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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Autos

2021 Hyundai Elantra: All-new compact sedan arrives with a flurry of engine options, more

Hyundai figures if one new Elantra is a good thing, four would be better.

Elantra is Hyundai’s compact four-door sedan. It’s fully made-over this year — new platform, new sheet metal, redesigned cabin, updated electronics … the works.

Elantra, which recently was named North American Car of the Year, is longer, lower and wider than before. It has a longer wheelbase, which contributes to a better ride and roomier cabin. 

Rear-seat legroom expands by 2.6 inches, giving Elantra the roomiest back seat in the segment.

Unconventional sheet metal

Elantra is boldly styled, with an unconventional assortment of lines and angles and a sweeping, coupe-like profile. A jewel-patterned cascading grille with integrated headlamps and turn signals dominates the front end.  

A trio of character lines come together in the body-side panels to form a unique triangular effect of which Hyundai is especially proud.

Inside, Elantra’s cabin design and layout are freshened. A new 8-inch touchscreen anchors an updated infotainment system (a 10.25-inch screen is available). The system now includes wireless integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Fit-and-finish is sound but materials quality is iffy. Even the soft-touch surfaces seem to have met the accountants’ sharp pencil. 

The cabin is well isolated from wind and road noise. 

Take your pick

Hyundai offers Elantra with a choice of four powertrains, each keyed to a unique interpretation of the essential package:

  • SE ($19,650), SEL ($20,900) and Limited ($25,450)
    • The SE, SEL and Limited are the core Elantra trims; they are powered by a 147-horsepower 2.0-liter four mated to a well-behaved continuously variable transmission (CVT).
  • N Line
    • This is the sporty Elantra. It gets a sport-tuned suspension, unique styling details and 18-inch wheels with available performance tires. N Line trims are powered by a turbocharged, 1.6-liter four that makes 201-hp and can be paired with a six-speed manual transmission ($24,100) or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic ($25,200).
  • Hybrid
    • Elantra’s first hybrid ($23,550) turns out 139 hp and earns an EPA-estimated 54 mpg in combined driving. 
  • N
    • The track-ready Elantra N isn’t expected until the end of the year and likely will be priced in the low-$30,000 range. It will be powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder rated at 276 hp. Larger wheels, bigger brakes and adaptive dampers bolster the N’s track cred.

We tested an SEL trim equipped with a pair of options packages that added such desirable features as heated seats and mirrors, adaptive cruise control, a Bose sound system, a moonroof and more, bumping the bottom line to a reasonable $25,110.

Low rider

Inside, a tall center console amplifies the aircraft-influenced twin-cockpit layout. An unlikely cornering grab-handle spans the gap between console and dash. It’s an interesting touch,  but misplaced in our tester, which did not inspire aggressive cornering.

One sits low in the Elantra, which may dissuade folks with sore knees and bum backs. The front seats are comfortable and supportive but thin bottom cushions suggested they might not still feel that way after a long drive. 

A pair of available 10.25 displays — one a multi-information display/gauge cluster and the other a touchscreen — reside side-by-side behind a single piece of glass, lending a luxury-car touch.

Hyundai refines its natural-language voice-command system this year, simplifying many basic tasks.

Shortcut buttons flank the touchscreen, offering one-step access to common HVAC and audio functions.

The three entry-level trims run a torsion-bar rear suspension; all others get a more sophisticated multilink setup.

Suspension and steering system tweaks improve responsiveness and reduce unwanted body motions.

Tuned for comfort

Our SEL tester was tuned for comfort, not for on-the-edge handling. The compliant suspension soaked up all but the worst potholes but also allow for plenty of body lean in the corners.

Steering feel is light and the system communicates very little from the road surface. 

The 2-liter four doesn’t overwhelm — 0-60 rolls around in just about 9 seconds — but does its job with little racket. The CVT does a decent job mimicking a conventional automatic, lapsing into the soaring-engine revs syndrome only when conditions demand more acceleration.

Of course, will three powertrains available now and a third on the way, the new Elantra covers the bases.

Questions or comments? Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL
Vehicle base price: $19,650
Trim level base price: $20,000
As tested: $25,110 (includes destination and handling)
Options included: forward collision-avoidance assist, with pedestrian, cyclist and junction-turning detection; 10.25 TFT instrument cluster; adaptive cruise control, with stop-and-go; electronic parking brake; wireless charging pad; heated front seats; heated mirror; 17-inch alloy wheels; power sunroof; Bose premium audio; power driver’s seat with lumbar; digital key
EPA rating: 35 combined/31 city/41 highway
Regular gasoline specified



Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.