2021 Hyundai Elantra
Earlier this year, the new 2021 Hyundai Elantra was awarded the North American Car of The Year - one of the most prestigious accolades a vehicle can get in this country.
It won on a lot of merits. All of which we will discuss here. We’re glad that we’re able to evaluate one for you, but we’re just as curious as you are.
All we want to know was how the jury at the North American Car/Truck/Utility of The Year came to the conclusion that this is the best car of 2021.
Taking cues from the current Hyundai Sonata, the Elantra was designed to disturb the compact car segment. They did so by going with a very sleek design with a fastback-like roofline, a clean-sheet front end, while maintaining easy access and space for all occupants.
This Elantra may look like a challenge for Hyundai’s engineers and designers. They simply pulled it off with a very future-forward car that is well executed. All of the details were designed for the future, including the rear end that integrates a “spoiler” effect while defining the rear LED taillamp cluster. However, we were not sure about the plastic trim piece on the C-pillars. It would be nicer if they had a pane of glass instead of that trim piece.
Our SEL tester looks more upmarket and sporty than middle-of-the-road. There is a dark chrome applique on the lower front fascia that looks very expensive. Our tester’s 17-inch wheels are part of an upgrade package to the SEL, which explains some of the nicer trim on this car. In all, the Elantra pushes the idea of a sedan further with its exterior design.
That theme continues inside of the Elantra. The cockpit is framed by a “bar” separating the driver from the front seat passenger, giving the Elantra a sports car feel inside. Our SEL tester came with an upgraded 10.25-inch fully digital instrument cluster that changes depending on which drive mode you are in. The Elantra also gets a new shorter shifter, a more integrated infotainment screen, and other updated controls.
Our SEL tester’s cloth seats were comfortable and supportive. Passenger space is excellent for a sedan in its class, with plenty of head and leg room both front and back. The 14.7 cubic feet trunk space was also generous and well-shaped. There is some lift over the bumper to load, even with a wide opening trunk lid.
Powering the Elantra SEL is a 147-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Connected to an Intelligent Variable Transmission driving the front wheels, this driveline does well around town and out on the highway. Passing maneuvers and on-ramps were easily managed with this engine. We also observed an average of 38.2 MPG in terms of fuel economy, giving the Elantra great efficiency, as well as good road manners.
The ride quality on this Elantra was very good. It was smooth driving on all road surfaces. Evasive maneuvers were managed extremely well with great response and nominal roll and lean. Cornering was superb and exact.
We can thank the steering system for making our drive a solid one. On-center feel was great, even without switching the drive mode to Sport. Doing so adds more weight to the steering system. A tight turning radius helped in making steering easier, even with some artificial feel from the wheel itself. We also love the braking system, which returned great stops in normal and panic situations. Pedal feel is solid and responsive.
The 2021 Elantra lineup offers four trim levels currently. Pricing starts from $19,650 for the SE model. Our SEL tester came with a sticker price of $25,100. The N Line is available now with a 201-horsepower turbocharged engine, instead of the 2.0-liter in our tester. Expect the powerful Elantra N and highly-efficient Hybrid models coming later this year.
The compact sedan market seems to be holding strong. The award-winning Elantra has plenty of competition for consumers to compare again it. These competitors include the Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Mazda3, Subaru Impreza, Kia Forte, Volkswagen Jetta, and Honda Civic.
We can safely say that we found the 2021 Hyundai Elantra a winner on all accounts. Not just for its future-forward design, but in the way it satisfies its occupants by the way it drives. The jury chose the right sedan for the North American Car of The Year.
Story Credits: CarSoup Editors