Hey guys, it’s me again, back with another crossover review! This time it’s the latest Hyundai Santa Fe and it’s tippy top trim level, the Calligraphy. If you can imagine, 2021 marks the Santa Fe’s twentieth birthday! Twenty years of the midsize (formerly compact) crossover has come to our shores across four generations, the latest kicking off in 2019. Since we’ve clearly moved past rare earth elements as trim levels, the next logical stop was clearly fancy words like “Calligraphy“. So, let’s see if this top spec that Hyundai just loaned me for a week lives up to it’s reputation for exemplary penmanship.
Santa Fe Overview
The Santa Fe helped establish Hyundai’s infatuation with the American southwest, along with the Tucson, Santa Cruz, and Kona (hey Hawaii is out that direction). It started life as a compact crossover and grew up big and strong, now it’s been moved to the midsize category. Which may beg the question, just how much did the Santa Fe grow up over time? Great question!
Overall width is up about two inches over the 2001 Santa Fe (74.8 in. vs 72.6 in.). Height is up a bit as well (67.4 in. vs 65.9 in.) but it’s length that saw the largest increase (188.4 in. vs 177.2 in.). That means that cargo space (car go road, not space!) has been increased as well, the new Santa Fe has 36.4 cu. ft. vs. the old ‘Fe’s 30.5 cu. ft. of room.
The 2021 Santa Fe comes in SE, SEL, Limited, and Calligraphy trim levels. Wait, is it me, or do those first few trims sound like they came right out of a 2009 Ford Taurus brochure? Ah, right…spot on!
Sorry, momentary lapse there. So, what does the Calligraphy trim get you? Well, lots of stuff, here are the highlights:
- HTRAC All Wheel Drive
- Quilted premium Nappa leather seating surfaces
- Heads-up Display (HUD)
- Hyundai Digital Key
- 10.25-inch touchscreen navigation
- 12.3-inch fully digital gauge cluster
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- 20-inch alloy wheels
- Hands-free smart liftgate with auto open
- Panoramic sunroof
- Harman Kardon® premium audio
- Rear sunshades
- Power release 2nd-row seats
- Premium finish grille
- Premium door trim
- Heated rear seats
- Seat accent trim
- Blind-Spot View Monitor (BVM)
- Power driver seat cushion extension
- Heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Surround View Monitor (SVM)
- Ambient lighting
- Auto-up/down rear windows
All in, you’re at just over $43,400 for this Santa Fe Calligraphy! That’s a lot of car for the cash.
I’ll start here because I think it’s the most interesting aspect of the Calligraphy. The interior is absolutely fantastic. Yeah, there are a lot of patterns happening at once, but unlike some automakers, Hyundai managed to meld them all together very well. The tones, the materials, it all just works. Plus get a load of all these actual buttons!
So. Many. Buttons. I love it. After spending time in some of the latest EVs that are going all-screen, no-button, this was a breath of fresh air. I know I’ll sound like I’m turning 45 in a few weeks (I am), but I’m all in for the continued existence of actual buttons. They can still exist in the screen, but it’ll be awhile before we are getting to the function we need faster via the screen with multiple tabs and sections.
It’s the little things that will impress you with the Calligraphy. I love that the windshield wiper setting is shown automatically on the screen, I’m not sure I’ve seen another manufacturer do that with such ease. Its a simple item that gives you some semblance of calm during your drive. That’s rare these days.
There are some other great additions as well, the car will remind you that you have left a cell phone in the wireless charger. And honestly the wireless charger was the source just about my only interior complaint. Like a lot of other Qi-based wireless chargers, my iPhone got hot on the charger. Could be my phone, who knows, regardless it’s minor. The only other issue was the “passenger talk” feature didn’t really work. It is intended to be able to magnify your voice to rear passengers. My daughter was like “sorry dude, don’t hear anything”. I mean, it’s a two-row vehicle, probably not needed.
Out back, the aforementioned cargo area even has smart cubbies for smaller items. Again, small stuff that’s really well integrated.
You can’t look at the front of the Santa Fe and not think “well, that’s different”. The end result of that thought will likely be subjective, you’ll like it or you won’t. The narrow light over the larger light isn’t all that new, but it’s still a little edgy. Especially for such a mainstream vehicle.
The rest is pretty mainstream. If you look at the profile and the rear, it’s pretty similar to most of the other current crossovers from an aesthetics perspective. Not offensive, but not groundbreaking.
Not much else to say about that.
The top trim Santa Fe is powered by the largest engine in the range. It’s as 2.5L inline four-cylinder turbo putting out a very reasonable 281 horsepower and 311 ft. lbs. of torque. The 4076 pound curb weight means that you’re not going to be breaking any land speed records, but it’s more than adequate for daily driving.
Again, Hyundai built in little items that just make you happy. I absolutely love the blind spot cameras. They take over for the all-digital tachometer and speedometer (left and right respectively) and show you what’s next to you. It’s pretty pervasive across the Hyundai lineup in the higher spec cars, and personally I think it should/will be standard on all cars one day as the tech gets cheaper.
It even alerts you know that the car ahead is pulling away from you at a stoplight, so you aren’t a jerk. Not that that’s a problem for me typically, but the one time it popped up I was like “yep, I deserved that”.
It’s just good. If you changed it to a premium badge, you could charge $15,000 more. Only because it’s a Hyundai is this sold at the $40,000 mark. The Audi Q5 starts at more than the maxed out Calligraphy model sells for. Whoever buys one of these will be massively happy with it.