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2021 Hyundai Elantra & Elantra Hybrid - Reviews by Larry Nutson

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A car with an attitude

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Hyundai took the wraps off the completely new 2021 Elantra for all the world to see in a web-based presentation last March. Now, in spite of the pandemic challenges we all face today, I have recently driven both the Elantra and Elantra Hybrid in a Covid-safe environment in a well-executed drive program.

The all-new seventh-generation Elantra compact sedan is based on a new vehicle platform with longer wheelbase, wider stance, and a lower roofline. The four-door coupe-like look follows what Hyundai calls “Parametric Dynamics” design theme.

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“While some manufacturers no longer see the value in the car side of the business, we’re doubling down by offering an all-new model with both gas and hybrid powertrains,” said José Muñoz, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor America. “We’ve sold more than 3.4 million Elantras here in the U.S. and more than 13.8 million worldwide.”

The Elantra’s long hood and flowing coupe-like roofline are balanced with three side sculpture intersecting lines that develop tension in the overall design. The Elantra is a car with an attitude.

Headlight elements are integrated into the grille and a full width taillight H-design punctuates the sharp trunk lid edge.

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Hyundai refers to the “immersive cocoon” interior layout that envelops the driver like an airplane cockpit. Low, wide structures go from the door all the way to the center console. There’s ample interior room. A large interface consists of two connected 10.25-inch displays. Customizable 64-color mood lighting lets you change your Elantra as you change.

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(DSC_0759) The 5-passenger front-wheel drive Elantra is offered in SE, SEL and Limited trims. Under the hood is a 147-hp 2.0-L four-cylinder mated to an IVT (I for intelligent) transmission. It’s Hyundai’s version of CVT that provides improved efficiency and simulates gear shifts like those in an automatic transmission. The SE trim is EPA-rated at 33 city mpg and 43 highway mpg. SEL and Limited trims are EPA-rated 31 city mpg and 41 highway mpg.

The Elantra Hybrid is offered in SEL and Limited trims. Under its hood is a 1.6-L Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder rated at 104-hp. This is combined with a 32kW electric motor/generator for a total system output of 139-hp and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. The Elantra Hybrid uses a 6-speed Dual Clutch Transmission. EPA ratings are 53 city mpg and 56 highway mpg for the SEL trim and 49 city mpg and 53 highway mpg for the Limited trim.

The small differences in EPA fuel economy ratings between trims is usually due to the different tires that are equipped on each.

The new Elantra’s wheelbase is 0.8 inches longer and is similar to other sedans is this segment. Overall length is up by 2.2 inches but the Elantra is the shortest among competitors making it the better choice for crowded urban and big city streets. It’s an inch wider and 0.8 inches lower overall with its coupe-like look.

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The cabin is quite roomy with key dimensions being increased a bit. My medium size body was very comfortable in the low seating position for the nearly 150 miles I spent driving the two new models. Hyundai says the new Elantra has best in class rear seat legroom. The overall interior design is well executed with material quality and finishes that you would expect in a higher class car.

I drove both models over a mixed route of local urban streets, highways and some more remote mountain roads. Handling is refined and comfortable with a balance providing both good ride and confident handling. There’s minimal body roll and mountain road twists and turns are managed with ease. Overall, the chassis has been nicely optimized for both good handling as well as comfort.

All Elantra models have 4-wheel disc brakes.

The Elantra provides a good bit of the fun-to-drive element. Both engines deliver decent acceleration as well as highway merging and passing. There’s plenty of power for climbing a mountain. Normal, Smart and Sport drive modes can be selected.

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In my drive of the Elantra Hybrid I got 55 mpg over a 73 mile drive on mixed local, highway and mountain roads. With its 11-gallon tank that’s 600 miles of cruising. (12.4 gallons on the Elantra with gasoline engine)

The new Elantra offers a full array of the latest Advanced Driver Assist Safety (ADAS) features including forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, lane follow assist, high beam assist, smart cruise control, blind spot collision avoidance assist, highway driving assist, safe exit warning, and reverse parking collision avoidance.

Voice recognition activates and adjusts features and settings. Optional digital key lets you use your smart phone to unlock the car and make remote engine start. Wireless charging eliminates cords, plus there’s Bluetooth connectivity.

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More details on the 2021 Hyundai Elantra can be found at

There’s also an Elantra N Line model with 201-hp and the choice of a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed DCT. Look for my separate story with all the performance detail on the N Line.

The 2021 Elantra has a starting price of $19,650 for the SE model. The SEL model starts at $20,900 and the top-of-the-line Limited is available for $25,450. The Elantra Hybrid starts at $23,550 and goes up to $28,100 and the fun-to-drive Elantra N Line is priced at $24,100. These prices exclude the destination charge of $995.

The new 2021 Elantra models will be built at Hyundai’s Montgomery Alabama production plant and go on sale this fall.

This report comes from an invitation-only Hyundai launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Hyundai provided my overnight accommodations, meals, and transportation.

© 2020 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy