|26 / 31||Fuel Economy (city/hwy mpg)||25 / 28|
|203||Base Torque (lb-ft)||181|
When it comes to crossovers, Chevrolet has been a reliable contender for some time, while Hyundai is a more recent competitor that has proven itself on the world stage just recently. Hyundai has built a series of highly reliable and cost-effective vehicles as of late, so it provides some proper competition to the established Chevrolet passenger vehicle line, especially the Equinox. That said, when comparing the 2021 Chevy Equinox vs 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe, the Equinox has several optimizations and features that make it a better proposition for many people.
When comparing the powertrains, interiors, chassis construction, and safety features of the two vehicles, one can see the varying strengths and weaknesses of the crossovers in everyday situations. After a deep dive into the details of these vehicles, it is clear that the Equinox has several important advantages over the Santa Fe, especially in terms of pricing and value.
The available powertrains of the Equinox and Santa Fe are quite different from each other, partly because the two crossovers occupy different size classes and partly because of differing priorities. The Equinox is built to be lighter weight and more efficient, while the Santa Fe attempts to curry favor with many different potential buyers. In this case, many people would likely go with the simple option presented by the Chevrolet. Some of the engines offered by the Santa Fe offer more power, but none are as efficient or economical as the base model engine in the Equinox, and all the Hyundai options are only offered at a significant cost premium of several thousand dollars.
The Equinox comes standard with a very modern and incredibly efficient 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine generating 170 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of torque. The engine can provide fuel efficiency over 30 miles per gallon when the Equinox is properly optioned, and said configuration is cheaper than any trim level available with the Santa Fe. Even when equipped with all-wheel drive, with the weight and parasitic losses that come with the grip such a system adds, the Equinox is still capable of up to 30 miles per gallon on the highway.
What makes the little 1.5-liter powerhouse so good is its advanced digital controls and all-aluminum construction. Direct fuel injection, adaptive and precise timing of air intake and exhaust valves, and powerful modern ignition all contribute to being able to squeeze more distance from every drop of gasoline than ever before. Add to that the lightweight of the aluminum cylinder head and engine block, and the result is one of the most efficient engines to have ever been put in a crossover SUV.
By comparison, the powertrain options offered in the Santa Fe come across either as too big for maximum efficiency or too complex to make economic sense. The Santa Fe’s main engine options are 2.5-liter engines that can come either naturally aspirated or turbocharged. The naturally aspirated version of this 2.5-liter not only makes noticeably less power than the 1.5-liter Turbo available in the Equinox but also fails to achieve the same kinds of efficiency the Chevy can achieve. Even at their best, either of the 2.5-liter engines can only get up to 28 miles per gallon on the highway.
While the overall makeup of the Equinox and Santa Fe’s unibody structures are quite similar, as they both use all the standard practices of modern automotive construction, there is an important and simple difference between the two that should be pointed out. The Santa Fe is technically one size class larger than the Equinox. The Equinox is classed as a small crossover SUV, while the Santa Fe is mid-sized.
The effects of this size difference, because of the different engineering choices made and the different goals of Chevrolet and Hyundai, actually have a large impact on the usability and affordability of both vehicles. Simply put, the Equinox is less expensive and more efficient than the Santa Fe. Because of its extra size and weight, the Santa Fe requires more engine, braking capability, and body material by default. All while offering the same amount or less in terms of features.
The Santa Fe does have more interior volume than the Equinox and a larger exterior footprint. But considering the dramatically increased cost of the Santa Fe, both to buy and to run, it simply isn’t worth it for most people. In most ways, the Santa Fe and Equinox are similar in terms of chassis layout, suspension, brakes, wheels, tires, and more. But all of those important systems need to be more capable and expensive on the Santa Fe, just to achieve the same level of drivability and safety. When going up a size class, the overall value of the purchase should not diminish.
On the inside, the Equinox and Santa Fe are more evenly matched. While the Equinox’s interior has a slightly warmer look and feel, the Santa Fe matches it in interior finish and overall modern style. Both vehicles offer a range of standard equipment and have a large amount of available upgrades. Depending on whether one’s aesthetic taste lies more with flowing organic lines or stark contrasting surfaces will dictate if either the smooth lines of the Equniox’s interior or the pronounced shapes of the Santa Fe’s interior are more pleasing.
In terms of equipment and infotainment systems, the comparison is more objective. Both vehicles feature available eight-inch infotainment displays loaded with their respective automaker’s latest infotainment operating systems and apps. Both crossovers have available premium high-fidelity audio systems with large numbers of high end perfectly tuned speakers. The Santa Fe and the Equinox have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability and Bluetooth integration to allow for seamless music streaming.
One feature the Equinox has that the Santa Fe does not offer is a mobile wi-fi hotspot. While both vehicles are evenly matched on infotainment features up to this point, the Equinox being its own hotspot is a significant advantage.
Comfort amenities are also an area of close competition between the two crossover SUVs. Both the Equinox and Santa Fe have heated and ventilated seats available, and the seats themselves have multi-way power adjustments with memory available. No matter which vehicle one selects, comfort will not be a problem.
In terms of style, most would likely say the interior of the Equinox, with its smoother and more elegant lines, is the better choice of the two. When it comes to infotainment and comfort, the Santa Fe and Equinox are very closely matched, but the Equinox does have some exciting features like the wi-fi hotspot that the Santa Fe leaves out.
The Equinox and Santa Fe have largely the same highly modern safety systems, despite one of them being thousands of dollars more expensive to purchase and continue to fuel. Both have well-sized disc brakes behind each wheel, with advanced stability control and anti-lock braking systems included. All of these features come as standard with both vehicles, as well as front, side, and curtain airbag systems.
Going beyond that, both vehicles have automatic emergency braking, forward collision alerts, and automated pedestrian detection capabilities. Whether one is talking about a pedestrian in the street or a child in the backseat, both are kept very safe by both the Chevrolet Equinox and the Hyundai Santa Fe. Both vehicles are great examples of what modern safety systems can do and how they seek not only to mitigate damage from accidents but keep accidents from happening in the first place. The only real difference between the two of them is that the 2021 Equinox does it for a lot less money than the 2021 Santa Fe can at any trim level.