First Look

2021 Hyundai Elantra: First Look

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author photo by Eric Brandt March 2020
  • The 2021 Hyundai Elantra is all-new, with a radical new design.
  • A premium interior moves the humble Elantra upmarket.
  • A hybrid Elantra will be available for the first time.

In today's world of compact cars, good isn't good enough. There are so many excellent compact cars on the market today that it's harder than ever to really stand out from the competition. Hyundai has been standing out a lot lately, with entries like the all-new Palisade 3-row crossover and the redesigned 2020 Sonata sedan. The newest part of the brand's resurgence is an all-new 2021 Hyundai Elantra, a compact sedan that won't be ignored.

Edgy Design

The all-new Elantra was designed by former Lamborghini designer Luc Donckerwolke. We never thought we'd be talking about Lamborghini and Hyundai in the same conversation, but we can actually see a little Lambo DNA in the new Elantra's bold front end and the sharp lines throughout its body. The Elantra adopts a bit of a 4-door coupe body design similar to what we see on the Honda Civic sedan, with a sloping rear roofline. The light signatures on the front and back of this car are quite distinct to the Elantra, and this car will enter a crowded segment looking unlike anything else its class. Some styling cues -- like the grille design and the wheels -- remind us of the Hyundai Vision T concept that we saw at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show.

Hyundai boasts that new Elantra is longer, lower and wider than most of its competitors. This gives the Elantra a sporty, low-slung look and a decidedly athletic stance, which seems to be a growing trend in compacts, such as the recently redesigned Nissan Sentra. The proportions of the new Elantra are similar to those of the Civic sedan, but the Hyundai is a little longer and wider than the Honda.

That's a Hyundai Interior?

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata surprised us with an upscale interior that we'd normally expect to see in a much more expensive luxury car. That premium trend continues in the new Elantra, which will give the likes of the Mazda3 a run for its money in the high-end, affordable interior game. Hyundai calls the interior layout an "immersive cocoon" and compares it to an airplane cockpit, which is actually a pretty accurate comparison.

The interior has a big passenger grab handle, like the one in the Jaguar F-TYPE, and the dash has two 10.25-in screens under one piece of glass: one goes where the gauges normally go, right in front of the driver, and the other serves as the infotainment system, oriented towards the driver. This is optional -- an 8-in infotainment system is standard. Hyundai also carefully packaged the interior for more space, and the Elantra is claiming more back-seat legroom and shoulder room than the Civic and the Corolla.

Two Efficient Engine Options

The base engine in the 2021 Elantra is a 2.0-liter inline four that will make 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, and it'll be mated to a continuously variable transmission. This is a powertrain that prioritizes fuel economy over performance, and Hyundai is expecting best-in-class combined fuel economy. The 2020 Elantra is already tied for first place at 36 miles per gallon in combined driving. Could the new one hit 40 mpg?

For even better fuel economy, you can get the first Elantra Hybrid, which will employ a 1.6-liter hybrid powertrain making a total system output of 139 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. That's quite a bit more torque than the base engine. Hyundai is expecting the combined fuel economy rating of the Elantra Hybrid to exceed 50 mpg, which would put it in the same wheelhouse as the Toyota Corolla Hybrid and the Honda Insight.

Smart Technology

The Elantra is getting on board with the industry trend of offering generous standard driver assistance technology on every trim. In this case, it's the Hyundai SmartSense technology suite, which includes forward-collision avoidance assist, lane-keeping assist, lane-following assist, high-beam assist, driver attention warning and, of course, a rearview camera. Optional features include blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, a safe-exit warning, reverse automatic emergency braking and lane centering.

The 2021 Elantra is finally bringing wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to the compact class. That means you can use these connectivity features while leaving your phone in your pocket or purse and without messing around with cords. That might sound minor, but once you try it, you won't know how you lived without it. The best part? It's standard on every 2021 Elantra, even with the base infotainment system.

Another cool feature of the 2021 Elantra is the Hyundai Digital Key, which is exactly what it sounds like. It uses a mobile app that uses Bluetooth and near-field communication to perform some basic functions, like unlocking and starting the car. You can even distribute virtual keys to family and friends through the app. (You can also revoke them remotely at any time.) As of this writing, the app can only be used on Android devices. Don't worry: Every Elantra will still come with a normal set of keys.

When Can I Get It and How Much Will It Cost?

Hyundai says that the production of the all-new Elantra will begin in the fall 2020 and that the car will go on sale sometime in the fourth quarter of 2020. We don't have any pricing information at this time, but we expect the MSRP to start around the $20,000 mark. Find a Hyundai Elantra for sale

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2021 Hyundai Elantra: First Look - Autotrader
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