2021 Hyundai Elantra

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
May 13, 2021

Buying tip

Elantras with the smaller touchscreen have wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; bigger screens require a plugged-in cable.

features & specs

Limited IVT
N Line DCT
31 city / 41 hwy
31 city / 41 hwy
28 city / 36 hwy

The 2021 Hyundai Elantra has big style, big available tech, and big range from a hybrid powertrain.

What kind of car is the 2021 Hyundai Elantra? What does it compare to?

The 2021 Hyundai Elantra is a compact sedan that goes longer in nearly every way: it casts a longer shadow compared to the outgoing sedan, it travels longer on a tank of fuel, it has a longer infotainment screen, and comes with a longer list of options. It’s a rival for vehicles like the Honda Civic, Mazda 3, and Toyota Corolla.

Is the 2021 Hyundai Elantra a good car?

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We love its features, fuel economy, and exciting look, but performance in base models is average, and interior quality’s duller than in the past. We give it a TCC Rating 6.7 out of 10, before safety data has been crunched. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What’s new with the 2021 Hyundai Elantra?

Just about everything, from its connectivity to its powertrains to its shape. That shape draws the most attention: It’s cleaved and folded like origami, with a deep diamond-patterned grille and complex creases at its waist, capped by stickpin-style taillights. The adventure stops inside, where a plain dash ribbed with metallic trim wears too much inexpensive plastic to look upscale.

The Elantra family’s a trio. The standard sedan has a 147-horsepower inline-4 and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that unwind power in a leisurely way. There’s less excitement from the battery-enabled Hybrid model, but it feels more awake off the line and delivers up to 54 mpg combined, according to early estimates. Save the golf claps for the Elantra N Line; its potent 201-hp turbo-4 and independent rear suspension take the best tack, blending brisk acceleration with confident grip that’s never too tense.

The Elantra’s grown a bit over the prior version, and leg room suits even tall passengers. Head room is less ample—and this Elantra’s interior is trimmed out with less comfortable seats and more hard plastic than past versions. 

All Elantras have automatic emergency braking, and crash-test scores are good.

How much does the 2021 Hyundai Elantra cost?

The recommended $20,645 Elantra SE starts things off with power features and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A mid-grade SEL adds a few conveniences, while the $26,445 Elantra Limited gets leather upholstery, a 10.3-inch touchscreen, and wireless smartphone charging. Hybrids cost about $2,500 more in SEL and Limited trim, while the sporty Elantra N Line starts at $25,095.

Where is the 2021 Hyundai Elantra made?

In Montgomery, Alabama.


2021 Hyundai Elantra


The Elantra’s hypermodern body meets up with a more pedestrian interior.

Is the Hyundai Elantra a good-looking car?

We think it is, from the outside more than inside.

Hyundai has swung from pole to pole with recent Elantras. Two cars ago? Bristling with excited lines and exaggerated curves. Last generation? Wake us when it’s over. 

The latest Elantra sizzles with heavily creased body panels and a jet-fighter stance, but the cockpit’s a bit too bare. We give it a 7, with both extra points awarded to its exterior.

We’re still entranced by the Elantra’s dazzling new shape. In gray, silver, or other middling tones, it has the chamfered and carved look of a styling buck before the curves are sculpted in. Hyundai’s trimmed it down and lengthened it, which heightens the dramatic effect of its difficult-to-manufacture sheet metal. Diamond shapes scatter around the body, from the grille to the rear doors; at its sides, it looks as if it’s been pinched between two front-end loaders with exquisite origami skills. The fastback roofline is capped by stick-pin taillights and enough cutlines and edges to send a mating signal to a late-model Civic. 

Inside, it’s a sigh, but not of relief. The steering wheel gapes at the shapes behind it: a ribbed strip hides air vents and divides the dash between dull and duller. The wide center stack and console are canted toward the driver; the passenger gets walled off by a tall console grab handle that's also coated in gloss black plastic that takes fingerprints while it isolates. It's not a throne, it's a witness stand.

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2021 Hyundai Elantra


Stock Elantras offer middling performance; Hybrids are super-misers, while the Elantra N’s a pleasant surprise.

The latest Elantra takes a 4-cylinder/front-drive recipe and adapts it to radically different tastes. Mild at the core, the Elantra Hybrid’s a hypermiler without really even trying, while the Elantra N fires off warning shots at some of our favorite sporty compact sedans. It’s bland otherwise. We give the Elantra a 5 for performance, but it’d be at least a 6 based on the N Line model.

Is the Hyundai Elantra 4WD? 

No, all versions are front-wheel drive.

How fast is the Hyundai Elantra?

Not very, except in N trim. Base cars soldier along with a frugal, diligent, but ultimately average 2.0-liter inline-4. Rated at 147 horsepower, it ships power to the front wheels via a CVT, and does so without much gusto. With pre-programmed ratios to step through it tries to mimic a good automatic, but it lags from launches, even in a Sport driving mode. It’s sluggish even when the throttle’s pressed hard; freeway passes above 70 mph with one passenger aboard can take a while. 

The powertrain lets down what can be an entertaining car to drive. The dynamic improvements Hyundai’s made are noticeable in the Elantra, which has a more balanced ride with more crisp steering than in its earlier generations. With a front strut and rear torsion-beam suspension, there’s nothing exotic about its composition—and nothing widely out of spec in its ride and handling. There’s a bit of vagueness in highway tracking, but the Elantra’s better damped for most road types than before, and its brake pedal tuning is consistently good across the Elantra family.

Elantra Hybrid performance

Take a smaller 1.6-liter inline-4, marry it to an electric motor and a 1.3-kwh lithium-ion battery pack and a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic, and you have the 139-hp Elantra Hybrid. Our editors leaned toward this model as the better of the two naturally aspirated cars to drive, mostly because of its stellar 54-mpg combined fuel economy.

The Hybrid’s slight electric boost off the line simply feels more responsive than the engine in the base Elantra; its dual-clutch also has a more natural feel than the CVT. It’s also upgraded to a rear multi-link suspension that feels more planted. The Hybrid transmission can judder between gears and its gas engine can stir up a shudder in the drivetrain as it clutches in and out, but those quibbles are minor given the major difference in economy.

Elantra N Line performance

Here’s where things get interesting. Strip the Hybrid of its fuel-saving devices, graft on a turbocharger, and the Elantra N Line emerges with 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, enough for 0-60 mph runs in the seven-second range. Outfitted with either a 6-speed manual or a $1,000 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, the Elantra N Line lets power set into its chassis early. It’s a more vibrant car to drive, and it benefits from one of Hyundai’s few manual transmissions; the 6-speed has a light clutch and easy take-up, with long-ish lever throws.

Outfitted with 235/40 R18 Goodyear Eagle F1s, the manual-shift Elantra N Line outgrips the all-season tires that come with automatic-transmission versions. It’s not just the tires; the Elantra N Line’s springs are stiffer front and back; it gets the independent rear suspension and a rear stabilizer bar as well as bigger front brake rotors, too. All the tautness missing from the base Elantra is found here without ruining ride quality. At about 3,000 pounds, the lighter-weight Elantra N Line strikes a nice balance between responsive tuning and everyday comfort. It leaves plenty of room for the upcoming Elantra N and its 275-plus horsepower.

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2021 Hyundai Elantra

Comfort & Quality

The space is fine; it’s the Elantra’s padding that’s thin.

The new Elantra is more than two inches longer, an inch wider, and about an inch lower than the 2020 sedan that it replaces. Between the wheels, the 2021 Elantra spans more than 107 inches, which is about an inch longer than before. 

We’re good with the interior space we find inside the mid-size Hyundai sedan. Our 6-foot drivers can fit behind themselves in its seats, and head room is ample even though overall height has been cut by about an inch. That reduction translates into a lower seating position than before, and we’re OK with it; there’s some of the low-riding Honda feel in the Elantra that doesn’t turn into a bathtub feel.

What we’re less OK with is the thin padding and chintzy seat fabrics on lower-end Elantras. A degree of refinement has been lost from the car of just a generation ago. The seats don’t have much support, and the lumbar adjustment on power-adjustable versions has a defined outline that makes itself known. 

Rear-seat riders get 38 inches of leg room in the Elantra, as much as some mid-size sedans—but head room will pinch those same 6-footers. Fold down the rear seats and the Elantra’s 14.2-cubic-foot trunk has lost only 0.2 cubes from last year’s model. 

Interior quality is the Elantra’s biggest letdown. It’s not just the seats; the high-water line for hard black plastic has risen to shoulder height, and most of the Elantra’s dash is put together from that mid-grade trim, mixed in with gloss-black surrounds for touchscreens and grab handles. It lacks USB charging ports and air vents in the back seat. Road noise is mostly muted, though.

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2021 Hyundai Elantra


Crash-test scores are good, and the Elantra's on the board with safety features.

How safe is the Hyundai Elantra?

Crash-test ratings come in at five stars overall for the 2021 Elantra from the NHTSA, and with a Top Safety Pick for the Limited model from the IIHS. Lower-trim cars get the IIHS' "Poor" rating for headlights, though, and don't merit the award.

Hyundai fits every version with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active lane control, and automatic high beams. Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and rear automatic emergency braking are options. 

Outward vision is OK in the Elantra, but the low seating position and thick rear pillar make us want for a surround-view camera system, which isn’t offered. 

All told, we give it a 7 here.


2021 Hyundai Elantra


The Elantra rings the bell with wall-to-wall content.

The Elantra doesn’t miss a trick when it comes to standard features and options, infotainment, value, or warranty coverage. It’s a perfect 10 here.

Which Hyundai Elantra should I buy?

Value-minded shoppers should look at the $20,645 Elantra SE, which comes with power features, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cloth upholstery, and 15-inch wheels. We’d prefer the Elantra SEL, which adds 16-inch wheels, satellite radio, and automatic climate control, and grants buy-in access to Premium and Convenience packages.

How much is a fully loaded Hyundai Elantra?

The $26,445 Elantra Limited gets leather upholstery, a 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster, a 10.3-inch touchscreen, non-wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless smartphone charging, adaptive cruise control, and heated front seats. Options include 17-inch wheels, Bose audio, a sunroof, power driver seat, and an Android smartphone-based key that can unlock and start the car without a physical key. 

Shoppers with more specific needs should check out the $24,545 Elantra Hybrid SEL, which has equipment similar to that of the gas-only SEL, and the $29,095 Limited hybrid—while performance fans can spend as little as $25,095 for the sporty Elantra N Line.

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2021 Hyundai Elantra

Fuel Economy

The Elantra’s fuel economy soars, even without hybrid add-ons.

Is the Hyundai Elantra good on gas?

Gas mileage is one of the Elantra’s star attractions, and it’s excellent on all non-turbo models, particularly hybrids. We give it a 6 here, based on the standard sedan.

The most common Elantra will be configured with the base inline-4 and CVT. The EPA rates that version at 33 mpg city, 43 highway, 37 combined—a number we’ve easily exceeded in tests. Elantra SEL and Limited sedans get pegged at 31/41/35 mpg, thanks to bigger tires and more weighty features.

The Elantra N Line checks in at 28/36/31 mpg with the dual-clutch 7-speed automatic, and at 25/31/28 mpg with the 6-speed manual.

As for the Elantra Hybrid, it’s pegged at 53/56/54 mpg in SEL trim, and 49/52/50 mpg as a Limited.

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Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 5
Comfort & Quality 5
Safety 7
Features 10
Fuel Economy 6
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