Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy Review

The almost-palatial 2021-22 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy SUV is elegantly spacious with luxurious accommodations, smart technologies, and unexpected but appreciated amenities

An exterior view of the 2022 Hyundai Palisade

For family trips or towing, the Palisade is generously sized and powered with a 291-horsepower V-6 engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. (Photos courtesy of Hyundai)

Table of Contents

Palisade Updates for 2021
Safety Features
Palisade Performance
Ride and Handling
Interior Function
Back Seats and Cargo
Why Buy the Hyundai Palisade?


The 2021 Hyundai Palisade is a big easy of SUVs. It is friendly to drive with its nimble turning circle of 38.7 feet. Its 291-hp V-6 engine has strong power and mindful fuel economy from the eight-speed automatic transmission. And the pricing will convince skeptics to take a closer look.

The Hyundai Palisade compares with the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, three-row 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, VW Atlas, and platform partner Kia Telluride.

Hyundai Palisade Overview

The Hyundai Palisade debuted in 2019 as the brand’s new flagship SUV. The nameplate is a reference to the coastal cliffs of the Pacific Palisades neighborhood in Los Angeles.

As the Santa Fe XL replacement, Palisade was built on a new SUV chassis with three rows of seating for seven or eight occupants. The large-midsize SUV crossover has standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive.

Among Hyundai’s five SUV models, the Palisade ranked third for sales in September 2021. With 7,961 sales, the Palisade followed the compact Tucson at 9,896 sales, the midsize Santa Fe at 6,573, the subcompact Venue at 2,877, and the subcompact Kona 5,774.

While some of the SUV sales were down in September, the Venue was up 88 percent over September 2020, and the Palisade was up by 3 percent over September 2020.

The Calligraphy interior

Special Calligraphy features include Nappa leather upholstery, quilted leather door panels, and a microfiber-suede headliner.

Palisade Updates for 2021

The only change for the 2021 model year is the addition of the Calligraphy, the new top-of-the-line trim level.

Other changes for the 2021 Palisade include content repackaging to add comfort and convenience to all trim levels.

LED headlamps are now standard, while sunroof and LED map-interior lights have been added to the SEL model and above.

Palisade trailer pre-wiring connectors were upgraded from a four-pin connector to an enhanced seven-pin connector.

The 2022 Palisade is now on sale with no physical or content changes, but pricing was increased by $475 to $490 across the lineup.

Palisade driver area

The driver area is an accommodating command center with at-a-glance access to all controls.

Hyundai Palisade Pricing

Palisade is sold in four trim levels of SE, SEL, Limited, and Calligraphy. Starting prices range from $33,860 to $47,900 for the Calligraphy AWD; pricing includes the $1,185 freight charge from Ulsan, Korea.

The front-drive Palisade Calligraphy tester was $47,600 with one option for three rows of carpeted floor mats, $215.

Special Calligraphy features include:

  • Quilted-leather door panels
  • Microfiber-suede headliner
  • Premium cargo sill protection plate
  • Perforated-leather steering wheel

A longer list of standard equipment is in the specifications chart at the end of this review.

Find current pricing and inventive offers here.

A dual pane sunroof

The front sunroof tilts and slides and the rear pane is fixed with a shade.

Hyundai Warranties

All Hyundai vehicles have extensive warranty coverage. The basic coverage is for 5 years or 60,000 miles bumper to bumper. The limited powertrain warranty is for 10 years or 100,000 miles.

New this year is free scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles. The maintenance program includes oil and filter changes and tire rotation.

Hyundai Palisade Safety Features

The 2021 Hyundai Palisade SUV received a 2020 Top Safety Pick-Plus from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In addition, the government’s National Highway Safety Administration awarded the Palisade the top five-star ratings for overall protection, frontal and side crashes, and four stars for rollover.

Palisade’s standard safety features include:

  • 7 air bags,
  • Lane-following assist and lane-keeping assist,
  • Blind-spot collision-avoidance assist,
  • Forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection,
  • Highway Drive Assist, and
  • Rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist.
The 20-inch tires and special wheel design

The Calligraphy has a special wheel design with 20-inch Hankook Ventus S1 Noble 2 all-season tires.

Hyundai Palisade Performance

The 2021 Palisade is sold in front- or all-wheel drive (HTRAC) models. All have a 291-hp 3.8-liter, Atkinson-cycle, direct-injection V-6 and eight-speed automatic transmission.

EPA fuel-economy ratings for front-drive models are 19 mpg city, 26 highway and 22 mpg combined or 19/24/21 mpg with HTRAC.

While testing the 4,231-pound Palisade Calligraphy, I drove the majority of the week in Eco mode. I was surprised by the performance because that fuel-saving mode for engine and transmission performance usually has a maddeningly spongy throttle response.

For those who keep an eye on the fuel gauge, the Palisade’s Eco calibration is actually usable for most driving. Immediate launch power is somewhat reserved, as is close-the-gap acceleration on the highway. Still, in between, it worked to convince me I was saving fuel and emissions in a 16.3-foot-long family vehicle.

In the front-drive tester, my driving averaged 17 to 21 mpg around town, and I worked up to 22.5 mpg combined with highway driving. The highway mileage likely would have risen with more time using cruise control at the speed limit.

The Palisade V6 engine

All Palisade trim levels have the 291-hp V-6 and 8-speed automatic.

Ride and Handling

Palisade’s ride quality is comfortable but not soft. It is well-supported with a rigid chassis for vibration-free driving. The cabin is quiet, and the rear auto-leveling suspension nearly eliminates “head toss” at driveways and speed bumps.

The HTRAC all-wheel-drive system has six traction modes for Eco, Sport, Comfort, Snow, Smart (which adapts to your driving style) and AWD lock. Snow mode has more predictive calibrations, Hyundai says, to prevent loss of traction.

The transmission rolls through the gears so smoothly that you might not notice the transitions. Tire sizes are 18 inches standard or 20 inches on the Calligraphy with a unique wheel pattern.

The tester’s 20-inch all-season tires, Hankook Ventus S1 Noble 2, are generously sized (245/50) and roll smoothly and without road harshness.

Four-wheel disc braking is confident with no grab from 13.9-inch ventilated front rotors and rear 12-inch solid rotors.

A rear angle of the SUV

The Calligraphy has rear auto-leveling suspension that nearly eliminates ‘head toss’ at driveways and speed bumps.

Highway Drive Assist

Hyundai’s Highway Drive Assist allows Level 2 semi-autonomous driving. The assist system uses a forward-facing radar unit and camera and GPS technology through the navigation system’s map database.

The suite of driver-assist technologies includes smart cruise control with stop-and-go, lane-following assist and lane-keeping assist, blind-spot collision-avoidance assist, forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, and rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist.

The HDA steering calibrations are more refined than some systems I’ve tested. It seems the camera might look farther ahead to make less-jerky steering movements in cornering.

The driver-assist system is intended for use on a divided highway and it will not engage when not traveling on an approved road. The driver must keep both hands on the steering wheel, and Highway Driving Assist is available only at speeds under 95 mph.

In my experience, the system was mostly efficient at keeping the Palisade centered between the lines. Once or twice, however, the system allowed the SUV to drift wide in a sweeping corner and then fired off a sharp warning alert as if I were at fault.

Interior Function

The Calligraphy is a social lounge with a USB port for every seat and 16 cup holders.

Front headroom is tall at 39.3 inches with the dual-pane sunroof. And shoulder room is wide-body at 61.2 inches (and 60.8 inches in the second row.) The step-in height is low with no need for running boards, and the door skins extend below the sill to prevent dirt scuffs on legs and shoes.

The Palisade has USB ports in the seatback

Of the seven USB ports, two are cleverly placed in the seatbacks.

The driver area is an accommodating command center with a multilevel environment of storage areas, including below the center console, with open space for wireless phone charging and a deep armrest box.

There is at-a-glance access to all controls, and the 10.25-inch infotainment screen is not prone to glare in sunlight.

The seats are full-bodied with eight-way power adjustment for the driver and front passenger. Sightlines are no problem, especially with the multiview camera that also gives front and overhead views.

It is a quiet Calligraphy cabin, helped by an acoustic laminated windshield and front side glass.

Unique in this segment is Hyundai’s Blind View Monitors. The side mirrors have rearward-aimed cameras that switch on when using the turn signal. The behind-view video appears in the gauge array, in the corresponding left or right dials. These electronic eyes are instrumental in town when navigating the randomly weaving electric scooters, bikes, and pedestrians.

The roomy back seat area

No compromise to second-row seating with 42.7 inches of legroom.

A Driver Talk in-car intercom system allows communication with the second or third rows via a conversation mode in the audio system. A Rear Sleep Mode also cancels music from being transmitted to the second- and third-row speakers.

Back Seats and Cargo Area

The second row has a maximum of 42.4 inches of legroom, adjustable by the sliding captain’s chairs, which also recline. There is a separate climate control system for heat and AC, fan speed and temp — and heated and cooled seats. The large glass roof panel (with sunshade) is a big-sky treatment. And ceiling air vents help to fend off motion sickness.

The back seats have a one-handed tilt-and-slide action for third-row entry. In addition, the third-row bench has more support than some competitors in this group, and the Palisade seats have a fold-flat power recline.

The cargo area is big-box square with a usable 18 cubic feet of space behind the third row, with functional basement storage. There are switches for the power-folding and raising of the third-row seats and power releases to fold the second row.

The lift-in height is tall at 30 inches, but there is about 7 feet of length with both rows folded. The entry is 48 inches wide by 32 inches tall.

The cargo area in the Palisade

There are 18 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row or fold the second and third rows for about 7 feet of length.

Why Buy the Hyundai Palisade?

The Palisade is a little like moving the family to a new two-story home in a master-planned suburban community. The cabin is roomy with a long list of advanced technologies, premium-quality materials, and many unexpected but appreciated amenities.

Opting for the Calligraphy model provides an elevated luxury experience. And its presentation is without the glare of glitzy technology overload, so common in the Tier 1 luxury segment. It is an enjoyable learning curve to explore Hyundai’s technologies, which is not always so with some luxury brands.

Moving to the three-row suburbs isn’t for every family, but for less than $50,000, a palatial-feeling Palisade is move-in ready.

Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy Specifications

Body style: large-midsize, 3-row 7- to 8-seat SUV in front- or all-wheel drive

Engine: 291-hp, Atkinson cycle, direct-injection 3.8-liter V-6 with idle stop-and-go; 262 lb.-ft. torque at 5,200 rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic with HTRAC AWD mode selector

Fuel economy: 19/26/22 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane

Tow capacity: 1,650 lbs. without trailer brakes; 5,000 lbs. with trailer brakes


Fuel tank: 18.8 gallons

Cargo space: 18-45.8 cu. ft.

Front head/leg room: 39.3*/41. in. *w/sunroof

2nd row head/leg room: 38.8*/42.4 in.

3rd row head/leg room: 37.2*/31.4 in.

Length/wheelbase: 196.1/114.2 in.

Width/height: 77.8/68.9 in.

Curb weight: 4,231 lbs.

Turning circle: 38.7 ft.


Standard Calligraphy equipment includes: smart-key locking with push-button ignition, Nappa leather-trimmed upholstery, microsuede headliner, surround-view monitor, electric parking brake, blind-view monitor (turn-signal activated), 7 USBs, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front and rear seats, wireless phone charger, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 10.25-inch infotainment and navigation touch screen with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, Harman Kardon audio system, LED headlights-taillights-running lights, auto-leveling rear suspension, trailering package, dual sunroofs with sunshades, high-beam assist, back seat quiet mode, power-folding third row with power recline, hands-free liftgate

Safety features include: 7 air bags, intelligent cruise control with stop-and-go, lane following assist and lane-keeping assist, blind-spot collision-avoidance assist park-distance warning, forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, highway drive assist, downhill brake control, rear occupant alert, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist


Base price: $47,385, including $1,185 freight charge; price as tested $47,600

Options on test vehicle: carpeted floor mats $160

Where assembled: Ulsan, Korea

Warranties: 5 years/60,000 miles bumper to bumper with roadside assistance; 3-years/36,000-miles free scheduled maintenance (of oil change and tire rotation); 10 years/100,000 miles powertrain

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2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Review

Tech-knowledgeable Tucson Hybrid is a low profile, high spark compact SUV

An exterior view of the redesigned Hyundai Tucson SV

A comprehensive redesign of the 2022 Hyundai Tucson made it longer, wider, and taller. (Photos courtesy of Hyundai)

Table of Contents

Hybrid models
Exterior styling
Safety Features
Hybrid Powertrains
Fuel Economy
Interior Function
Ride and Handling
Driver Assist Features
Back Seats and Cargo
Why buy the Hyundai Tucson Hybrid?


Hyundai has found the sweet spot for size and versatility in its redesigned and re-engineered 2022 Tucson compact SUV crossover. The two-row SUV is now more of a super-compact in size with enough elbow and head room for growing teenagers.

The upper-trim models are stitched with such fine materials that the visual impression reminds of Lexus or Audi. The cabin soundproofing, with some acoustic glass, is luxury-class quiet. And the seats are some of the most comfortable in this mainstream segment.

The Tucson's interior design is uncluttered and ergonomically arranged

Tucson’s interior, or ‘Interspace’, is uncluttered and contemporary in design.

Hyundai Tucson Overview

Now in its fourth generation, Tucson is Hyundai’s best-selling model globally. The U.S. model is the long-wheelbase version of the global platform.

The 2022 Hyundai Tucson is longer, wider, taller, and has a longer wheelbase than the previous generation. The new model is 6.1 inches longer (182.3 inches) and a half-inch wider and taller.

The added length greatly benefited back-seat legroom, now at a leggy 41.3 inches. And cargo space increased by 7.7 cubic feet for more functional space behind the second row.

The new more rigid, high-strength steel architecture improves handling response and crash protection, Hyundai says.

The hybrid model has heated and ventilated front seats

The Limited’s leather-trimmed front seats are heated and ventilated.

Tucson Pricing

As a prime moneymaker, Hyundai has groomed the 2022 Tucson to be an SUV for all. It is sold in front or all-wheel-drive trim levels with a choice of gasoline, hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrains.

Gas-engine models have a 187-horsepower, 2.5-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine that is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Starting prices for the 2.5 models range from $26,135 for the entry SE to $35,855 for the top-line Limited. Add $1,500 for HTRAC electronic all-wheel drive. All MSRP pricing includes the $1,185 freight charge from Ulsan, Korea.

There also is a higher-performance N Line model that is built on the 2.5-liter powertrain. It has starting prices of $31,785 for front-drive or $33,285 with AWD.

Hybrid models

There are three trim levels of gasoline-electric hybrid models. All have standard all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission. Starting prices range from $30,235 for the entry Blue Hybrid to $38,535 for the top-line Limited.

The midrange SEL Convenience Hybrid pares back on options for a starting price of $32,835.

Today’s Limited Hybrid tester was $38,704 as tested. Its only option was for a set of four carpeted floor mats for $169.

Ambient lighting around the center console

The center console has side storage and a bead of ambient LED lighting.

Tucson Plug-In

The Tucson Plug-in Hybrid model goes on sale later this summer, but pricing had not been announced at the time of this posting. Check here for updates.

The plug-in Tucson has an impressive all-electric range of around 32 miles and an estimated combined fuel economy of 70 MPGe. The plug-in powertrain has an estimated 261-hp from the 1.6-liter turbocharged and direct-injected engine with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Level-II charging capability is well under two hours to recharge the system using the 7.2kW onboard charger, Hyundai says.

Hyundai Warranties

Hyundai has long provided what it calls “America’s Best Warranty.” New this year is the addition of free scheduled maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles. The service will be mostly for oil changes and tire rotation. Roadside assistance is provided for 5 years and unlimited mileage.

The basic coverage is for 5 years or 60,000 miles bumper to bumper and the powertrain is covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles.

Hybrid components and the battery are covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles.

A commonly overlooked cost when buying a tech-forward new vehicle is the data plan. The typical data plan to use all those electronic features, such as speed limit posting and smart cruise control, is an additional $30 a month. But Hyundai has three years of free data for the Blue Link Connected Services.

The 19-inch tire-and-wheel package for the Tucson Hybrid

19-inch Michelin Primacy all-season 235/55 tires.

 Tucson Exterior Styling

Tucson’s new exterior styling continues with Hyundai’s evolving Sensuous Sportiness design. Tucson embodies what the designers call ‘Parametric Dynamics.’ It is defined as “kinetic, jewel-like surface detailing” — but I am still not clear on what that is. Except that it has a commanding presence and an appealing stance.

I especially liked the tester’s Phantom Black paint that compliments the black plastic fender overriders. The right color for a body shape can really have a positive effect. And sometimes the lighter paint colors and black fender protectors look too utilitarian.

Another clever design is at the top of the rear liftgate. The rear wiper tucks under the tailgate spoiler to help aerodynamics and also to help protect the wiper blade from sun damage.

Tucson Hybrid Standard Equipment

The SE is well equipped as an entry model. Among its interior features are remote keyless locking, rearview monitor with parking guidance, electric parking brake, and six-way adjustable driver seat with height adjustment. The six-speaker audio system with an 8-inch color touch screen includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two charging USB outlets.

Exterior features include 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic on-off LED headlights with high beam assist, solar glass (windshield and front windows), and body-color rear spoiler with LED brake light.

The Limited is elevated to a near-luxury treatment. Its features include attractive leather upholstery, panoramic sunroof, 19-inch alloy wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, surround-view monitor with guidance lines, and wireless charging.

The Tucson back seats

Back seat space is now quite comfortable with a long 41.3 inches of legroom.

Tucson Safety Features

The Tucson Hybrid has a full safety suite of features and advanced technologies. Among them are Forward Collision Warning with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Following Assist and Lane Keeping Assist, and Leading Vehicle Departure Alert.

I especially valued the LDVA, which alerts the driver to stop texting or spacing out when the vehicle ahead moves forward. The drivers behind might appreciate the feature even more.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave Tucson a TOP SAFETY PICK+  designation for the 2022 model year. Tucson was recognized for its structural crashworthiness, LED headlights, and standard SmartSense crash prevention features.

Tucson Hybrid Powertrains

The gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain is comprised of a 1.6-liter turbocharged gasoline engine and a 44.2 kW electric motor with a 1.49 kWh battery pack. The transmission is a six-speed automatic.

Total system power is an estimated 226-hp with 258 foot-pounds of torque.

Between the immediate launch by the motor and the quick uptake from the transmission.

Hyundai says this hybrid powertrain is 30 percent more fuel-efficient than the standard gasoline engine, with 20 percent more torque for effortless daily driving.

Tucson Hybrid Fuel Economy

Tucson Hybrid models have fuel economy ratings of 38 mpg city, 38 highway and 38 mpg combined with front-wheel drive. All-wheel-drive models are rated for 37/36/37 mpg city/highway/combined, using the recommended 87-octane fuel. The 13.7-gallon tank will allow a cruising range of more than 500 miles.

When driven frugally between 60-80 mph, the hybrid tester returned mileage of 38.8 mpg. When driven aggressively at speeds of 75-80 mph the range was 29.8 to 30.1 mpg.

Gas Tucson models have mileage ratings of 26/33/29 mpg with front drive and 24/29/26 mpg AWD.

Looking into the cargo area of the Tucson

Square cargo space has about 6 feet in length with the back seat folded.


The multimode HTRAC AWD is an all-weather system. There are driver-selectable modes for off-road traction but also calibrations for straight-line acceleration, medium- and high-speed cornering and hill starts. The Sport setting sends more torque to the rear wheels for a seat-of-the-pants push.

Tucson Interior Function

Tucson’s interior, or the so-called “Interspace,” is smartly designed with a low-profile dashboard. There are no touch screens that rise upward to complicate forward views over the hood. Sightlines over the shoulder are unrestricted and benefit from the tall side and rear glass.

The front headroom with the panoramic sunroof is 38.3 inches, which allowed headspace for a 6-foot-6-inch male. The seats are comfortably supportive without stiff, wedgie-inducing side or bottom bolsters.

Unique in this segment is multi-air ventilation. The temperature-adjusting system provides a sweep of diffused airflow to the front passengers. Crank the fan speed and there is plenty of force with very low noise.

The bigger interior space allows more and functional small-item storage, such as along the sides of the center console.

Other new features include a 10.25-inch full-touch navigation screen. Hyundai notes that it has no hard buttons, but it is not a bad thing to have buttons for audio volume and fan.

The driver faces a 10.25-inch hoodless digital gauge cluster. It is practical because the elements are visible in all light conditions, but I do have concerns when a sensor or two might fail over time.

It also is considerate that there are many lighted buttons and switches, such as for the window lifts on the front door armrests.

Tucson Ride and Handling

Tucson is now one of the more comfortable and quiet compact SUVs on the market. The longer wheelbase benefits highway cruising without any chop or wheel vibration, even on California’s rain-grooved concrete highways. Around town, the ride is traffic-calmed and rewarding.

Tucson hybrid models feature e-handling technology. Hyundai claims the system precisely applies electric motor torque control to improve cornering performance. As the Tucson hybrid turns into a corner, the electric motor system applies incremental braking force to the front wheels. That braking increases the tire contact patch on the road surface for enhanced traction and steering response. Then, as the vehicle exits the corner, the electric motor sends torque to the rear axle to fatten rear tire contact patches for a grip and grin response.

The Limited was equipped with 19-inch Michelin Primacy all-season 235/55 tires. They are so-called “green” tires for reduced friction and they also contribute to a more supple ride.

Braking on all Tucson models is by four-wheel discs. There are ventilated 12.8-inch discs at the front and solid 12-inch discs rear.

Tucson Driver Assist Features

I especially value Hyundai’s blind-spot view monitor. Cameras in the side mirrors switch on when using the turn signal. The image gives a clear view of what might be alongside the vehicle. On the right side, it might be a bicyclist. On the left, it could be a motorcyclist.

Hyundai’s SmartSense advanced driver assistance systems provide Level 2 semi-autonomous driving. When activated, the network of radar sensors, ultrasonic sensors, and cameras does a good job of keeping the Tucson centered between the white lines.

But all Level 2 assist systems require two hands on the wheel and driver vigilance. The system sensors can be confused by certain daylight and road conditions, which can trigger a random shutoff and then a restart. I’ve also experienced system shutoff when driving alongside white- or light-colored semitruck trailers.

Even with those few variables, the system provides guardianship in the event of driver distraction.

A rear view

The 2022 Hyundai Tucson is now one of the more comfortable and quiet compact SUVs.

Tucson Back Seat and Cargo

The back seat space is now quite comfortable with a long 41.3 inches of legroom. There is such a stretch of space that a 6-foot passenger can sit behind a 6-foot driver. Headroom is not compromised at 39.5 inches.

The doors open to nearly 90 degrees, which is an asset for reaching a child seat. A low transmission-exhaust tunnel allows comfortable three-across footroom. The back seats are heated with reclining seatbacks that have fold-and-dive functionality to expand cargo space.

The expanded cargo space has a square load floor and a wide opening of 40 inches. Fold the second row for 6 feet of length. The area also has seatback release handles, underfloor storage, and a 12-volt 180-watt household plug.

Why buy the Hyundai Tucson Hybrid?

The tech-knowledgeable Tucson Limited Hybrid is a low-profile, high spark compact SUV. The tester’s $39,000 price has a high-quality presence that will impress for its layers of refined materials and smart designs.

I’ve been shopping for compact hybrid SUVs, but none has seemed the right fit for me. The roofline of the Toyota Venza is too aerodynamically low and over-the-shoulder sightlines are compromised. The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid was my fallback choice, but there is a little too much outdoorsy-SUV in the styling. The gas-electric Ford Escape is too budget-compromised. And while I like the efficiency of the Honda CR-V, it is the safe, mom-and-dad choice and I really don’t want fake wood trim in the cabin.

My 2008 Ford Escape is running well at 126,000 miles and has required little service other than routine maintenance. But if I had to buy a compact SUV this week, the Tucson Hybrid or maybe the Tucson Plug-In Hybrid would be my choice. Here are my likes:

  • The performance and stepped transmission (not a CVT).
  • The contemporary interior space and expansive cargo capacity.
  • The detailed engineering, reasonable turning circle, and unobstructed sightlines throughout.
  • And I valued the contemporary interior design, helpful technologies, and ergonomic order to the most-used features.

For $39,000, I’d be living large in a small space.


2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited Hybrid AWD

Body style: compact, 5-seat, 5-door all-wheel-drive SUV crossover

Engine: 180-hp, turbocharged and direct-injected 1.6-liter Inline 4-cylinder; 195 lb.-ft. torque from 1,500-4,500 rpm

Permanent magnet synchronous motor: 44.2 kW (59-hp) from 1,600-2,000 rpm

Total system power: 226-hp; 195 lb.-ft. from 0-1,600 rpm

Battery type: 64 kW lithium-ion polymer, 1.49 kWh capacity and 270-volts maximum

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 37/36/37 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane recommended

Coefficient of drag: 0.33 cd


Fuel tank: 13.7 gals.

Cargo space: 38.8-74.5 cu. ft.

Front head/leg room: 38.3*/41.1 in. *40.1 w/o pano roof

Rear head/leg room: 39.5/41.3 in.

Length/wheelbase: 182.3/108.5 in.

Width/height: 73.4/65.6 in.

Curb weight: 3,752 lbs.

Turning circle: 38.6 ft.


Base price: $38,535, including $1,185 freight charge; price as tested $38,704

Options on test vehicle: carpeted floor mats (4) $135

Where assembled: Ulsan, Korea

Warranties: 5-years/60,000-miles bumper to bumper with free scheduled maintenance for 3-years/36,000-miles (oil changes and tire rotation) and roadside assistance for 5 years and unlimited mileage; 10-years/100,000-miles powertrain

Hybrid components and hybrid battery: 10-years/100,000-miles

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2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy Review

Stylized Penmanship Promotes Range-Topping Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy SUV to the Luxury Class

A front view of the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy starts at $43,285, including AWD. (Photos courtesy of Hyundai)

Table of Contents

New features
What was redesigned?
Safety features
Ride and handling
Interior function
Back seat and cargo space
Why buy the Santa Fe Calligraphy?



Hyundai has tended well to its midsize Santa Fe SUV moneymaker. This unibody SUV was introduced in 2001 and it would become the top-selling SUV in the brand’s 32-year history in America.

Over its lifecycle, the five-seat Santa Fe has been updated at least every two years. And major redesigns were applied every four years. And for a time, it was offered as a seven-seat Unlimited trim level.

Hyundai says it is aggressive in its updates for all vehicle lines. However, the company puts its updated models on sale sooner than most people update their smartphones.

“For mainstream high-volume priority vehicles, we never let these rest,” a spokesman said.  “The second we put out a vehicle, the engineers are working on the next generation or upcoming adjustments.”

The interior of the Santa Fe Calligraphy

Calligraphy details include Nappa leather and a 10.25-inch touch-screen.

Santa Fe Overview

Today, Hyundai has six SUV models, including electrified choices. The Santa Fe ranks No. 2 in sales, behind the compact Tucson.

The fourth-gen Santa Fe SUV debuted in 2018 and there was yet another significant refresh in 2020 for the 2021 model year.

Hyundai means “modern,” as translated, and the current Santa Fe is thoroughly equipped with advanced technologies for safety and driver assistance. And there appears to have been special care taken to create a calming and intuitive human-machine interface to access all of those electronically sophisticated systems.

While Hyundai has maintained the value choice in the entry models, it also has pushed a more “luxurious character.” The top-line models have more premium materials such as quilted Nappa leather and unique wheel designs.

Ambient lighting along the Calligraphy shift console

LED ambient lighting.

What’s New for 2021

The Hyundai Santa Fe had freshened exterior and interior designs for 2021. The updated added LED front and rear lighting, a new hybrid powertrain with all-wheel drive, and new driver safety and convenience features.

The new range-topping Calligraphy model builds upon the Santa Fe Limited. Its features include the more powerful 2.5-liter turbocharged engine with HTRAC AWD ($1,700) and exclusive-design 20-inch alloy wheels.

The Calligraphy treatment includes quilted Nappa leather, premium door and seat accent trim, eco-suede headliner, ambient lighting themes, and auto up-down rear windows. Power-folding side mirrors have puddle lamps and turn signals. Driver technologies include downhill brake control and a full-color heads-up display.

There will be no changes for the 2022 model year. But a more rugged appearance Santa Fe XRT trim was just added. Pricing starts at $32,300 for front-drive and $34,000f with AWD; pricing does not include the freight charge.

Floating center console in the Santa Fe Calligraphy

The high-position “floating” center console.

What Was Redesigned

The freshened styling has subtle exterior changes. There is a broader, three-dimensional grille and T-shaped LED lighting and daytime running lights.

The silhouette has a more horizontal cabin profile with scalloped lower door panels and a long hood with character lines. Sharp shoulder lines connect front and rear LED lights. Rear reflector accents visually link the LED rear taillights.

The interior was reworked for a more “luxurious character.” The interior space feels more open and with more natural light. In addition, a high-position “floating” center console has stealth lower shelf storage.

A multi-layered, three-dimensional instrument panel and contrasting seat stitching lend a premium presence, Hyundai says.

Santa Fe Pricing

Sold in four trim levels, starting prices for the entry SE and SEL gas-powered models range from $28,185 to $29,985 for the SEL, both with front-drive. Add $1,700 for AWD.

Moving up to the Limited, with the turbocharged engine packaged with AWD, starts at $41,635. And the new top-line Calligraphy with the turbo engine, AWD and 19-inch wheels starts at $43,435. All MSRPs include the $1,185 freight charge from Montgomery, Ala.

Today’s Calligraphy tester was $43,590, including one option for carpeted floor mats, $155.

Look for Hyundai pricing incentives and special programs here.

A door panel in the Santa Fe Calligraphy

Calligraphy details are seen and felt throughout the cabin.

Santa Fe Safety Features

The Santa Fe Calligraphy SUV has the full suite of Hyundai safety technologies. The list will compare with those features offered by top luxury brands.

I especially value Hyundai’s blind-spot view monitor. Cameras in the side mirrors switch on when using the turn signal. The image gives a clear view of what might be alongside the vehicle. On the right side, it might be a bicyclist. On the left, it could be a motorcyclist.

Hyundai’s SmartSense advanced driver assistance systems provide Level 2 semi-autonomous driving. When activated, the network of multiple radar sensors, ultrasonic sensors, and cameras do a good job of keeping the Santa Fe centered between the white lines.

But all Level 2 assist systems require two hands on the wheel and driver vigilance. The system sensors can be confused by certain daylight and road conditions that can trigger a random shutoff and then a restart. I’ve also experienced system shutoff when driving alongside white- or light-colored semitruck trailers.

Even with those few variables, the system provides guardianship protection in the event of driver distraction.

Standard Safety Features Include:

  • Blind-spot collision-avoidance assist,
  • Rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist,
  • Forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian-cyclist-junction turning detection,
  • Lane-keeping assist, highway driving assist, and lane following assist.
Santa Fe driver seat

There is easy functionality to the driver area.

Santa Fe Powertrains

The 2021 Santa Fe SUV is sold in gasoline and gasoline-electric hybrid models. All in front- or all-wheel-drive.

The gas models of Santa Fe have a choice of two Smartstream 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines, one of which is turbocharged. Both have direct- and multi-point fuel injection, idle stop and go, and eight-speed automatic transmissions. The base engine replaces the former 2.4-liter direct-injected engine.

The uplevel turbocharged engine replaces a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and brings an 18 percent boost in power, now at 281-hp. This engine is paired with the more technologically advanced eight-speed “wet” dual-clutch automated manual transmission.

The 4,017-pound Calligraphy AWD has fuel economy ratings of 21/28/24 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane recommended. In highway driving, I easily hit the 28-32 mpg range and about 27 mpg overall. The 18.8-gallon tank will provide a wide cruising radius.

Hybrid Models

Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid SUV models are sold in three trim levels with starting prices ranging from $34,835 to $41,135. (Hybrid models are built in Ulsan, Korea.)

The gasoline-electric hybrid models have a new Smartstream 226-hp 1.6-liter turbocharged hybrid electric powertrain with six-speed automatic transmission and HTRAC all-wheel drive.

The base Blue fuel economy ratings are 36/31/34 mpg city/highway/combined on 87 octane. The Hybrid SEL Premium and Limited have mileage ratings of 33/30/32.

A Santa Fe plug-in hybrid is expected to be in dealerships later this summer. It has 260-hp and an electric driving range of around 30 miles. Pricing has not yet been announced but watch for updates here.

The Calligraphy back seat

The back-seat legroom is adult class at 41.7 inches.

Santa Fe Ride and Handling

Acceleration from a start can seem hesitant as the turbo spools and the dual-clutch engages, but once rolling, the force is fluid and easily maintained. However, after a week of driving, the new owner will have adapted to the correct amount of pedal pressure to get past the initial hesitance.

The ride quality is very smooth-rolling, a testament to Hyundai engineering to eliminate friction and boost fuel economy. Much attention was given to cabin soundproofing, but the interior noise was more than I expected for a near-luxury vehicle despite the laminated windshield and side glass.

There was noticeable road noise at highway speeds that can be felt from the floor into the seat bottoms. The 19-inch Hankook Dynapro HP2 tires (235/55) might be contributors. These are all-season, low-rolling-resistance touring tires that felt hard, especially on concrete.

Braking is confident without grab from four-wheel discs. The front vented rotors are 13.6 inches and the solid rear rotors are 12 inches. Downhill brake control is included on AWD models.

Interior Function

There is an easy familiarity with just getting in and driving. The Calligraphy interior is handsome with a black microsuede headliner. Even in the tester’s basic black, the varying textures, contrast stitching, and matte-sheen of lower plastics looked more luxurious than basic. And there are no old-school wooden “accents.”

Mastering the swipe, tap, and turn of the touch-screen features does not require advanced training. Most users should be able to figure it out on the fly. The raised and angled center console is functional for knobs and switches that are just a glance away from the road.

There are numerous small-item storage areas, including the deep box in the center armrest console. The large sun visors slide and have large, covered mirrors. The wireless charging pad is cleverly positioned in a vertical slot adjacent to the cup holders. Door storage is generous and includes space for tall bottles. The front passenger has a slim shelf along the instrument panel to lay a phone and it is within reach of a charging USB.

There is a rather tall step-in height (ground clearance grew by about an inch to 8.2 inches) to the front and back seats. The front headroom is tall at 39.5 inches with the panoramic sunroof or 44.1 inches without.

The front seats are full-figured with eight-way power adjustment for the driver that includes lumbar and seat-bottom tilt for ideal positioning. Sightlines are unobstructed across the front fenders and over the shoulder. The 360-view camera gives birds-eye perspective when parking and the 37.5-foot turning circle is more compact than midsize.

Hyundai’s Smart Park Assist is a handy perk. Using the key fob, the Santa Fe driver can park and back out the vehicle from the tightest of spaces from outside the vehicle.

The cargo area in the Santa Fe.

The cargo area has generous space of 36.4 cubic feet behind the second row.

Back Seat and Cargo

The back seat area rides high but also benefits from a low hump to the transmission-exhaust tunnel. The commonly compromised legroom at the center seat should comfortably fit a growing teenager. Legroom is adult class at 41.7 inches, but the raised “theater” seating, with 37.8 inches of headroom, might be a tad short for taller adults.

The area is well equipped with a broad fold-down armrest, nicely padded, with cup holders and bottle storage in the door panels. Overhead grab handles include coat hooks, and there are two charging USBs and a 115-volt, 150-watt household plug.

The cargo area has a generous space of 36.4 cubic feet behind the second row, and there is usable “basement” storage.

The cargo space is wide at 45 inches and deep at 43 inches. But there is a tall lift-up to the floor of 33 inches. Fold the 60/40 back seat for 6 ½ feet in length. The seats fold flat for 5 ¾ feet of sleeping space.

A rear view of the Calligraphy

Hyundai means “modern,” as translated.

Why buy the Santa Fe Calligraphy?

The Santa Fe Calligraphy SUV has luxurious appeal and layers of attention to its design and engineering detail.

Among the Tier 1 luxury competitors, the Calligraphy is a bargain with the longest warranty for long-term ownership.

Santa Fe owners or lessors will have an attractive new choice when it’s time to renew.


2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy

  • Body style: midsize, 5-seat, 5-door AWD unibody SUV
  • Engine: Smartstream 281-hp, turbocharged and direct- and multi-port injection 2.5-liter 4-cylinder; 311 lb.-ft. torque at 3,500 rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch (wet-type) automated manual
  • Fuel economy: 21/28/24 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane recommended

By The Numbers

  • Fuel tank: 18.8 gal.
  • Cargo space: 36.4 cu. ft.
  • Front head/leg room: 39.5*/44.1 in. *41.2 w/o sunroof
  • Rear head/leg room: 37.8*/41.7 in. *39 w/o sunroof
  • Length/wheelbase: 188.4/108.9 in.
  • Curb weight: 4,017 lbs.
  • Turning circle: 37.5 ft.
  • Tow capacity: 3,500 lbs.
  • Coefficient of drag: 0.34


Standard equipment includes: digital key and push-button ignition, panoramic sunroof, 10.25-inch touch-screen navigation with traffic routing, smart cruise control with stop-and-go remote, 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio with Clari-Fi music restoration, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, wireless device charging,  8-way power driver seat with 4-way lumbar, 6-way power front passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, blind-spot view monitor, surround-view camera with overhead and guidance lines, automatic LED headlights with LED accents and high-beam assist, LED running lights, power-folding side mirrors with puddle lights, LED cabin lights, 60/40 folding back seats with recline, heated back seats, power-folding 2nd row, and 7 air bags


Base price: $43,435, including $1,185 freight charge; price as tested $43,590

Options on test vehicle: carpeted floor mats $155

Where assembled: Montgomery, Ala.

Warranty: 5-years/60,000-miles bumper to bumper with 24/7 roadside assistance; 10-years/100,000-miles powertrain

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Hyundai Venue SEL Review

The subcompact Hyundai Venue SUV crossover is a fun ride loaded with features and priced for youthful buyers

An exterior view of the 2020 Hyundai Venue

The Hyundai Venue is sold in three trim levels with starting prices of $19,000-$23,000.(Photography by Hyundai and Mark Maynard)

Table of Contents

Ride and Handling
Interior Function
Back Seat and Cargo Space
Why buy the Hyundai Venue?


Hyundai’s newest and smallest SUV crossover, the Venue, makes the most of difficult choices.

Based on the Hyundai’s subcompact Accent sedan, the Venue is the boxy equivalent, but it’s not a penalty box. It’s a fun ride, aimed at buyers with youthful bank accounts and loaded for their necessities, such as rapid connectivity for music, phone, apps, and other connected services. It has no-brainer drivability, seating for friends, and manageable maintenance costs.

Subcompact SUV crossovers represent the new reality of doing more in a smaller but well-equipped “car.” The choices continue to evolve with competition from the (new) Chevrolet Trailblazer, Buick Encore, Fiat 500X, Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX3, Nissan Kicks and Toyota’s C-HR.

Hyundai Venue front seats and driver area

The Venue driver area has intuitive placement of switches and dials.

But as sweetly packaged as it is, the Venue also provides a rich experience for mature drivers. Among the Venue’s assets are heated seats, no-nonsense placement of controls, comfortable entry and exit, and quick convertibility for cargo. And there are driver-assist technologies on the more expensive models.

With a tidy turning circle of 33.2 feet, the Venue is small enough to park anywhere. Consider this a selling point for urban dwellers who might have limited or no on-site vehicle parking.

The infotainment touch screen

The wide touch screen has a wide rearview camera.

Hyundai Venue Pricing

The Venue is sold in three trim levels of SE, SEL or Denim. All models are front-wheel drive with a 121-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. There is a standard six-speed manual transmission or optional continuously variable automatic.

Starting prices range from $18,490 with manual transmission to $20,390 for the SEL; add $1,200 for the CVT. The Denim starts at $23,190 and features Denim blue paint with a white roof, Denim-influenced interior, 17-inch alloy wheels, and leatherette-and-fabric seats. All MSRP pricing includes the $1,140 freight charge from Ulsan, Korea.

Check current Hyundai Venue pricing here.

All new Hyundais include free scheduled maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles. And that is in addition to the bumper-to-bumper warranty of 5 years or 60,000 miles (with roadside assistance) and powertrain coverage of 10 years or 100,000 miles.

The Venue SEL tester with CVT was $23,445 with the two main factory packages. The convenience package ($1,150) adds a power sunroof, smart-key locking and push-button ignition, sliding armrest storage box (a desirable extra on these cheap cars), leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, blind-spot collision, and rear cross-traffic collision warnings.

The Venue shift console

The shifter console is multifunctional.

The Premium package ($1,750) includes heated front seats and side mirrors, LED headlights-taillights-running lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, smart key locking and push-button ignition, 8-inch navigation touch screen display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Carpeted floor mats added $155.

Even base models have six air bags and a full suite of advanced safety tech, including forward collision warning and pedestrian detection, and lane-keeping assist.

Hyundai Venue Performance

The performance of the 121-horsepower 1.6-liter isn’t overwhelming but shows its grit for right-now power. Sport mode will sharpen the response, but I found it too jittery and was content to manipulate acceleration through a heavier foot. The manual transmission might give more direct performance, but hurry, it is going away for the 2021 SE model.

Hyundai’s “intelligent” variable transmission — IVT rather than CVT — can match a gear ratio with the optimum engine speed, the engineers say. But to me, it still feels like a CVT, sometimes vague and tuned for fuel economy.

The EPA mileage ratings (CVT) are achievable: 30 mpg city, 34 highway and 32 mpg combined, on 87 octane. My driving returned an average of 32.3 mpg and up to 37.6 with more highway driving. 

Hyundai Venue Ride and Handling

The highway ride is surprisingly comfortable for a small SUV with a stubby 99.2-inch wheelbase. Often, these small and tall vehicles can be prone to choppiness on concrete freeway surfaces. The torsion beam rear axle isn’t sophisticated for sporty driving, but its flat design allows greater cargo capacity. The SEL adds rear disc brakes while the lower-trim models are fitted with the less-expensive drums.

On the highway commute, there was no objectionable wind noise or tire harshness from the 17-inch Nexen N’Priz all-season touring tires.

The Venue's engine

The 121-hp 4-cylinder engine has fuel economy ratings of 30 mpg city, 34 highway and 32 mpg combined. (Mark Maynard)

Interior Function

There is nothing “cheap car” about the interior materials of the Hyundai Venue. Though there is plenty of plastics, they have pleasing grains and finishes. 

It’s roomy inside with a tall 39.4 inches of headroom, which trims a bit with the sunroof. Legroom is large-car long at 41.3 inches. But the one-size-fits-most seat-belt anchor positioned the belt higher across my neck than was comfortable. And some will wish for some seat-bottom tilt, but that is uncommon in these less-expensive cars.

The tires on the Venue

Tire sizes range from 15- to 17-inches. (Mark Maynard)

Driver sightlines are open and the rearview camera provides wide coverage with guidance lines. There is an intuitive placement of switches and dials. The shifter console is multifunctional with a parking hand brake, cup-bottle holders, and charging bin with two USBs and a 180-watt 12-volt plug. Sliding visors have large, lighted vanity mirrors.

There is plenty of small-item storage, particularly with the optional armrest box. There’s a short shelf on the passenger side above the glove box, which makes a handy place to park a phone.

Back Seat and Cargo Space

The back seat is compact but with a low exhaust hump for occasional three-across seating.  Rear leg room of 34.3 inches will be snug for adults.

There is a generous two-level cargo space that has a wide opening of 37 ½ inches. Fold the 60/40 back seat for almost 5 feet of length.

The back seat in Venue

The back seat has a low exhaust hump for occasional three-across seating.

Why buy the Hyundai Venue?

As the Coronavirus sucks the spontaneity out of our daily routines, having to replace anything, especially a vehicle, gets new scrutiny. How much or how little is required? Do we make ourselves happy? Or do we settle?

The Hyundai Venue is an opportunity to downsize without settling. It will expand expectations for its interior roominess and quality of accommodations — with the peace of mind from free maintenance and long warranty protection.

A rear view of the Hyundai Venue

All new Hyundais include free scheduled maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles.

2020 Hyundai Venue SEL Specifications

Body style: compact, 5-passenger, 5-door front-wheel-drive SUV crossover

Engine: 121-hp, dual-port fuel injection 1.6-liter four-cylinder; 113 lb.-ft. torque at 4,500 rpm

Transmission: CVT w/sport, normal and snow modes

Fuel economy: 30/34/31 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane


Fuel tank: 11.9 gallons

Cargo space: 18.7-31.9 cu. ft.

Front head/leg room: 39.4*/41.3 in. *w/o sunroof

Rear head/leg room: 38.6/34.3 in.

Length/wheelbase: 158.9/99.2 in.

Curb weight: 2,738 lbs.

Turning circle: 33.2 ft.


Standard equipment includes: smart key locking with push-button ignition, 6-way adjustable driver’s seat, rearview camera, heated front seats and side mirrors, automatic temperature control, 8-inch color touch screen audio system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, 60/40 folding back seat, 2-stage cargo floor

Safety features include: 6 air bags, forward collision avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, driver attention warning, stability and traction controls, hill-start assist


SEL Base price: $20,390, including $1,140 freight charge; price as tested $23,445

Options on test vehicle: Convenience package, $1,150, adds a power sunroof, sliding armrest storage console, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, blind-spot collision and rear cross-traffic warnings;

Premium package, $1,750, adds heated front seats and side mirrors, LED headlights-taillights-running lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, proximity key with push-button ignition, 8-inch navigation touch screen with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and Blue Link connected services for three years;

Carpeted floor mats $155

Where assembled: Ulsan, Korea

Warranties: free scheduled maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles; bumper-to-bumper 5-years/60,000-miles with roadside assistance; powertrain 10-years/100,000-miles

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