In March of last year I was just hours away from boarding a flight to Los Angeles to go see the reveal of this all-new 2021 Hyundai Elantra.  And then Covid hit and I was left watching the presentation on my computer.  But now a year later here I am with one on my home turf or the week to see what it is all about and I have to say the value is off the charts. 

This is the fully loaded, $26,000 Elantra Limited.





Whether you want a traditional gas engine, a 54mpg hybrid or a turbo with a 6-speed, the new Elantra has got it covered. 




With spacious passenger volume and a trunk that’s bigger than that of a Mercedes S-Class, this is an affordable, frugal, do it all kind of sedan that Hyundai decided needed edgier styling.  And boy did they deliver on that front. 



Now, I’m not sure it’s going to age very gracefully because the body is so overly styled with crazy creases and a very prominent grille, but if you’re allergic to boring in the inexpensive, not-so compact car segment this is your cure. 




Much like Hyundai did with the new Sonata, they’ve reversed course on reigning in the design and instead opted to make a visual splash and that it most certainly does.  And though this car’s powertrain is a carryover, the Elantra is built upon Hyundai’s new 3rd gen car platform which facilitates less weight, slightly better fuel economy and a stronger body. 



This car is also longer, lower and wider with the engine deeply recessed to aid in handling.  And that is perhaps the Elantra’s most distinguishing trait; even those who don’t identify themselves as driving enthusiasts will appreciate the way this car glides through turns and quickly responds to steering inputs. 



It gives you the sense that you are one with the car and that’s a coveted attribute that makes driving easier and more enjoyable.  And on this Limited grade you get Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go and a bonus feature.




The Highway Driving Assistant detects when you’re on the highway and will assist with the steering during smart cruise control.  It’s a really nice feature to have on a car like this.  And even though the 147 horsepower Atkinson cycle engine looks weak on paper, it actually feels really good. Combined with the Elantra’s low slung body and Hyundai’s excellent, in-house developed transmission it lends to a light, agile, sporty persona that makes it a real joy to drive.  And at 41mpg highway with a 434 mile driving range you’ll rarely have to stop for gas.      

The 2.0-liter engine and continuously variable transmission, which Hyundai calls an IVT – the I for intelligent – is a perfect fit here.  If you want more motor and are willing to sacrifice at least 4MPGs, the Elantra N gets a 201 horsepower turbo and a 7-speed DCT or even a 6-speed manual.  There’s still no independent rear suspension on this car, that’s reserved for the Hybrid and N Line, but I haven’t  felt like it needs one either as the ride quality is taut yet comfortable and the handling more than capable for a non-sport model.  These Kumho tires are the biggest limiting factor – not so much the torsion beam.  

In the Elantra’s TV spots Hyundai likes to talk a big game about 2 cool, new features but there are caveats to both.  The first is phone as a key which is supposed to allow you to use your smartphone to lock and unlock the car and start it. 



However, it does not work with iPhone devices just Android.  However, this cool smart card will do the trick regardless.  The other issue is inside.




The other is wireless Apple CarPlay, as you know, one of my favorite features.  So why do I still have this Lightning Cable in here, you ask?  Well, because on this top-of-the-line Limited trim with the best infotainment system you do not get this feature and that’s an issue I’ve run into with other Hyundai models.     

Elantra SE and SEL will both do Wireless CarPlay and Android Auto but come with a smaller 8” screen so just be careful when shopping because it runs contrary to common sense.  

But I do love this hotel room style card for times, like going for a run, when you don’t want to be bogged down with a bully key fob.  The trunk also offers a kick-free passage to entry simply by standing near it with the key on your body.



For $26,000, you are not going to beat what this Elantra Limited is offering.  It’s highly stylized, pleasing to drive and packed with high-end features and top notch infotainment.  And because this system is fed information from the cloud you’re navigation is always up to date and the Blue Link system can answer common questions through speech much like you would ask Siri.  When is Mother’s Day?  But for times when you’re using the Smart Card you have to place in down here on the wireless charger in order for it to start the car.  And this area down here is kind of congested already because you still have to use your Lightning Cable on this particular model so the ergonomics get a little muddy.  

The grab handle puts your passenger on notice that the Elantra can hustle but there’s still no height adjustment over here.  And this is unlike Hyundai – there’re no vents, USB ports, heated seats or even storage pockets on both sides in the rear; a Toyota-like move that runs contrary to the brand’s ethos.  This is the Limited model, after all.  But it is very roomy with over 2 additional inches of legroom than before.  

At night, the ambient light choices add a dash of Mercedes to your sub-$30,000 car – another reason you might want the Limited.  Loaded with advanced safety features and creature comforts – though no heated steering wheel, this is the kind of car that would have cost $40,000 not long ago.  Now, you can lease this exact car for $212 per month.  Pretty impressive but it has 2 things working against it: 1) it’s not an SUV and 2) it’s not electric so the Elantra’s relevance is waning.      


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