total combined numbers for 2019 have dropped by some 3 percent. Overall, two of the largest South Korean automakers have sold short of 7.2 million vehicles worldwide instead of projected 7.6 million units.

Hyundai may be optimistic going forward, expecting the figure to rebound in its entirety during 2020 and reach a new high in 2021. but reality so often finds a way to disagree with initial projections and that might happen to be the case once again when all is said and done.

The all-new Palisade (together with its Kia Telluride stablemate) has been well-received across the globe but three-row family SUVs can hardly be expected to spearhead one brand’s sales revolution. What’s more, crazy dealership markups which range up to $10,000 over the MSRP for the Palisade and between $5,000 and $7,000 for the Telluride are seriously hampering their sales in the U.S. at the moment. Although exhibiting some advantages over their rivals, the Palisade and Telluride are still just family three-row SUVs, and once the supply and demand discrepancy gets sorted out, their prices will drop significantly.

While we await the complete Hyundai sales figures for MY 2019 it’s worth noting that on the global scale, the Koreans have recorded an operating profit growth of 26 percent during the first half of 2019 in spite of the fact their total sales dropped by 4.9 percent from 2.24 million to 2.13 million vehicles during the same period. Furthermore, their sales revenue has been increased by 8.1 percent.

Let’s now take a look at the forthcoming Hyundai lineup for 2021 and what surprises the Koreans might spring by then.

2021 Tucson

With 137,381 units sold during 2019, Tucson is now officially the best-selling Hyundai vehicle on the U.S. market, beating the larger Santa Fe in second place by almost exactly 10,000 units. Still, the compact crossover hasn’t succeeded replicating the record-breaking 2018 figure of 142,299 units. This is expected to change during MY 2021 and beyond when the all-new fourth-generation models are set to arrive.

The new Hyundai Tucson is still under wraps but the Koreans have recently revealed the Hyundai Vision T concept at the 2019 Los Angeles auto show. The Vision T (T likely stands for Tucson) directly previews the forthcoming fourth-generation Tucson, and although it’s not a production-friendly model per se, it does sport some visual elements that are expected to make the final cut. Namely the new headlight and grille pattern which are integrated similar to how they were on the Le Fil Rouge concept which spawned the new Sonata.

Hyundai Vision T Concept previews the upcoming Tucson crossover

Other than some curious and unconventional new details, the 2021 Hyundai Tucson is expected to follow a similar pattern as its predecessor. Proportions remain mostly intact and so does the overall shape of the car. However, the new Tucson will definitely spice things up according to Hyundai’s product planning manager Andrew Tuatahi who had the following to say in his interview with the Australian label whichcar:

“It can’t come soon enough. It’s very interesting visually, it’s going to appeal to a very broad audience, I think. Probably the biggest shift for the car is going to be style and design.”

He also pointed out that the new Tucson’s interior will feature similar materials to those furbishing the larger Santa Fe, but overall shape of the cabin will still be unique. Expect different instrument cluster and infotatainment screens, alongside a revamped list of both the standard and available gear.

There’s still no official info on the next-gen Tucson’s powertrains but at least one of two currently available third-generation options is expected to be carried over. At the moment, the Tucson comes with either a 161-horsepower 2.0L 4-cylinder or a slightly more powerful 181-horsepower 2.4L inline-four engine. There are even talks about the performance-oriented Tucson N with up to 340 ponies on tap but that version certainly won’t make it in time for 2021 even if it’s actually in company’s plans.

A more viable option is an electrified powertrain as the Vision T concept itself is powered by a plug-in hybrid mill of undisclosed specs. We’ll know more after one of the major auto shows in 2020. Expect the Hyundai Tucson to finally arrive in late 2020 as a 2021 model with prices reflecting those of current models. This means that entry-level models should start from a little over $22,000 before destination fees, with the upmarket Ultimate models requiring just north of $30,000.

2021 Hyundai Tucson test mule

2021 Palisade

All-new for MY 2020, the largest of Hyundai SUVs has already found 28,736 new homes in the U.S. during 2019 in spite of being available only as of late June, and being a subject of high dealership markups as mentioned in the intro section. The large mid-size three-row family car carries over virtually unchanged into 2021 with some new exterior colors and slight adjustments to the available equipment worth the mention.

Being their largest vehicle, it doesn’t come as a surprise the Palisade boasts a commanding presence and is anything like Hyundai has made thus far. A more squared-off look blended with Hyundai’s contemporary design language doesn’t come as a surprise considering the aforementioned.

Unlike the Santa Fe XL it replaces, the Palisade actually comes with a usable third row and up to 86 cubic feet of cargo space behind the front seats with rear two rows folded. Folding only the third row will give you 46 cubes, while the cargo volume itself with all seats up is a modest 18 cubic feet. There’s also some room for trinkets in door and center console cubbies, as well as plenty of room for less attractive cargo underneath the loading floor in the trunk.

Palisade’s interior is nicely executed and on the money. Depending on whether you go for bench or captain’s chairs (exclusive to the Limited trim) in the second row, Hyundai’s largest SUV can fit either eight or seven passengers. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard regardless of chosen trim, and while the SE and SEL models make do with an 8-inch touchscreen display, the range-topping models benefit from a larger 10.3-inch display (optional on the SEL). The list of active safety features includes a forward collision warning, a lane-keeping assist, and an adaptive cruise control.

Power comes from a burly 3.8L V6 paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The engine is good enough for 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque which enables it to tow up to 5,000 pounds of trailer with the optional dealer-installed trailer hitch. Basic Palisades come in front-wheel drive configuration but an all-wheel drive system is available across the board. Rated at up to 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway (24 mpg with all-wheel drive), the Palisade isn’t the most fuel-conserving vehicle in its class.

The Hyundai Palisade officially starts from just under $33,000 with destination charges included, but as mentioned above, some dealers are feasting on buyers that have already decided that their new family car will be either a Hyundai or Kia. This is especially the case with the range-topping Limited models which itself start from $46,000 in front-wheel drive form. Crazy or not, but a top trim Hyundai Palisade with optional all-wheel drive and mentioned markup unsuspectingly creeps up to the $60,000 tag which is basically a luxury badge region.

Hyundai Palisade

2021 Venue

At the diametrically opposite end of the Hyundai lineup from the Palisade sits the all-new Venue subcompact. Unveiled at the 2019 New York motor show, the smallest Hyundai crossover has been available as of MY 2020 and carries over into 2021 with no significant changes. Hyundai hasn’t sold too many of them so far but it’s expected that Venue’s sale will pick off later in 2020 and 2021 once the model gets properly introduced to the U.S. audience.

Derived from the Hyundai Accent platform, the Venue sports a boxy frame subdued by gentle edges all over the place. It’s a combination of two seemingly incompatible worlds but we’ve already been proved wrong on multiple occasions thinking that boxy and curvy don’t mix well. Thanks to that, the inexpensive crossover stands out from the crowd of unassuming lifted hatchbacks but still fails to offer that “x factor” which would push it over the edge.

Being a budget car, the Hyundai Venue is pretty much straightforward inside. Simple, yet effective interior is well-appointed for its price, and materials are of high quality as well, considering. An 8-speed touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Audio smartphone integration is standard across the range which is a feat many more expensive nameplates can’t boast nowadays. Also standard from the get-go are a forward collision warning system with pedestrian detection and lane-keeping assist, while blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts are optional. This too is commendable at Venue’s price point.

Speaking of which, at under $17,000 (excluding the destination fees), the Hyundai Venue is actually the most affordable crossover money can buy. Considering what it offers for the said amount, the petite city car definitely ain’t too shabby. Even the top-spec Denim trim doesn’t cost more than $21,500, and with it you get leatherette upholstery, larger 17-inch wheels (base models get 15’s), already mentioned rear cross-traffic alerts, and navigation among other things.

Arguably the biggest disappointment of the all-new Hyundai Venue is its anemic 1.6L naturally aspirated inline-four engine with only 121 horses and 113 lb-ft of torque. What’s more, torque peaks at 4,500 rpm which renders the Venue an incompetent highway passer to say the least. A 6-speed manual is standard from the get-go and available at $1,500 in the base SE trim, while the SEL and Denim models can only be ordered with a CVT gearbox. All Venue’s are, naturally, front-wheel driven.

The Hyundai Venue might not be the most enthusiastic of choices in its class but it hits the sweet spot between practicality and value for money with latter being a particular highlight. Although it’s severely underpowered, at least it weighs between around 2,500 and 2,700 pounds which partially offsets this shortcoming. Being one of the most affordable vehicles out there certainly helps but don’t expect any miracles from it. Sometimes, what you see (or rather pay for in this instance) is what you get.

Hyundai Venue is the most affordable crossover money can buy in the U.S.

2021 Santa Cruz

It’s been a while since the largest South Korean automaker first flirted with the idea of offering a pickup truck. The 2015 Detroit auto show concept was subsequently all but forgotten as it seemed that Hyundai isn’t ready to move on with its implementation. However, the Hyundai pickup truck has been officially confirmed for 2021 arrival after company’s $410 million investment in its Montgomery, Alabama facilities. There, the Santa Cruz will be built alongside the Sonata and Elantra sedans.

The South Korean company’s first ever pickup truck on the U.S. market is expected to diverge from the Detroit show concept in more ways than one. For starters, the production version obviously sports a different design with emphasis on a more traditional approach. The spied model sports a double cab configuration with a small bed behind it and that’s pretty much everything we can expect from it. With that in mind, the compact pickup will more closely resemble the Honda Ridgeline than anything else we currently have on offer.

Hyundai Santa Cruz concept car
Hyundai Santa Cruz concept from 2015

Hyundai is expected to price the forthcoming compact pickup from $25,000 or thereabouts, thus significantly undercutting its future main rival the Honda Ridgeline. However, the Santa Cruz likely won’t be as well-equipped as its Japanese counterpart even though the Koreans are expected to throw in a host of safety and convenience gear. After all, if they can do it with a sub-$20,000 crossover, why wouldn’t they be able to do the same with a more expensive utility truck? Where the two won’t be able to compare is the truck bed audio system and similar gimmicks that the Santa Cruz will likely have to do without.

There’s still ways before the Santa Cruz arrives but we can already start guessing which engine(s) will power it. It’s expected for the Santa Fe crossover to serve as a platform donor, hence its 2.4L 4-cylinder with 185 horsepower looks like the safest bet at the moment. Likewise, the Santa Cruz might get a more powerful 2.0L turbo four with 235 ponies. Furthermore, don’t be surprised if both engines get revised in order to provide even more grunt by the time everything’s said and done. Being a front-wheel drive truck, the rare unibody pickup will also be available with optional all-wheel drive.

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Cruz should arrive in late 2020 or early 2021 as test mules of the car have already been caught multiple times. If Hyundai manages to build a quality product and undercut its rival(s), then there’s no reason for the unibody compact not to enjoy some success on the market. We’ll know more once official info comes out of Hyundai’s camp.

2021 Hyundai Santa Cruz test mule

2021 Kona

The Hyundai Kona is one of only handful of vehicles available in conventional internal combustion, hybrid, and EV forms although the conventional hybrid still hasn’t made it stateside. As such, it’s a favorite among journalists and buyers alike when it comes to practicality and versatility because you can pick between affordable, eco-friendly, and zero-emission packages. Needless to say, both have advantages and disadvantages of their own, but also both cars are among the best players in their respective classes.

Hyundai isn’t expected to do much when it come to revisions. The small crossover thus carries over mostly unchanged into 2021, but similar revisions to those conducted in 2020 can still be expected. The Hyundai Kona has received a unique interior orange piping which pairs with Sunset Orange or Ultra Black exterior colors. At the same time, the Koreans have shifted some premium features to lower tiers and that’s definitely a policy we’d like to see more going forward. Especially considering how the adaptive cruise control, for instance, is only available with the top-spec Ultimate models.

The conventional internal combustion engine-powered Kona’s can themselves be ordered in two forms. The base SE, SEL, and SEL Plus models rely on a 147-horsepower 2.0L naturally aspirated four paired with a somewhat outdated 6-speed automatic transmission. An optional 1.6L turbo four with 175 horsepower and a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission is standard across the top Limited and Ultimate trims. That’s not all as Koreans could be working on the performance-oriented Hyundai Kona N version of the crossover which could utilize the Veloster N’s turbocharged engine for potential 275 horsepower. Whether this is only a rumor or there’s some truth to it is better left unanswered right now.

The Hyundai Kona EV uses a 201-horsepower electric motor paired with a 64-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack which together provide up to 258 miles of all-electric range; second only to Chevy Bolt (by a single mile) and Tesla’s.

The base Kona’s start from under $20,000, but the range-topping EV models warrant much higher stickers which range in mid-$40,000’s. That itself says a lot about the subcompact crossover’s versatility as most expensive models cost more than twice the price tag of entry-level models and we’re not talking about heavily customized exotics either.

Hyundai Kona

2021 Sonata

It’s arguably one of the most beautiful new arrivals to the market in spite of the fact sedans are a dying breed in this heavily crossover-influenced day and age. What was one a car that used to sell more than 200,000 units per year in the U.S. alone, is now almost a fringe player within the Hyundai lineup with less than 90,000 units sold in 2019. The all-new eighth-generation Sonata arrived in time for MY 2020 with a mission to stop the bleeding and carries over unchanged into 2021. Whether it’ll succeed, remains to be seen but by the looks of it, it’s hard to imagine one wouldn’t at least be tempted of buying it for its design alone.

The new Sonata draws inspiration from the Le Fil Rouge concept car first presented in Geneva, in 2018. The mid-size sedan is meticulously designed and beauty simply emanates from all corners, or rather sublimely rounded off edges of the car. The extreme beauty, however, isn’t the only strong point of the Sonata sedan which boasts brains galore as well.

Simple but elegant interior design and quality of materials play an important role in the new Sonata. But it’s the heavy hardware of optional features that’s probably the biggest differentiator here. Adaptive cruise control with stop and go, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist, and many other driver’s aids are all either standard or available at extra cost. The new Hyundai Sonata also supports remote parking via a key fob. Meanwhile, almost everything is being controlled via either a standard 10.3-inch touchscreen display or an optional 12.3-inch unit.

Power comes from a 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder with 180 horsepower but Hyundai also offers a larger 2.5L naturally aspirated four with 198 horsepower. An 8-speed automatic takes over all the transmission duties as a sole offering. Sonata also comes as a hybrid which will, incidentally, arrive in time for MY 2021. The 2021 Hyundai Sonata hybrid doesn’t only feature a more fuel-conserving powertrain but a revolutionary solar roof as well. The latter should provide additional 800 or so free miles per year on average if utilized properly by providing a steady trickle to the battery.

The Hyundai Sonata isn’t as influential a car as it used to be almost a decade ago which is sad considering how the new models are probably the best ones to date, but it’ll still have a saying in company’s future lineups including the one in 2021. The conventional models start from around $23,500 but fully equipped units require $10,000 atop of that, while hybrids require even more.

Hyundai Sonata

Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much!