Hyundai News: 2021 Hyunda Santa Fe Hybrid Limited AWD - Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Handsome and user-friendly but a bit wimpy on the up-tick
Story And Photos By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
The problem is not that the Limited is slow. After all, it does the 0-60 mph sprint in 7.5 seconds, and hurtles through the quarter mile in 15.7 seconds at 90mph. But those impressive numbers become irrelevant when you demand instant engine response and don't get it. We experienced this same lag in both the Eco and Sport Driving Modes. Even diligent manual use of the paddle-equipped 6-speed automatic transmission failed to eliminate the infuriating throttle tip-in hesitation.
Aside from that rather significant shortcoming, the Limited proved itself a well executed design. The exterior is handsome if somewhat subdued. The interior treatment looks and feels substantially more expensive than what you would expect in a vehicle with a base price of $39,950. Dashboard ergonomics here are outstanding. Although we have yet to be sold on push button gearbox actuation, Hyundai has improved the selector panel by placing it on a tilted surface that hastens selection compared to the hard-to-decipher horizontal panels used by other manufacturers. Further accolades are due Hyundai designers for providing a complete array of HVAC and infotainment buttons splayed across the face of the dash to control all important operational functions.
The 12.5 inch digital gauge cluster directly in view of the driver is uncluttered and far superior to other examples we have recently experienced. We particularly enjoyed making lane changes in this SUV because rear facing cameras provide clear pictures of adjacent lanes whenever you engage your turn signal. The image disappears as soon as the turn signal clicks off. This is a brilliant new safety tool, though I did find it hard not to look over my shoulder for traffic and concentrate instead on the clear digital image shown on the dashboard.
The beautifully detailed leather trimmed beige front seats provide excellent lumbar support. Heating and cooling are part of their charm, as is the fact that you don't have to go searching through menus to activate these functions. The Limited also provides a heated steering wheel, which warms along its entire circumference, not just at the hand grasp areas. The driver's seat provides a pair of memory retention slots, and the passenger's seat adjustments are fully automated as well. Hyundai has also powered the rear seat release functions as well as provided a motorized hatchback door lift. The rear seats, which are divided into a 60/40 pattern, fold flat in an instant to provide enough storage room to insert a full size mountain bike without need for bike wheel removal. The interior treatment of the Limited is without question its strongest selling point. Hyundai designers have somehow managed to turn the interior of this $40,000 SUV into one that looks like it costs $60,000. In the past month I have tested 3 similarly priced hybrid powered SUVs that don't come close to the fit, finish, or comfort level of the Santa Fe Limited.
Dynamically, the Limited - once underway - is a pleasure to operate. When you dial up the Sport Mode setting, the steering instantly feels snappy and responsive. With HTRAC all-wheel-drive simultaneously apportioning torque to the Continental Cross Contact LX Sport radials (M+S rated, 235/55R19), this sizable and heavy (4,244lb) SUV quickly gains a grip on every road surface you can throw in its path. Although the Sport Mode setting does lead to sometimes harsh damper feedback, the security of the ride is well worth the trade-off in comfort. On freeways, resetting the dial to the Eco Mode setting softens the compliance noise. Now if only Hyundai could figure out a way to eliminate hole shot lag, the Santa Fe Hybrid Limited would be in a class of its own.
2021 HYUNDAI SANTA FE HYBRID LIMITED AWD
Engine: 1.6 liter inline 4, turbocharged and intercooled, 16 valve DOHC + AC Motor
HORSEPOWER: 226hp (Combined)
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 33MPG City/30MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $41,290
HYPES: Comprehensible Dashboard, Interior Attention to Detail
GRIPES: Falls Flat at Throttle Tip
STAR RATING: 8 Stars