Hyundai upped its game, again, with the global reveal of the seventh-generation Elantra sedan. The car is truly impressive, but the West Hollywood set for the rollout, called The Lot, was essentially deserted: no journalists, no analysts, no photographers, and no caterers – just Hyundai people, dancers, and videographers for the live-streamed announcement Tuesday night. Since early March, there have been no major auto shows, and as of this week, no more on-location media/analyst introductions of new cars. They’ve all been called off or shifted from in-person to virtual because of coronavirus concerns.
As with the new midsize Hyundai Sonata sedan last fall, Hyundai imbued the Elantra with class-above features, a slew of technologies standard or optional including semi-autonomous driving and a pair of 10.25-inch color displays in the dashboard. There will be regular and performance engines plus a hybrid that will get better than 50 mpg. We expect the trim lines will sell for $20,000-$28,000 when 2021 Elantra ships in the fall.
At the same time, as buyers are shifting from compact cars to compact SUVs, the quality and desirability of small sedans has never been better, led by the 2020 Mazda3 (which shipped last year). Even old standbys such as the Toyota Corolla have injected a higher level of quality and amenities. Now Hyundai has a chance to raise the bar, as it did with Sonata, our reigning ExtremeTech Car of the Year.
The overall exterior design, with sculpted lines, a sharp crease running along the side, and dominant grille, is what Hyundai describes as “Sensuous Sportiness defined in the Parametrics Dynamics Design.” All we can say is, it looks good, and that is one big-ass grille upfront, which apparently is the parametrics design thing.
Hyundai is taking safety seriously with many standard features …
Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) with Pedestrian Detection.Lane Keeping Assist (LKA).Lane Following Assist (LFA, Hyundai’s term for lane centering assist) that can keep the vehicle centered on highway and city streets.High Beam Assist (HBA), or automatic high beams.Driver Attention Warning (DAW) system that monitors and warns of drowsiness.Rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, which (the camera part) is required in the US
… and offers these as options
Blind-spot warning (Hyundai calls it Blind-Spot Collision Avoidance Assist) and rear-cross-traffic alertAdaptive cruise control (Smart Cruise Control)Level 2 self-driving (Highway Driving Assist)Safe Exit Warning using blind-spot warning to keep the highway-side doors closed if it spots a car coming upReverse Parking Collision Avoidance Assist (PCA) to detect pedestrians and obstacles in back
The Elantra will come standard with an eight-inch color display in the center stack with HD Radio and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, wireless meaning for the phone to car connection and control. Wireless Qi charging is optional.
An optional feature is a pair of 10.25-inch displays (photo above) bonded under a single sheet of glass, one for a digital instrument panel, one for the infotainment system. It was only a few years ago that the center display was considered big if a 7- or 8-inch LCD was offered. The 10.25-inch display option includes a faster infotainment processor. Also optional is a Bose eight-speaker audio upgrade.
Hyundai continues to offer Blue Link, its telematics system, and with it cloud-based navigation (that or use your phone). The Hyundai smartphone app does the usual remote lock/unlock, find my car, blow the horn/lights features. Additionally, you can get an RFID card called Digital Key that works as a cheap (about $20 for extras) remote entry and car-start key via Near Field Communication and Bluetooth Low Energy. If you loan it to a friend, you’re not out hundreds of dollars for a key replacement if it’s lost. It’s for Android only; Apple remains fussy about what it lets its NFC chip be used for.
Hyundai says it has enhanced the onboard voice recognition system (regardless of what your phone offers) for conversational control. It lets you say: Climate on/off; air conditioner on/off; heat on/off; fan high/low; defrost on; set fan to face, feet, or face and feet; defrost on and set fan to feet; warm up/cool down; air intake system on; turn on/off heated seats (driver/passenger); set heated seat levels 1, 2, or 3 (driver/passenger); rear window defroster on/off; and turn on/off the heated steering wheel.
The 2021 Elantra is about as big as a compact car can be and still be a compact: 184.1 inches long (+2.2 inches longer than the outgoing 2015-2020 sixth-generation Elantra), 71.9 inches wide (+1.0 inch), 55.7 inches tall (minus 0.8 inches), with a 107.1-inch wheelbase (+0.8 inches). Among the roughly competitive set, it’s bigger than the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, barely bigger than the Mazda3, and 1.0 inches shorter than the Volkswagen Jetta. This should make the cabin even roomier; we’ll have to see what the lower height does for rear-seat headroom. Specs make the rear seat legroom, 38 inches, on par with some full-size cars.
The 2021 Elantra will be offered in the same SE, SEL and Limited trim lines. As for locomotion, the base car gets the current 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 147 hp and a CVT. Hyundai does hold out hope for performance with an N-Line version with a turbo four. And to keep up with the Toyota Corolla Hybrid and the Honda Insight (a Civic hybrid by a different name), there’s a hybrid version with a 1.6-liter gas engine, a 43-hp electric motor, a combined 139 hp, a six-speed dual clutch transmission, and a combined EPA rating of “more than … 50 mpg.” The Corolla and Insight hybrid editions are rated at 52 mpg.
The features of the Elantra should – could – shore up the sagging market for compact cars, which fell to 1.39 million last year from 1.56 million. The Elantra ranked fourth last year with 175,094 sales, down 13 percent, just behind the Nissan Sentra. The Civic and Corolla sold more than 300,000 units.
Not to diss the small sedan market in the least, but we can only hope the same styling, features set and technology of the Elantra come soon to Hyundai’s compact Tucson SUV, whose third-generation went on sale in 2015 and got a refresh in 2019. Expect it later this year as a 2021 model. Hyundai has been on a roll with excellent rollouts last year, including the midsize Palisade SUV and the Sonata. It’s likely to continue with the Elantra, and then, we hope, with the Tucson.
Car of the Year: ExtremeTech’s Best Cars for 20202019 Mazda3 Review: The Luxurious Compact Sedan for Track DaysReview: Standout 2020 Toyota Corolla Adds Safety, Performance, Hybrid