They say close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. But while the redesigned-for-2021 Hyundai Elantra may not have thrown a perfect ringer, we’d hardly say its shortcomings have obliterated its chances of being a good choice for your daily driving needs.
In terms of the driving experience, standard features and overall value, the new Elantra is a strong contender in the increasingly marginalized compact sedan class. And despite, shall we say, some internal struggles, the model’s first-ever hybrid version and available manual transmission in the sporty N Line variant inject some new excitement into the lineup; it even made the shortlist for our Best of 2021 award.
For a comprehensive critique, be sure to check out our full review by Cars.com’s Kelsey Mays via the related link above. But for a rapid-fire rundown of the pros and cons, here are six things we like, and three things we don’t, about the 2021 Hyundai Elantra:
Things We Like
1. Surprisingly Comfortable Ride
The Elantra may be a small sedan with a budget-minded torsion-beam rear suspension, but its low-drama ride suggests a larger, cushier car. Impressive body control and shock absorption — even when fitted with larger available wheels — mean buyers will find longer drives less taxing.
2. Improved Athleticism
Complementing the Elantra’s comfortable ride is spritely maneuverability. The previous-generation sedan’s indifferent handling left one wanting for validation like that new Facebook profile pic that only gets five likes. Here, though, you can throw it around about as well as the characteristically agile Honda Civic, while body roll stays manageable through the curves and steering remains controlled at highway speeds.
3. Standard Powertrain Sets High Standard
The Elantra’s SE, SEL and Limited trim levels all come with a standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 147 horsepower and 132 pounds-feet of torque, channeled through a continuously variable automatic transmission. Despite the modest numbers, it has respectable off-the-line oomph and passing power that should be suitable for most motorists’ everyday needs.
4. Compact but Not Compacted
The everyday pragmatism of this commuter-class car doesn’t mean you have to compromise on cabin room. The low center console affords ample elbow room for those up front, while riders relegated to the rear shouldn’t find it necessary to politely lie when asked if they need the seat moved up more. Meanwhile, the Elantra’s 19 cubic feet of trunk space, per Cars.com’s independent measurements, is on par with rival sedans.
5. How ’Bout That Hybrid, Huh?
The winning combo of the Elantra Hybrid’s torquey powertrain and responsive six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission make it a no-compromise scenario for those wanting both improved performance and fuel economy. The hybrid is propelled by a 1.6-liter Atkinson four-cylinder with a 32-kilowatt electric motor, combining to provide a robust 139 hp and 195 pounds-feet of torque. Gas mileage, meanwhile, checks in at a competitive 50-54 mpg combined, according to the EPA, compared with conventional Elantras’ 35-37 mpg.
6. Bang > Buck
With a starting price ranging from around $21,000 for the base SE model up to about $29,000 for the top-trim version of the hybrid, the Elantra presents a value proposition that may have you overlooking its glaring flaw (yeah, yeah, we’re getting to that). We recently highlighted the Elantra SE as the best-equipped cheap trim level among compact sedans right now. Although admittedly scarce in terms of dealership availability, the SE offers an impressive set of standard safety and convenience features at the lowest possible price.
More From Cars.com:
- Shopping for a 2021 Hyundai Elantra? Research One, Here
- Find a 2021 Hyundai Elantra for Sale Near You, Now
- Redesigned 2021 Hyundai Elantra Starts at $20,645; Here’s What You Get
- 2021 Hyundai Elantra N Line: More Go, More Show
- What Is a Compact Car?
Things We Don’t
1. Inferior Interior
With so much yardage gained for the overhauled Elantra, it only underscores where Hyundai grounded the pass: cabin quality. In his review, Mays notes that interior appointments remain stagnant from the outgoing model — which is to say, the automaker cheaped out, especially in comparison to key competitors like the Civic, Mazda3, Nissan Sentra and Subaru Impreza, all of which provide soft-touch materials where it counts.
“Even in the Limited trim, the upper doors, where your arms and elbows might rest, are all cheap hard plastic, as are most areas your knees touch,” Mays says of the Elantra. “Things decline even further in the backseat, where the dollar-store treatment extends to the door armrests. The glove box opens with an undamped clatter; the headliner is mouse fur.”
2. Turbo, Later
The 201 hp and 195 pounds-feet of torque of the sportier-spirited N Line variant’s turbocharged 1.6 liter engine, mated to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed auto, sounds promising, and there is a lot to enjoy in the N Line’s various performance enhancements — but the deflating turbo lag at lower rpm kinda throws a wet blanket on the stick-shifting excitement.
3. Limited, Indeed
The Elantra’s lower trims, in addition to the N Line, all come with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But you’re penalized here for ponying up for the Limited where smartphone integration is concerned: The top-tier trim giveth the upgraded high-res 10.25-inch multimedia display, but it taketh away wireless integration, not to mention the must-have tuning knob.
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