- Excellent tech.
- Very good fuel economy across all trims.
- Sleek new design inside and out.
- Potentially not as much get-up-and-go as its competition from Honda, Toyota, and Volkswagen.
- New exterior design might not be for everyone.
Vehicle Type: Four-door compact sedan.
Price Range: MSRP from $20,645 to $29,095
Powertrain: There are three powertrains offered by Hyundai: non-hybrid, non-N Line models get a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four cylinder producing 147 horsepower and 132 pound-foot of torque paired with Hyundai’s Intelligent Variable Transmission, their name for a continuously variable transmission, or CVT.
Elantra Hybrid models receive a 1.6-liter four cylinder that joins forces with a permanent-magnet electric motor and lithium-ion polymer battery, which is good for 139 horsepower and 195 pound-foot of torque. The only transmission that Hyundai connects to this hybrid powertrain is their six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The N Line, which is the hotter, more performance-oriented trim, has a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder which develops 201 horsepower and 195 pound-foot of torque. Consumers have a choice of a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The Hyundai Elantra has been selling around the world for thirty years now, with 2021 marking the beginning of this new seventh generation. What’s pretty cool to mention right off the bat: While the Elantra has grown in size over the years, it still maintains a form of sportback sedan styling. This is something the nameplate has had in one way or another since the beginning of its third generation, way back in the simpler times of the year 2000.
For as long as we can remember, it has been a formidable opponent to such four-door compact heavy weights as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Volkswagen Jetta. Though, despite crossovers being all the rage, this is still a stacked segment, as its competition also includes the Chevy Cruze, Nissan Sentra, Kia Forte, and Mazda3.
Does the new Elantra stack up? With as many as six trims offered, the SE, SEL, SEL Hybrid, N Line, Limited, and Limited Hybrid available, this certainly improves its chances. Hyundai boasts that this generation is lighter, achieves better fuel economy, and is more refined than the previous generation as well. Throw in a good amount of standard driver aid, convenience, and safety technology, and it is looking promising.
Overall Score: 9/10
Safety Features: 9/10
As of this writing, the 2021 Hyundai Elantra has not yet been tested and rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Though, we imagine it will score well with these top names in safety rating, as it possesses a lot of standard advanced safety tech. The 2021 Elantra comes standard with Hyundai’s SmartSense suite of driver aids, which includes Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist emergency braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keeping Assist, Safe Exit Warning, Lane Following Assist, High Beam Assist, Driver Attention Warning, and a rearview camera.
Optional additions to the SmartSense system include Blind-Spot Collision Avoidance Assist, Smart Cruise Control (Hyundai's adaptive cruise control), Highway Driving Assist, Safe Exit Warning, and Reverse Parking Collision Avoidance Assist.
The Elantra’s conventional safety equipment is extensive as well, with traction control, electronic stability control, vehicle stability management, side-curtain airbags, drivers knee air bag, dual front airbags, ABS, tire pressure monitoring system, and electronic brake force distribution.
Considering its starting price at $20,645, the 2021 Hyundai Elantra SE isn’t too far above the base Honda Civic LX ($20,050) or Toyota Corolla L ($19,925). The Volkswagen Jetta beats out everyone however with a base price starting in the basement at $18,995. Though, those have been around for quite a while now, and at least the Civic) is receiving a whole-new generation in 2022. The 2021 Hyundai is fresh, and offers a ton of new tech for its price point, and comes in a good variety of trims to fit a wide variety of consumers. Not to mention there’s a hot version available, the N Line, which is expected to compete directly with the venerable Honda Civic Si.
For these reasons, we would call it a solid value in the new car market.
Tech Features: 10/10
Standard convenience tech is strong in the 2021 Hyundai Elantra and includes an 8-inch color touchscreen display audio system with Bluetooth, HD radio, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, steering wheel audio controls, and dual USB ports.
The optional $950 Convenience Package offered on the SEL trim includes twin 10.25-inch-inch screens reside under one piece of glass to convey information to the front-seat passengers, upgraded Bose stereo system, including an instrument cluster that possesses different views depending upon driver preference: utility, driver assistance and navigation. This is reminiscent of the advanced systems found in MBUX-equipped Mercedes-Benz models, like the CLA 350. It also includes smart cruise control, an electronic parking brake, a leather steering wheel and shifter, wireless charging pad, heated front seats, and heated outside mirrors.
Hyundai also offers a $2,100 Premium Package on the SEL trim and higher, which includes advanced voice control functions. Using this system via a push-to-talk button on the steering wheel, occupants can control various functions, such as altering heated seats, changing the HVAC controls, change the fan directions, and also more complex functions like finding places via navigation.
Finally, Hyundai’s Digital Key technology is available in the new 2021 Elantra, which allows consumers to fully operate their cars without possessing an actual, traditional key. This is all done via an Android-only app (sorry, Apple users) which allows drivers to lock and unlock doors, start and stop the engine, as well as grant access to other individuals, including a valet mode.
Reviewers found the Elantra’s interior dimensions to be spacious compared to not just the previous-generation, but also the competition. Legroom is a generous 42.3 inches up front and 38 inches in the rear seat area, while headroom is 40.6 inches up front and 37.3 inches in the rear, despite its sportback design. Shoulder room comes in at 56.5 inches up front and 55.6 inches in the rear. This might be the most spacious compact in its class for rear-seat passengers.
The 2021 Elantra’s cargo room is good for its segment with as much as 14.2 cubic feet of cargo space. This however is dwarfed by the 2021 Honda Civic hatchback’s cargo space behind the rear seats, which is a massive 25.7 cubic feet. Stacked against the rest of its competition, it is generally on par with everyone else.
Styling & Design: 8/10
Hyundai went hard in the paint with revising the Elantra’s styling for this brand-new generation. It doesn’t really look like anything else on sale, and features a lot of sharp lines and usage of triangles and diamond shapes. Hyundai calls them “Parametric-jewel body surfaces.” While it might not be for everyone, we appreciate it looking a bit different. Plus, with its sportback body design, they did a good job paying homage to previous-generation Elantras while still making it look fresh and new.
Bold front fascia containing a big front grille, sharp headlights, sporty accents all comes together well, and Hyundai even integrated an “H-Tail Lamp” design to create a rear-end that is reminiscent of the Hyundai “H” logo.
15-, 16-, and 17-inch wheel designs are available to match its interesting lines, and N Line models receive sportier 18-inch alloys to match its sporty character.
On the inside, Hyundai has utilized a driver-centric approach to laying out the front passenger area. Just about everything has been engineered to be as accessible and easily-seen as possible for the driver. Its sporty, low-placed handles, high center console, and low door trim give it more of a sporty feeling.
Driving Experience: 9/10
In general, reviewers found the non-N Line Elantra trims to be comfortable city street cruisers, which soaked up bumps and rode well on the highway. It is composed, but in no way sharp. Good for most, though leaving a bit to be desired by people who want to have a tad more fun between A and B.
That is where the N Line comes in. Reviewers found this sport compact’s turbocharged, low-end torque to be a lot of fun, and enable them to cut through twisty, fun roads with a bit more gusto over the 2.0-liter, naturally-aspirated trims. Though, they did experience a little bit of turbo lag while accelerating out of tight corners.
The 2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line also has multilink rear suspension and stiffer spring rates, enabling sharper handling and grip in tighter corners. Though, its ride might not be for everybody; it tends to beat passengers up rather than cruise along in smooth-riding comfort. The N Line also has three driving modes: Normal, Sport, and Smart. These make changes to the ECU to either liven-up or mellow-out throttle response, as well as sharpen or soften steering.
The N Line is quick on its feet too: 0-60 MPH is achieved in 6.9 seconds with a manual transmission-equipped model, which is very good for its segment, though a tad slower than the Honda Civic Si.
When it comes to hybrid-equipped models, these actually have some slight performance benefits as well. The electric motor kicks in to assist and provide more passing and acceleration when needed; the figures don’t lie, its 195 pound-foot of torque is not anything to downplay.
Fuel Efficiency: 10/10
Modest engine displacements mean modest fuel economy figures, especially when they’re bolted up to either a CVT or dual-clutch automatic.
The base non-hybrid trims equipped with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder reach an EPA-estimated 28 MPG City and 37 MPG Highway, whereas the N Line gets to a respectable 25 MPG City and 33 MPG Highway. Finally, hybrid-equipped trims sip fuel significantly slower to achieve 34 MPG City and 43 MPG Highway.
What’s it Going to Cost Me?
Starting off the Elantra’s trim lineup, the SE trim comes in at $20,645, and includes four-wheel disc brakes, all of the base Hyundai SmartSense driver aids, idle stop and go (stop-start ignition tech for better fuel economy), 15-inch alloy wheels, projector headlights with daytime running lights, an 8-inch infotainment screen, and 4.2-inch center gauge cluster. Its convenience tech is stacked: HD radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and dual USB inputs up front.
Up next, the SEL trim starts at $21,895, has all of the SE's standard convenience and driver-aid tech, though gets rid of idle stop and go. This trim adds a proximity key with remote start, hands-free trunk release, Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car services, as well as the available SEL Convenience and Premium packages we mentioned earlier.
Then, the SEL Hybrid fetches $24,545, and includes all the amenities of the SEL, and adds the hybrid powertrain, 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, an electronic parking brake, and independent rear suspension.
Carving out the enthusiast segment, the N Line reaches $25,095, and features sporty design elements (especially its wheels), black-colored side moldings, a lip spoiler, N Line badging, chrome twin exhaust tips, a sunroof, the powerful turbocharged 1.6-liter engine, 18-inch wheels with performance all-season or summer tires, unique sport seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, black headliner, and other various upgraded styling bits. The lower trims' standard convenience and driver-aid tech is also present in this trim, making it our top preference!
Gaining a bit more luxury, the Limited trim comes in at $26,445 and includes all of the niceties of the lower trims, and adds parking distance warning, parking collision avoidance, all of the Convenience Package items as standard, including the dual 10.25-inch screen system with navigation, Highway Drive Assist, and Dynamic Voice Recognition.
Finally, the Limited Hybrid tops it all off at $29,095, which is, as the title alludes to, the SEL equipped with the hybrid powertrain and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The 2021 Hyundai Elantra is a good value for the money. With solid standard tech, a comfortable interior, good cargo room, competitive fuel economy, and fun driving dynamics with the N Line trim, this is a great step in the right direction for the legendary South Korean brand. We think it looks sharper than its bigger sibling the Sonata, it looks more upscale than the old Elantra GT, and is more in-tune with the enthusiast-loved Veloster hatchback. Plus, it comes off the factory line with hybrid availability to keep it competitive, which some reviewers found to be fun to drive.