With some manufacturers getting out of the small-car game entirely, the 2021 Hyundai Elantra sets itself apart in a shrinking — but increasingly competitive — segment with flashy new interior and exterior styling, a brand-new hybrid variant and a sporty “N Line” model aimed at the enthusiast crowd.
While appealing to the enthusiast and green crowds may bolster the Elantra’s appeal with those niche audiences, Hyundai is aiming for the mass market with new features such as wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, an updated suite of safety and automated driver assistance technology, and everyday comfort and efficiency.
With the new Elantra, Hyundai counts itself among the remaining manufacturers in the class that are working harder and investing more in an effort to attract customers left behind by brands that have simply chosen to throw in the towel.
What’s new for the 2021 Elantra?
The Hyundai Elantra is all new from the ground up for 2021.
What’s the Elantra’s interior and in-car technology like?
Hyundai went to great lengths to ensure that its compact sedan is both feature-rich and a good value. The driver’s portion of the cabin boasts a cockpit-like layout framed by a large grab-handle running most of the length of the center console and terminating about midway up the dashboard. The front seats are comfortable and reasonably supportive but, as with most economy cars, do not offer a great deal of adjustment.
The base-spec Elantra has an analog cluster and 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. This system is compatible with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Stepping up to the 10.25-inch widescreen unit unlocks features such as split-screen app functionality and navigation, however this larger screen is compatible with only the wired versions of the aforementioned smartphone integration suites. Hyundai plans to rectify this in future model years. The larger infotainment screen is accompanied by a digital gauge cluster of the same size.
The Elantra has a handful of noteworthy convenience features, including front cupholders that can be configured for two different depths and a ventilated wireless device charging cubby. The latter reduces device temperatures during the charging process, both speeding it up and improving the comfort of picking up the phone when it’s time to go. Frustratingly, it is available only with the larger touchscreen, which means it cannot be paired with wireless Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. If you want to use either function, you’ll have to plug in your phone, negating the only benefit of wireless charging.
Materials in the back are less impressive, and you’ll have to spring for the larger Sonata to get niceties like charging ports or climate controls for the rear bench.
How big is the Elantra?
Like many of its competitors, the Elantra has grown enough over the years that the EPA considers it a midsize sedan based on its interior volume metrics. It offers front head- and legroom on par with the likes of the Honda Civic and Mazda3.
Despite the coupe-like styling approach, the Elantra retains plenty of headroom in its spacious rear bench (also as roomy as Honda’s or Mazda’s). Hyundai claims 14.2 cubic feet of cargo space in the Elantra’s trunk, which is about average for the class, but these figures are often so nebulous that we’ll wait until we can test it out in the real world before drawing any conclusions. Hyundai at least notes that the Elantra Hybrid has the same trunk volume and split-folding rear seat as gas-only models.
What’s the Elantra’s performance and fuel economy?
For the time being, this remains a question mark. Hyundai has not yet released full details of the 2021 Elantra’s powertrains, but we do know some preliminary specs.
Garden-variety Elantra variants are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque and paired to a continuously variable transmission that Hyundai dubs “IVT.”
The Hybrid is powered by a 1.6-liter gasoline engine and 32-kilowatt electric motor for a total output of 139 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. This variant gets Hyundai’s six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Final fuel economy figures are not yet available, but Hyundai claims the hybrid will have an EPA combined rating of 50 mpg. That's comparable to the Honda Insight and Toyota's Prius and Corolla Hybrid.
The sporty N Line model will be motivated by Hyundai’s 1.6-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder producing 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque paired with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The N Line also gets bigger front brakes and a multi-link rear suspension for improved handling and ride quality.
What’s the Elantra like to drive?
In short, we don’t yet know. Hyundai's most recent generation of vehicles have shown significant dynamic improvements over their predecessors, though, so we expect that trend to continue.
What more can I read about the 2021 Hyundai Elantra?
Hyundai wants to show it's serious about selling small cars.
Differences between the Hybrid and non-hybrid Elantra are minimal.
It has 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque.
It's very pointy.
Five features we love; one we don't.
What features are available, and what does an Elantra cost?
Hyundai has not yet announced pricing information for the 2021 Elantra, but we do know it'll be initially in four grades: SE, SEL, N Line and Limited. The Hybrid model will be offered in SEL and Limited trims only.
The SE model is the entry-level Elantra and will not be offered with any upgrade packages. The SEL, which Hyundai expects to be the core model, will offer additional standard equipment along with Convenience and Premium packages for additional features. The range-topping model is the Limited, which will be fully loaded and offer no additional packages.
The N-Line model’s key selling point will be its high-performance powertrain and sporty suspension. We expect it will be offered with features similar to those found on the SEL.
What are the Elantra's safety equipment and crash test ratings?
Every Elantra comes standard with forward collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams and a driver inattention warning system on every Elantra model. Higher grades can be equipped with parking assist with reverse automatic braking, blind spot monitoring with emergency steering assist, rear cross-traffic warning with automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control with partially automated steering on the highway. Besides the sheer volume of safety features, we've found Hyundai's to be among the best in the segment. They do their job well without annoying you.
The 2021 Elantra has not yet been crash-tested by the U.S. government (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The previous model received a four-star rating from NHTSA and was awarded an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating.