It’s been five years since Hyundai’s last major Elantra update. In that time, the North American auto market has shifted significantly. American car buyers are increasingly opting for SUVs and crossovers. Meanwhile, the once booming compact sedan market is in decline. Despite this, Hyundai isn’t yet ready to throw in the towel on its popular compact, which has been around since 1990.
The new, seventh-generation 2021 Elantra is being positioned as a return to its sporty roots. Indeed, Hyundai seems to be directly targeting its desired customer base of “young disruptors” with the Elantra’s new futuristic design. Whether the Elantra will make a big enough splash to disrupt a dwindling market is another matter entirely. Regardless, there’s a lot to like about Hyundai’s new car. Let’s take a closer look.
The most obvious shakeup to the Elantra is its outer looks. Featuring a complete visual redesign, the new Elantra sports sharp-bordering-on-aggressive side surfacing. Along with overhauled head and taillights, the whole thing looks positively futuristic. Alongside the 2021 Sonata, which features a similar curvy exterior, Hyundai is setting its sedan offerings apart with a sportier overall aesthetic. The Elantra’s new design could prove polarizing with consumers. However, it’s undeniably an exciting gambit on Hyundai’s part to try and dissuade people from buying an SUV instead.
Engine and Performance
Hyundai clearly put a lot of time and effort into refreshing the Elantra’s outer shell. However, the same can’t be said for the vehicle’s inner workings. Rather than pop in a noticeably upgraded engine, the new Elantra features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Unfortunately, it’s nearly identical to the one found in the 2020 model. In terms of performance, the Elantra’s base powertrain nets 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, which puts it on the lower end in its class.
Hyundai has confirmed a more powerful N Line version of the new Elantra is on the way. It should see a turbocharged engine with 200+ horsepower, if previous models are any indication. This marks the first time Hyundai has released an N Line version of the Elantra. However, we don’t expect it to be available until 2021 at the earliest.
Trimlines and Prices
As of this writing, Hyundai has yet to release full details on available trims & prices. However, expect the Elantra sedan to be available in three configurations: SE, SEL, and Premium. Previous years also included an Eco and Limited version, but they may be skipped in 2021. We’ll have to wait and see. Despite the design overhaul, the 2021 Elantra is expected to be priced in line with the outgoing generation. That would mean a base price just below $20,000.
For the first time ever, Hyundai is releasing an Elantra hybrid model. It’s about time, considering many of its competitors already offer hybrid variants. The Elantra hybrid features a 1.6-liter inline-four cylinder gas engine paired with a 43-horsepower electric motor, for a combined 139 horsepower. Unlike the Toyota Corolla hybrid and Honda Insight, the Elantra hybrid has a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. That should give it a bit of a different feel behind the wheel.
Hyundai describes the new Elantra’s interior as having an “immersive cocoon” layout, on account of it being inspired by what you’d find in a fighter jet. With its slim vents and slick infotainment setup, the new Elantra cockpit certainly lives up to the description. Although, you might be surprised by how roomy this “cocoon” actually is.
The new Elantra is 2.2 inches longer and one inch wider than the 2020 model, with a 0.8 inch longer wheelbase to boot. Added together, these extra dimensions make the 2021 Elantra one of the largest sedans in the compact market. The increased size also pays dividends when it comes to interior spacing. Lower seating position results in increased headroom, shoulder room, and legroom. Passengers in the rear seats also benefit from more space to stretch out. There’s also been a boost in cargo space, although the 14.2 cubic foot trunk is still less than what you’d find in a typical midsize car.
Circling back to the dashboard, Hyundai has injected some much-needed tech that prioritizes a driver-first focus. An eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto comes standard. However, Hyundai is also offering an option for twin 10.25-inch multimedia screens under a single continuous piece of glass. One screen features a digital gauge cluster on the driver’s side. The other is an infotainment touchscreen located in the center stack (but angled toward the driver). The two-screen option includes three years of Blue Link connected services. Included features in that package are navigation, remote engine starting, remote cabin temperature adjustment, remote door lock/unlock, and a Car Finder service.
Hyundai Digital Key is the final noteworthy piece of technology. Accessible through Android smartphones (sorry Apple users), this service transforms your smartphone into the vehicle’s key. It allows you to unlock and start the car without a physical key.
Design stylings aren’t the only thing the Elantra has in common with the Sonata. The 2021 Elantra utilizes the same third-generation vehicle architecture (K3) as the 2020 Sonata. Thanks to its multi-load path structure, this architecture improves safety compared to previous generations.
The 2021 Elantra also comes equipped with an impressive array of standard safety features. The headliners include forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, and automatic high-beams. You’ll also get a rearview camera thanks to the included infotainment screen.
As for upgrades, the Elantra’s optional advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) include a blindspot warning system with active assistance, lane change assistance, and rear cross-traffic warning. Adaptive cruise control is another available upgrade, featuring Highway Driving Assist which pairs cruise control with lane centering assistance.
Warranty coverage is split into two options, both of which are measured from the date the first owner purchases the car. Note that the powertrain coverage only applies to the original owner.
- 5 years or 60,000 miles basic warranty covering many parts and systems. Consumables such as brake pads, belts, wiper blades, and filters are covered for 1 year or 12,000 miles.
- 10 years or 100,000 miles powertrain coverage. Includes major engine and transmission components.
Hyundai has yet to release fuel economy numbers for the standard Elantra. However, they have made assurances that it will deliver best-in-class figures thanks to the vehicle’s intelligent CVT transmission. The Elantra hybrid is set to deliver over 50 MPG, so it should deliver comparable fuel economy to competitors like the Corolla hybrid and Honda Insight. For the sake of listing something, the 2020 version of the Elantra got 36 MPG from its most efficient engine and 29 MPG from its most powerful one. We’d expect the 2021 model to not shift from those numbers too much.
- Sleek new exterior design that stands out from the pack.
- More spacious interior and impressive array of technology offerings.
- Good selection of standard safety features.
- Same powertrain as the old Elantra.
- New exterior styling could prove polarizing.
The Last Word
From its sharp new exterior design to its many interior upgrades, the 2021 Hyundai Elantra is well-positioned to be one of the sportiest offerings in its class when it goes on sale in the U.S. later this year. Although it leaves a bit to be desired under the hood, the prospect of an N Line model down the road is sure to please gearheads who find themselves underwhelmed by the standard Elantra’s performance. At the very least, the Elantra’s model refresh shows that Hyundai has no plans to abandon the struggling compact sedan market. We’re excited to see how the vehicle fares when it rolls out in the fourth quarter.