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Hyundai’s 2021 Santa Fe SEL offers excellent looks, features and value

Written By | Oct 25, 2021
Hyundai, Santa Fe, SUV, Review

There are plenty of reasons why the Hyundai Santa Fe SEL has been a top-selling SUV. It offers great styling, a comfortable ride, and technology that outpaces its competition. The 3-row SUV market is huge and there’s a great deal of competition in this segment by many worthy competitors.

Even though it shares the same chassis as its cousin, the KIA Sorento, Hyundai has done a great job with the styling inside and out, which helps it cater to an entirely different buyer. While the Sorento looks a bit more rugged, the Santa Fe has more fancy styling.

Hyundai, Santa Fe, SUV, Review

Engine and looks:

Starting with the engine, there’s a new 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that’s good for 191 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to an 8-speed, dual-clutch transmission that sends power to an all-wheel-drive system. A bit on the underpowered side, the overall performance isn’t terrible but nowhere near that of the turbo-charged engine that has 277 horsepower. Fuel economy is rated at 25 around town and up to 28 miles per gallon on the highway.

Hyundai has really done an admirable job of giving this 2021 Santa Fe an upscale look over previous generations and over certain competitors. The front grille and headlamp integration is stellar as are the body lines as your eye moves from the front towards the tail of the vehicle. There is definitely some masculine, yet rounded design cues that give it a very stylish look, overall.


Inside the SEl model, you’ll find standard microfiber-covered seating surfaces, however, leather is an optional upgrade. The seats are a bit more on the firm side but still comfortable and only the driver’s seat is power-adjustable. Unfortunately, to get a power seat for the front passenger, you’ll need to pay for an upgrade.

Hyundai, Santa Fe, SUV, Review

Driver aids include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, a rear-view camera, cross-traffic alert, and parking alerts..

We really love the use of various kinds of surface materials inside, with splashes of carbon-fiber-looking panels and unfortunately, some hard plastic surfaces are here as well. However, the overall look is still rather upscale. You don’t feel cheap while driving or riding in it.

You’ll find an easy-to-read and use infotainment system with an 8-inch screen. It provides decently good audio quality and has support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Audio sources include AM/FM/SiriusXM Satellite and Bluetooth.

Hyundai, Santa Fe, SUV, Review

On the center console, you’ll find a control knob that allows the driver to shift through various drive modes: Comfort, Sport, Snow, and Smart. Additionally, on the all-wheel-drive model, there’s a button to lock the front and rear differentials’ power disbursement.

On the road:

Out on the road, you’ll find that the Santa Fe SEL feels solid and secure. There’s minimal body roll, braking is solid, and never presented us with any brake fade. The engine’s power delivery does a good job of getting you up to freeway speeds and the steering feels great as well.

Hyundai, Santa Fe, SUV, Review

There are some upgrade packages you can get on the SEL that bring more premium features and refinement. However, those can send the price closer to just over $37,000. At that price, you should simply look at the Limited model.

Overall, it’s obvious that Hyundai has a winner on its hands. Demand for Santa Fe is off the charts and coupled with the chip shortages that all manufacturers are dealing with, finding one may take some patience. Any good dealer will help you find one.

For more auto reviews by CDN’s staff, click here.


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Duane Pemberton

Duane Pemberton is a lifestyle writer and CDNs Auto Editor. Pemberton loves anything that helps bring people together which is why he writes about food, wine, cars, and travel.