The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe is a great looking and very popular seven-seat family SUV. Let's get stuck in and see how this updated Highlander model stacks up as a BabyDrive…
Starting with the Santa Fe seating, like the Kia Sorento there are no third-row airbags. It is important you know so you are making an informed decision from the start if you are planning to use the third-row seats.
Now on to the child seats… This seven-seater family SUV has top tether anchorages on the back of all three second-row seats and ISOFix points for the two outer seats. I found three child seats would just fit across this second-row.
Unfortunately, the third-row seats don't have any top tether anchorages or ISOFix points so I couldn't install any child seats back there. I could sit back there comfortably though and I'm 162cm tall. To access the third-row seats you do have to uninstall a child seat from the second-row you can fold the seat forward and climb through.
We found legroom good throughout the Santa Fe and when I was seated in the third-row with a rear-facing child sea in the second-row, then a 182cm driver could fit in front. Or with a forward-facing child seat in the second row, a 184cm+ driver can sit in front.
The access buttons on the side of the front passenger seat make it easy for the driver to move that seat electronically without having to get out of the car, which was great for school pick-ups and helping elderly relatives in and out of the car. Some say big-kid rear passengers reach forward and play with them while you are driving along for japes, which I can imagine me and my siblings doing!
There are air vents in all three rows of seating in the Santa Fe, which is great for keeping all the rear passengers cool. There are controls in the third-row seats too but you have ultimate control of the rear climate from the front central console.
The front seats are heated and cooled in the top-spec Highlander model I tested and there's also a heated steering wheel.
The second-row seats are also heated in the Santa Fe Highlander, however, the controls for this are in the second-row doors which are just asking for trouble with my daughter and her friends to quietly cook themselves while we drive along!
There are built-in rear window blinds in the back of higher-spec 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe models which are great for our little rear passengers to not get cooked by the sun while we drive along.
Storage is good throughout the 2021 Santa Fe for a seven-seat SUV. There is ample storage in both rear rows of seats for five passengers. It has cup holders in the second and third-rows, map pockets and door bins that will hold large refillable water bottles. There are also USB sockets in the second and third rows so rear passengers can plug in and charge devices while travelling.
In the front of the 2021 Santa Fe there are plenty of charging points too. In the central console box as well as in the great storage shelf underneath the central console (new for this 2021 model). I love this storage area for your bag, shoes or kiddies lunch box!
There is the usual assortment of well positioned and good size storage in the front of the Santa Fe like cup holders and glove box. There is an extra shelf in the dash which is quite handy for popping items passed through from the kids in the back.
There is no glasses holder in the Santa Fe and the wireless phone charging well is a hole rather than a tray beside the cup holders. I found it worked well with my small iPhone however people with larger phones have said that the phones stick out too far and you knock your arm on them whilst driving.
Boot space in the new 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe is similar to the 2021 Kia Sorento, despite the Kia Sorento being a bigger car overall. Using all seven seats the Santa Fe will hold five shopping bags, which is comparable to the Sorento that will also hold five. If you need more room, the Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Kluger will both hold eight bags and the Mazda CX-9 will hold seven shopping bags.
However, when using all seven seats only a compact stroller will fit with a few shopping bags. A single or double pram will not fit in the boot. See: Which seven-seat SUVs can fit a twin stroller in the boot?
When using only the first two rows of seats the Hyundai Santa Fe will hold seventeen shopping bags, which is comparable to the Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-9 that will both also hold seventeen bags. If you need more room, the Nissan Pathfinder will hold twenty bags and Toyota Kluger will hold nineteen bags.
All sizes of pram and stroller will fit in the boot with shopping when using only five seats in the 2021 Santa Fe.
Or a large dog will fit in the Santa Fe boot too.
Now, the New 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe has a VERY fancy feature that allows you to drive the car backwards and forwards in and out of parking spaces, remotely from the key fob. We found this really handy in car parks where spaces are just too tight to get kids in and out of the car without the doors banging into the car parked next door. Now I did find it takes a few goes on my own to feel confident to use it when I had the kids with me, but once I was used to it I found it helpful.
The 2021 Santa Fe is a great car to drive, it's not too big for a seven-seater SUV so it is relatively easy to park in school and supermarket car parks. I found its turning circle not as good as the new 2021 Kia Carnival though in these situations.
The Santa Fe Highlander has some great cameras which help with visibility especially when you have three child seats in the back. The indicator cameras in the drivers display help with visibility down the side of the car when turning and changing lanes…
…As well as the rearview camera. The reversing camera image is lovely and clear with a birds-eye view as well and you can turn the parking sensors off easily with a button in the central console.
The Santa Fe also has a driver attention warning so if you do not notice the car in front of you pull away at lights then it will alert you.
The media system in the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander is really nice and modern and easy to use. Like the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Sorento and Kia Carnival it has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and some great family-friendly features within it.
Firstly, the sounds of nature, which is different pre-recorded white noise sounds like ‘calm ocean waves' that you can turn on quickly and easily to calm little passengers. Some pass it off as a gimmick but in my experience it really works!
Secondly is passenger talk, which amplifies your voice from the front to the third-row passengers so you don't have to shout to be heard in the back.
Finally, Quiet Mode, which mutes the sound in the back and brings it through to the front so you don't disturb passengers in the back with whatever you are listening to in the front.
There is a seatbelt removal visual in the ceiling and it has five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Overall I see the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe is a great five-seater family SUV with a large boot and only occasionally is it used as a seven-seater when the grandparents visit or for after school playdates. In fact most people I know who own one use it in this way. It is a great car to drive and being a bit smaller than most seven-seat SUVs it feels easy to maneuver and park in school and supermarket car parks so fits well into everyday family life.
The new 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe comes with six airbags but does NOT have third-row airbags and has been given a five star ANCAP safety rating.