2021 Hyundai Elantra Limited - Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Easy to use, delightful to look at, inexpensive to own
Story And Photos By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
At 7, I stopped counting the number of different materials that went into constructing the dashboard and door panels of the new Elantra. Talk about attention to detail. The driver's door-side armrest features a vertical section finished in nubby gray cloth which morphs into a band of matte black plastic. This panel abuts an horizontal surface coated with an almost imperceptible rubberized finish for better fingertip actuation of the electric windows and door locks.
The up-market Limited model we drove includes a striking band of white vinyl which divides the driver's side door panel and dash into upper and lower sections. This contrast panel, which Hyundai calls Quartz White Melange, continues to the center of the car, where it makes a 90 degree directional change to become the top half of a grab rail dividing the driver's seat from that of the passenger. Unlike the flashy driver's side treatment, the passenger side of the cabin is finished in various shades of black and gray that Hyundai calls "Gray Melange." This asymmetrical combo is not only stunning to behold, but a pleasure to feel and use. And in a car with a base price of just $25,450, it's a totally unexpected extravagance.
You wouldn't expect a vehicle weighing 3,070 pounds with a 147hp, 2.0 liter inline 4 to have much punch, especially since the engine makes just 132lb.-ft. of torque. That combination of weight and power makes for a lethargic power-to-weight ratio of 20.4lbs./hp. But in the course of the week we spent toeing the throttle of the Elantra, we never once felt that the base level "Smartstream" engine was inadequate to the acceleration needs of this ton and a half four door.
Part of the comfort level goes to the well adapted "Intelligent Variable Transmission" which does indeed seem to be endowed with a sixth sense of when to hold a setting and when to raise or lower the multiplication bar. Hyundai fits the CVT with a manual shift gate which is accessed by physically displacing the floor stick to the left, the bumping it to and fro to accomplish ratio changes. However, if you wish to perform this dance at the steering wheel, you're up shift's creek without a paddle, because the flippers you need are missing in action.
Hyundai has substantially altered the configuration of the Elantra for 2021. Overall length is up by 2 inches, and wheelbase increases by an inch, as does width. But height drops from 57 inches to 56 inches. The height drop alone bestows a much more streamlined roofline to the Elantra. Hyundai stylists maximized the difference by re-sculpting the former model's stodgy flanks into flashy works of art that pick up myriad reflections, even on our Quartz White sample. An understated front air dam, and flashy concave rear tail panel add further refinement to this great looking new package.
Our Limited rolled on provocative diamond faceted 17 inch alloy rims. These were fitted with 225/45R17 Kumho Majesty Solus M&S radials (TW500, Traction AA) that got a good grip on the proceedings even when the Elantra was deliberately poked into cornering on the limit of adhesion. This fine handling package has nothing to be ashamed about - even if you encounter a more than twice-as-expensive BMW 3Series hogging the apex in front of you. For more enthusiastic drivers, I would suggest upping the Elantra ante a grade or two by selecting the available 1.6 liter 4 cylinder turbo (201hp). A 1.6 liter hybrid is also offered, but choosing one will leave you with just 139hp.
What we liked most of all about the Elantra Limited was its exceptional ease of use. All the controls were where we expected to find them, so there's little or no familiarization needed to get underway and stay content. Among the little items that loom large in the long run were amenities like this: the face plate of the trunk actually contains a push button to open the lid without the need to run up to the cockpit for the actuation lever or scramble around your pocket for the button on the remote.
Likewise, the tuning procedure for the Bose Premium Audio (with 8 speakers and subwoofer) is blessedly simple, with no more than a bare modicum of effort required to install your favorite Sirius XM stations. We particularly liked the method of denoting station selections, which appeared in numerical bubbles that looked like they were encapsulated in a line of test tubes. The graphics of the infotainment system were just as arresting as the asymmetrical floor plan of the cabin.
2021 HYUNDAI ELANTRA LIMITED
ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, DOHC, Dual Continuous Variable Valve Timing
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 31MPG City/41MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $26,600
HYPES: Redesigned Beauty, Easy to Use
GRIPES: Paddle Shifts Would Be Nice
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10