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2021 Hyundai Elantra, Santa Fe are safe machines with Top Safety Pick awards

The compact sedan and midsize SUV notched wins with the IIHS after a slew of crash tests.

Super safe, but only the Limited trim gets the award.
Jon Wong/Roadshow

Buyers mulling a 2021 Hyundai Elantra or Santa Fe can rest assured that both cars are mighty safe choices with the right equipment. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded both the compact sedan and midsize SUV a Top Safety Pick on Tuesday.

After acing the six standard crashworthiness tests, earning top-rated Good marks in each, the IIHS turned to its active-safety and headlight tests to see if the models sealed the deal. The Elantra comes with some standard active safety gear, and some optional, but both systems nabbed Superior ratings to help it qualify for the award. The Elantra's optional system is standard on the Santa Fe and also earned a Superior rating.

Now, we arrive at the headlights. Unlike the Top Safety Pick Plus criteria, which requires every version of a vehicle on sale to include Good- or Acceptable-rated headlights across the board, a Top Safety Pick sans "Plus" can get by with a single trim's specific headlights. In this case, the Elantra Limited features Good-rated LED headlights. All other trims actually scored a Poor rating with halogen headlights. For the Santa Fe, the Limited and Calligraphy trims are the only models the award applies to. It's the same story: These two trims feature Good-rated LED headlights, while other trims make do with lesser LED headlights that only scored Poor or Marginal.

For car buyers, that means you're looking at significantly costlier trims to actually get an Elantra or Santa Fe with the specific equipment that earns the Top Safety Pick award. However, even without the top-rated headlights, the other tests underscore both vehicles are pretty darn safe.