Earlier this year, a top-of-the-line Calligraphy trimmed Santa Fe visited. Eight months later we drive the new hybrid model in Limited trim, while Hyundai adds two more models in the coming months — a plug-in hybrid Santa Fe (with up to 31-miles of electric-only operation) as well as a new off-road themed XRT trim.

The Santa Fe was significantly revised last fall, gaining new styling, more creature features, more safety gear, plus some revised powertrains. Sized to compete against the likes of other two-row mid-size crossovers named Grand Cherokee, Ford Edge, Honda Passport, and Lexus RX, the Santa Fe shares most of its basic chassis with the Kia Sorento.

Pricing starts at under $29,000 for a base trim, front wheel drive Santa Fe, while our featured Limited Hybrid lists for $41,290 — or only $1,000 less than the previously sampled Calligraphy. The entry-level Blue Hybrid trim begins at $34,975, while the mid-level SEL Hybrid will start at $39,035. All hybrid’s include AWD standard, which aids overall driving, but with a small dent in maximum fuel efficiency.

Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid. Photo courtesy of Tim Plouf.

Our previous Calligraphy model came with the 2.5-liter turbo engine, making an impressively quick 277-hp. All Santa Fe hybrids will use the 1.6-liter turbo motor shared with the Tucson that makes 226-hp. A smooth six-speed automatic seamlessly handles the energy from the gas engine, battery pack and electric motor.

The Santa Fe Hybrid earns EPA fuel economy ratings of 33-mpg city, 30-mpg highway, and 32-mpg in combined driving. Our realized mileage over a 310-mile run — that included 120-miles of interstate travel — came to 31-mpg. This is a heady 23 percent improvement over the non-hybrid Santa Fe previously sampled.

Most of those miles came running northwest to Weld, and an engagement with climbing up Tumbledown Mountain before the season changes. Other than some initial distress navigating the slippery trail up and through Fat Man’s Misery — you will have to look it up — our climb was a happy success. The Santa Fe did very well too, providing ample space in both seating rows, composed handling over undulating central Maine secondary roads, as well as a subdued cabin for the resting rear seat occupants. Controls, switchgear, audio performance, plus overall ease of use of the expansive cargo hold, all rate highly. With heated seats all around, plus the leather-clad steering wheel, our cool departure was not an issue.

Both Hyundai and Toyota are making more vehicles with the proven technology of hybrid powertrains, a strategy that is rewarding each automaker with elevated success in the showroom. Santa Fe sales have increased 22% so far in 2021.

Hyundai will also introduce an expanded Ioniq lineup, with more hybrid and electric-only vehicles. The global goals are ambitious for EV products, yet automakers need to continue to build, and provide, conventional vehicles — including hybrids — for years to come as the marketplace continues to show reluctance for the purchase of more expensive electric vehicles. Watch as the next round of electric vehicles debut; they will be very powerful, and very pricey, appealing to well-healed buyers but not within reach of the masses. Hyundai, and to some degree Kia, as well as Toyota, aim to follow a different path to converting their driving products to alternative power.

Buyers are also gravitating towards the Santa Fe because of its extensive list of features, all combined in a refined package with an industry-leading warranty as well as pricing that undercuts rivals by significant margins. Pieces like panoramic sunroof, premium Hardon Kardon audio, 10.25-inch screen with navigation, ApplePlay/Android, wireless device charging, surround view monitor, lane-change cameras, heated and ventilated leather seating, hands-free smart liftgate, plus a full array of the latest electronic driving aids and safety systems, is included in our Limited Hybrid. Add LED lights all around, HTRAC all-wheel drive, 19” wheels, rear privacy glass, rear sunshades, and power release controls for the folding second row seats, and buyers stepping out of older vehicles will be impressed.

Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid interior. Photo courtesy of Tim Plouf.

Balanced performance, refined and comfy cabin, extensive features portfolio, plus conscientious value pricing all add up to further evidence of Hyundai’s stronger market presence in the new Santa Fe Hybrid.

Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles for more than 20 years.

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