2021 Hyundai Elantra: First Drive Review

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience 2021 Hyundai Elantra
All new for 2021, the seventh-generation Hyundai Elantra compact sedan now has a longer wheelbase, a wider stance and a lower roof profile. This strikingly aggressive exterior design follows the lead of the 2020 Hyundai Sonata sedan with a wide, bold grille that flows into the headlights. In profile the roofline has a coupelike shape, and the side view draws focus to three sharp lines that converge in the door. At the rear, taillights are connected by a light strip.

© Hyundai Motor America Model Lineup
The 2021 Hyundai Elantra is offered in SE, SEL and Limited trim levels, as well as the Elantra Hybrid in SEL and Limited trim levels, and the performance Elantra N Line. The Elantra SE starts at $19,650 followed by the SEL at $20,900 and the Limited at $25,450. The Elantra Hybrid SEL starts at $23,550 and the Hybrid Limited is $28,100. The Elantra SEL offers two option packages — a Convenience Package is $950 and a Premium Package is $3,050. Elantra N Line starts at $24,100 with 6-speed manual transmission. Prices exclude a $995 destination charge.

© Hyundai Motor America Under the Hood
The new 2021 Elantra derives power from a 2.0-liter engine producing 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, combined with Hyundai’s Intelligent Variable Transmission — dubbed intelligent because of the shift-control technology. The 2021 Hyundai Elantra receives an EPA rating of 33 mpg city / 43 mpg highway / 37 mpg combined.

© Hyundai Motor America 2021 Elantra Hybrid
The 2021 Hyundai Elantra is also offered as a hybrid for the first time, powered by a 1.6-liter Atkinson-cycle engine producing 104 horsepower and 108 lb-ft of torque, teamed with a 32 kW electric motor for a combined 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. The hybrid powertrain gets a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission and a 1.32 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery with a maximum output of 42 kW. The electric motor provides an electric-only driving mode with instant torque at low speeds and additional power at high speeds. Hyundai expects Elantra Hybrid to achieve 50 mpg in combined city / highway driving when it receives EPA certification.

© Hyundai Motor America Elantra N Line
The Elantra N Line is motivated by a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine producing 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque at 1500–4500 rpm, combined with either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. The Elantra N Line also receives independent rear suspension, stiffer front springs, a stiffer front anti-roll bar, N Line-tuned shocks, larger front brakes, revised steering and N Line 18-inch wheels with either all-season or summer tires. The Elantra N Line adds an N Line grille with a red accent line, an N Line front bumper, black side sill moldings, an N Line rear diffuser, a trunk lid spoiler, N Line badging, chrome dual exhaust, a sunroof, projector headlights and full LED taillights.

© Hyundai Motor America Hyundai N
The 2019 Veloster was the first to receive the Hyundai N treatment. The Sonata N Line and Elantra N Line join the lineup for 2021; the Sonata arrives winter 2020 followed by the Elantra N in 2021. Hyundai will add three additional N and N Line variants through 2022 for a total of seven N or N Lines. The Elantra N has been spotted in camouflage and details are scarce, but we do know it will be powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine producing 276 horsepower combined with either a 6-speed manual transmission or an 8-speed wet dual-clutch transmission. More details will be available next year closer to launch.

© Hyundai Motor America Inner Space
Inside, the Elantra features a streamlined, driver-oriented interior with a high center console and an integrated passenger hand grip. The 2021 Hyundai Elantra offers two connected 10.25-inch display screens under a single piece of glass — a feature previously available only on vehicles that cost considerably more. A center 4.2-inch TFT display and an 8-inch infotainment screen are standard equipment. A 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster is part of an SEL Convenience Package, and the Limited adds the 10.25-inch navigation / infotainment screen. Riding on a longer wheelbase, the 2021 Hyundai Elantra adds 2.3 inches of additional rear-seat legroom. Even though the overall shape of the car is lower and sleeker, rear-seat passengers do not sacrifice any headroom, and the wider chassis provides a roomier space overall.

© Hyundai Motor America Elantra N Line Interior
The Elantra N Line adds N Line sport seats with leather bolsters, a leather-wrapped perforated N steering wheel, an N Line gearshift with metal and leather trim, an N Line analog gauge cluster, red stitching, N Line trim, a Qi wireless charging pad, a smartphone digital key, alloy pedals and a black headliner.

© Hyundai Motor America Dynamic Voice Recognition
The new Elantra has an enhanced natural voice recognition system that includes Speech-to-Meaning and Deep Meaning Understanding technologies powered by Houndify for improved voice recognition and response. The system can remember context, such as location, for more natural interactions. Using a “push to talk” button on the steering wheel, the driver’s voice can control many vehicle functions including climate control, heated seats, heated steering wheel, rear defrost and the audio system.

© Hyundai Motor America On the Road
The 2021 Elantra is an eye-catching design with balanced proportions, an aggressive grille and distinctive body lines that set it apart out on the street. We drove the Elantra Limited with its dual screen dash — a really nice feature for a car in this price range — and the natural voice recognition works well adjusting audio or climate control settings. The 2.0-liter engine provides adequate power and the transmission feels as you would expect a CVT to operate in normal mode, but more like a step-gear transmission in Sport mode. The steering wheel simply feels right — responsive, a nice size and feels good. Elantra’s ride is comfortable and controlled, and the quiet interior a big plus for this compact sedan.

© Hyundai Motor America 2021 Elantra Hybrid
When not in electric-only operation, the Elantra Hybrid feels like a standard drivetrain with its dual-clutch transmission shifting through the gears. With instant low-end torque from the electric motor and more overall torque than the standard engine, the Elantra Hybrid is a bit more sporty and fun than the non-hybrid version, while at the same time being more efficient.

© Hyundai Motor America 2021 Elantra N Line
The Elantra N Line definitely has a “hot hatch” feel to it — even though it’s a sedan — and with 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque at a mere 1500 rpm, it’s sporty and quick. The stiff suspension may be a little rough and bouncy for everyday driving, but it’s responsive and fun on winding canyon roads. Kudos to Hyundai for saving the 6-speed manual transmission, although we did find it a little difficult to shift smoothly because the rpm hangs for a bit after releasing the accelerator — likely for emission reasons. Also, the brake and accelerator pedals are not positioned close enough for easy heal-and-toe downshifts — a driver’s foot can easily slip off the brake pedal when trying to reach the accelerator.

© Hyundai Motor America Elantra N
We took a brief (less than two mile) drive in a camouflaged Elantra N prototype — what a rocket! Hyundai is developing a serious sport version of the Elantra to rival the performance of the Veloster N, and we look forward to the chance to see what that sporty variant will do.

© Hyundai Motor America Right for You?
Hyundai redesigned its Elantra compact sedan with bold styling, at the same time adding hybrid and N Line versions for additional fuel efficiency or performance. Although crossovers remain all the rage, those who prefer a sedan will discover a 2021 Hyundai Elantra possessing good looks, a fun demeanor as well as fuel efficiency. The hybrid is also a fun ride, while the N Line adds more power and performance-oriented suspension tuning.

© Hyundai Motor America Rating: 8.5
Pros: Bold design: new hybrid version; sporty N Line; dual-screen dash; voice recognition.
Cons: Variable transmission; stiff N Line suspension; pedal location with manual transmission.
Bottom Line: The Elantra has a lot to offer across the compact spectrum, from practical and economical to spirited and sporty.

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