2021 Hyundai Tucson vs. Santa Fe: Which SUV Is Better?

by Gabrielle DeSantis

The pandemic was an alarming time for the auto industry in 2020, but things are swiftly turning around. Hyundai is especially feeling the sweet euphoria of growing sales numbers. Two of its top sellers — the 2021 Tucson and the Santa Fe — are going head-to-head. But only one SUV can prevail.

The 2021 Hyundai Tucson at a glance

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Don’t expect any updates on the 2021 Hyundai Tucson. The only changes since the 2020 model are the exterior colors: Ash Black, Red Crimson, and Coliseum Gray.

There are two engine options on the 2021 Tucson. The first is a 164-hp 2.0-liter. The second is a 181-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Neither is overly powerful, but they get the job done.

The gas mileage is also average for a compact SUV. It gets 23 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway. That’s not bad, but it’s not stellar either. But this will change for the 2022 model, Hyundai says. Until then, buyers will have to settle for what the 2021 model offers. 

The Tucson isn’t exactly the most spacious of compact SUVs, either, but that’s expected for a compact crossover seating five. It offers 99 cubic feet of passenger space and 31 cubic feet of cargo room behind the second row.

Overview of the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe

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The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe offers three powertrain options, including a hybrid. The standard engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, which gets 25 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. Higher trim levels pack a turbocharged 2.5-liter that gets 22 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. 

Of course, the hybrid version gets the best mileage thanks to its turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder and pair of electric motors. It gets 36 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.

Being a midsize crossover, the Santa Fe is slightly larger than the Tucson. It offers 113 cubic feet for passengers and 36 cubic feet of cargo room behind the second row. This is nice for growing families or anyone who wants a comfortable road trip. However, the Santa Fe seats only five.

Which SUV is outselling the competition?

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Hyundai recently announced sales are surging this year. “Hyundai Motor America reported total April sales of 77,523 units, a 128 percent increase compared with April 2020,” the automaker boasted. “Hyundai again set an all-time monthly sales record, beating the previous best-ever mark set just last month.”

According to GoodCarBadCar, the 2021 Tucson is outselling all other Hyundai models, including the popular Santa Fe. In fact, the Tucson’s sales are double for April what they were this time last year. 

GoodCarBadCar shows that in April 2020, Hyundai sold 8,438 Tucson units. This past April, it sold 16,901. The automaker has also sold more Tucson units this year as a whole than it did last year. As of April 2020, consumers bought 32,173 Tucson vehicles. This year, 50,048 have sold. That’s a good sign the auto industry is recovering.

Though the Santa Fe is performing well, it can’t compete with the Tucson. According to GoodCarBadCar, Hyundai sold 5,602 Santa Fe units in April 2020. This past April, it sold twice that number, with 10,470. That’s impressive, but it’s still 5,000 less than the Tucson. 

Even though critics have warned consumers to avoid the 2021 Tucson, the 2022 model will probably get a lot more love given the huge sales so far this year. Hyundai reports that the new Tucson will offer some changes that consumers will love, including more powerful engines and better gas mileage, all for the same low price.

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