The Korean automaker hopes that by committing to the small sedan segment, it can win market share thanks to a combination of improved product and departing domestic nameplates, such as the Chevy Cruze and Ford Focus.
To that end, the 2021 Elantra gets a complete overhaul, with new and updated powertrains underpinned by a brand-new platform. It also gets a new coupe-inspired exterior design and a tech-focused cockpit designed to lure in young buyers who want something other than a crossover.
The new Elantra's exterior design has already been teased in photos and a brief intro video, but this is our first real look at Hyundai's new styling direction, which is calls "Parametric Dynamics." Translated? Hyundai's designers were going for something sleek, but angular; sculpted, but not overwrought.
The signature design elements for the new Elantra include the sharp character lines along its flanks, a Hyundai "H"-shaped tail light design, and a a series of small elements meant to appear crystalline from a distance, tying in with the sharp lines of the Elantra's profile.
“Like the first generation, the seventh-generation Elantra/Avante has a bold character,” said Hyundai design chief Luc Donckerwolke.
“The fresh esthetic was completed through unconventional lines and a face that broke a taboo in automotive design. The new Elantra is highlighted by its stance that looks like geometric crystals and divided body surfaces to get a strong emotional response from the customers," he said.
Adding to the Elantra's visual drama is a slight increase in footprint. The car gained two inches of overall length, an inch of width and almost an inch of wheelbase; simultaneously, its roofline is almost an inch lower. Hyundai is calling it a four-door coupe, but we hate to throw the c-word around willy-nilly.
The 2021 Elantra will come in two flavors at launch: gasoline-only and hybrid. The former gets a carry-over 2.0-liter inline-four making 147 horsepower and 132 lb.-ft. of torque. Nothing exciting, to be sure, but it's pretty typical for the compact segment. This engine will be paired to Hyundai's revised CVT.
The more interesting variant is the hybrid. Hyundai is going after the Corolla Hybrid and Honda Insight with this new option, which is powered by a 1.6-liter ICE mated to a 1.32-kWh battery pack and a 32-kW (~43-horsepower) electric motor. Total output is 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, and it's mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
As an added bonus, hybrid models will be fitted with a fully independent rear suspension, whereas gasoline models are stuck with a twist-beam rear setup.
Sport sedan, but no Sport?
This is where things get a bit odd. Hyundai made a big deal in its teaser about the new Elantra marking a return to its sport sedan roots, which is an interesting and perhaps skepticism-prompting statement.
Further exacerbating this confusion is the apparent departure of the Elantra Sport, which was powered by Hyundai's 1.6-liter turbocharged four-banger and boasted an independent rear suspension, both of which lent the small sedan a reasonable degree of sport compact credibility.
Fear not. Hyundai has plans on that front. While its execs remained mum on the details, an N Line model is on the way. We expect it will pick up where the Sport left off, offering an enthusiast option short of the full-on N treatment offered on the Veloster.
This seems to be the 2021 Elantra's party piece. Hyundai is taking a page from some luxury brands by offering a dual-screen/single-housing type setup for its infotainment and driver information displays.
In top-trim models, the Elantra will have dual 10.25-inch displays integrated within a single bezel stretching from the instrument cluster to the passenger-side edge of the center stack. Hyundai brags that the two-part center screen perfectly frames both the available navigation system and smartphone mirroring apps.
Speaking of which, the Elantra can be had with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which is still a fairly uncommon option even on many brand-new premium cars.
Tech junkies will also appreciate its available Digital Key, which allows you to use compatible smartphones to lock or unlock the car at the door handle, similar to how you'd use an iPhone at a merchant with Apple Pay, for example.
Standard safety tech for the 2021 Elantra will include forward collision avoidance, lane keeping assist, lane centering, automatic high beams, a driver attention warning system and a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines.
Those willing to shell out a little extra can add blind spot collision avoidance, smart cruise control, and highway driving assistant (HDA). HDA is Hyundai’s freeway-only semi-autonomous driving suite which integrates other existing systems to automate some driving functions and minimize driver fatigue.
The 2021 Elantra will hit dealer lots this fall, with the first deliveries expected to take place in September. Obviously, timelines such as these are subject to external factors, and all eyes are currently on the automotive industry's supply chains as coronavirus has threatened just about every step of production and delivery.