2021 Hyundai Elantra Review
The Hyundai Elantra has been fully redesigned for the 2021 model year. As has been the case for a while now, it comes with plenty of features at a competitive price. Add in Hyundai's fantastic warranty and you've got a pretty compelling car, at least from a sensible car-buying standpoint. But Hyundai, much like it did with its recent Sonata, has upped the Elantra's emotional appeal as well.
On the outside, the 2021 Elantra is slightly longer and wider than before and has a sleeker roofline. Arrow-like styling lines along its sides add some character, too. Inside, there's more rear legroom and a new instrument panel design with available twin digital display screens. Set side by side, the screens impart a distinct European luxury sedan vibe.
Hyundai's got some sport sedan mojo going on for 2021, too. A new Elantra N debuts as the most powerful Elantra ever. Under the hood is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that puts out 276 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque. This motor, along with a sport-tuned suspension with adaptive dampers, makes the N an absolute blast to drive on curvy back roads.
The N's adjustable drive modes make real differences in the car's character. Eco/Normal mode is the bottom floor and Sport mode is just one simple step up. N mode seems like two or three extra levels — it's that much of a leap. This is when all the extreme ear-to-ear grinning starts. Here is when you get all the exhaust pops and burbles, a super-quick throttle response and a sharper steering feel. This is also when the suspension gets into a "Oh, hey, I feel almost every bump and road rut like a moon crater" mode.
If the N is too over-the-top, there's also the more affordable Elantra N Line that comes with a turbocharged 201-hp engine. Or if fuel economy is what you're looking for, there's also an all-new hybrid version of the Elantra. Hyundai says it will get around 50 mpg in combined city/highway driving.
Overall, we're impressed with the new Elantra. If you are, too, check out our Expert Rating to read our in-depth analysis of the ups and downs of this latest Elantra.
The new Elantra stands out with its high fuel economy, impressive technology and safety features, and roomy cabin. It's also comfortable and strong on value. Other than a lackluster base engine, there's not much to complain about. It's a great pick for a small sedan.
How does the Elantra drive?
The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is lacking when it comes to speed. At Edmunds' test track, our Elantra reached 60 mph in 9.4 seconds, which is slower than average compared to rivals. It's not terrible, but passing or getting up to highway speeds can be laborious.
What power it does have is sent through a continuously variable automatic transmission that Hyundai tunes for optimal fuel economy, so it too is not very impressive for spirited driving. But in typical situations, the transmission delivers a smooth experience, and there's only a little of the notorious droning noise that CVTs are known for.
Elsewhere, the Elantra is pretty middle-of-the-road. It handles corners decently well for a small sedan, behaving predictably, and it's not easily upset over bumps. But for a sporty drive, you'll want to get the N Line, which comes with a sport-tuned suspension.
How comfortable is the Elantra?
The Elantra delivers a smooth ride. There's enough plushness to soak up bumps in the road well, but it also settles relatively quickly. The seats are also comfortable for the most part. The driver's seat bottom feels just a touch flat, and it might not provide enough support on road trips more than a few hours long. There isn't much in the way of side bolstering to keep you set when cornering either.
The climate controls are easy to use, with big dials to command the available dual-zone climate control. The heated seats, when equipped, activate quickly. There is noticeable wind noise as you increase speed, but that is typical for the class, and passengers can more or less carry on conversations at normal volume.
How’s the interior?
The Elantra cabin is well thought-out, with plenty of space and good outward visibility in the front row. We're also pleased to see the back seat gained 2 inches of legroom over the previous generation, allowing for quite generous accommodations for taller passengers. Their heads might still graze the ceiling, but the Elantra is among the most spacious in this class.
Our Elantra Limited test vehicle came with a power-adjustable driver's seat. It has a wide adjustment range, so it should suit short and tall drivers alike. The steering wheel also has a generous amount of adjustment, making it simple to find your ideal driving position.
How’s the tech?
The Limited's twin display screens, one for the gauges and one for the infotainment, are pleasing to use. The infotainment screen has easy-to-follow menus and quick and clear directions. The Elantra also scores extra points for including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, though they only come with the standard 8-inch infotainment screen. Confusingly, the larger 10.25-inch screen requires a cord to run either smartphone integration system.
Another bright spot is the Elantra Limited's improved voice activation system that responds accurately to web searches, addresses and even climate control commands. The available full suite of advanced driving aids is one of the best modern systems, with smooth adaptive cruise control and lane centering. We experienced no false warnings during our testing.
How’s the storage?
Trunk space is slightly above average for the class, at 14.2 cubic feet, which is the same size as in the previous-generation Elantra. The rear seats fold flat with remote release latches in the trunk — some may find them more convenient than the releases on the seats themselves. Cupholders and storage cubbies for front passengers are nothing out of the ordinary. A wireless smartphone charging pad on the Limited trim is a nice touch.
In the back, there are two anchors on each rear outboard seat to fasten child safety seats into place. The anchors are easy to find between the cushions. The spacious back seat means you should be able to load rear-facing seats without having to scrunch into your driving position.
How economical is the Elantra?
Depending on the model, the Elantra with the 2.0-liter engine gets an EPA-estimated 35-37 mpg in combined city/highway driving. Either way you're looking at excellent fuel economy. We easily verified the EPA's estimate and even exceeded it on our mixed-driving 115-mile test route, achieving an impressive 41.8 mpg.
Is the Elantra a good value?
Now you've entered the Elantra's sweet spot. It simply runs away from the competition with five years/60,000 miles of limited warranty coverage, 10 years/100,000 miles for the powertrain, and free maintenance for three years/36,000 miles. We also find the pricing attractive, especially considering the long list of features that comes standard on every model. Our only complaints: the amount of hard plastic in the cabin and a back seat nearly barren of any design.
The Elantra has some "wow" factor with its effusive exterior styling, large bright screens and excellent voice controls. But it makes no claim to driving excitement and it's easy to see why. Hyundai made an excellent all-arounder, not a passion purchase. That's what the N Line version is for.
Which Elantra does Edmunds recommend?
For the regular Elantra, go with the SEL trim. The base SE is already well equipped with an abundance of driver assistance features plus both wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto. But the SEL doesn't cost much more and gets you a few more desirable extras (keyless entry, for example) plus the option to add even more features from option packages.
Hyundai Elantra models
The 2021 Elantra is a four-door small sedan available with four engine options. The first, and the one most Elantras will come with, is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (147 horsepower, 132 lb-ft of torque) connected to a continuously variable transmission, or CVT automatic. The Elantra is front-wheel-drive only.