New Calligraphy trim gives premium feel to Hyundai Sant Fe

By Paul Borden

(September 8, 2021) With a history that dates back two decades, the Hyundai Santa Fe was the South Korean automaker's first venture into the SUV segment with the debut of the 2001 model. My oh my how it has grown up over the years. The early Santa Fe was very capable vehicle but featured styling quirks that either turned on buyers or made them immediately head for the staid safety of a Toyota showroom.

With the advent of the 2009 Santa Fe, Hyundai took the spunky little scrapper up in class with a redesign that gave it the look and feel of a luxury crossover SUV at a competitive price. The latest Santa Fe continues that trend, providing loads of creature comforts and conveniences in a classy cabin.

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe comes in four trim levels starting with the base SE and continuing with the SEL, Limited, and new top-of-the-line Calligraphy with a jew XRT trim coming for 2022. The Calligraphy trim, which this review is based on, takes the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe just over the $40,000 threshold with a starting MSRP of $43,275 (including the $1,175 destination and delivery fee).

Mitigating that cost, the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy comes with a long list of standard features that make adding expensive optional packages unnecessary.

Included among those features are heated and ventilated front seats, premium Nappa leather seating surfaces, dual auto climate control, power release second-seats, proximity key and push-button start, power lift gate, tilt-and-telescoping steering column with perforated leather steering wheel and paddle shifters, 10.25-inch navigation screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Harmon-Kardon premium sound system, Hyundai Blue Link services, heated steering wheel and second-row seats, 8-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, roof side rails, and an exclusive Calligraphy headliner.

Safety systems include forward collision avoidance, blind-spot and high beam assist, lane-keeping assist, driver alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-following assist, surround-view monitor, and adaptive cruise control.

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy rides on 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels and features a premium accent front grille and privacy rear glass. LED headlights, daytime running lights, and taillights also are included.

While SE and SEL trims get a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine (191 horsepower, 181 pound-feet of torque) mated to an 8-speed automatic, Limited and Calligraphy models come with a turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-banger that puts out 277 horsepower and 311 pound-feet and paired with an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic.

SE, SEL, and Limited trims are front-wheel drive with all-wheel optional. AWD is standard on the Calligraphy earning EPA ratings of 21 miles-per-gallon city, 28 highway, and 24 combined using regular fuel.

As mentioned earlier, there is no need for options so the only extra on my test vehicle was carpeted floor mats for $155. That brought the total to $43,430.  

What I liked about the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy: The Calligraphy offers a long list of standard features to justify the plus $40,000 price tag. The cabin has a premium feel about it, and operation of the numerous infotainment features is very intuitive.  The touchscreen is of a good size, and driving in Sport mode gives the turbo-4 a very satisfactory get-away punch. And it's not that thirsty when it comes to gas mileage.

What I didn't like about the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy: I found the ride a little bit too cushy for my taste. Getting in an out up front takes a bit of care as you can easily bump your head on the A pillar.

Would I buy the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy? Based on my experience with a Santa Fe purchased several years ago, I'd have to give this a definite yes. The upgrades over they years have given the Santa Fe more of a premium feel than earlier models, and the improvement is very welcome. Styling also is more mainstream (though not boring) than those earlier somewhat funky Santa Fes.