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Exterior view of the 2021 Hyundai Elantra Limited

The days of compact cars being boring, disposable appliances are long gone, and the all-new 2021 Hyundai Elantra is proof of that. This boldly styled compact sedan promises a list of technology that we've come to expect from high-end cars, and it still packs the same value and warranty for which Hyundai is known.

While the 2021 Hyundai Elantra lineup has been expanded to include a fuel-efficient Elantra Hybrid and sportier Elantra N Line and Elantra N, for this test drive review I sampled the Elantra's base powertrain loaded up with the top-of-the-line Limited trim level.

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2021 Hyundai Elantra Limited Exterior

Exterior view of the 2021 Hyundai Elantra Limited

Without a doubt, the 2021 Hyundai Elantra is one of the boldest vehicles that Hyundai has ever designed, and it's easily the best-looking compact sedan on the market. This new Elantra is longer, lower, and wider than its predecessor. That means more athletic proportions, and although the design is a bit polarizing, there's no denying this car is eye catching. The ultra-wide grille is set low in the nose adding an aggressive look to the front of the car, and all models feature the LED daytime running lights and automatic high beam assist.

Like the larger Sonata sedan that was introduced for 2020, the compact Elantra features a similar coupe-like roofline, which extends all the way to the rearmost edge of the body giving it a hatchback-style profile. Almost every body panel features some sort of sharp body crease that created interesting color contrasts on this car's Lava Orange paint job. Being the Limited trim level, this Elantra was fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels, a dark chrome grille and LED headlights and taillights.

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2021 Hyundai Elantra Limited Interior

Exterior view of the 2021 Hyundai Elantra Limited

As stylish as the 2021 Hyundai Elantra is from the outside, you're likely not going to find an entry-level compact sedan with a better interior than the 2021 Hyundai Elantra. Hyundai's design team has created a five-passenger space that is roomier and more inviting than what most people will expect from a compact car, and the larger dimensions of the new Elantra gives this sedan more passenger space than the outgoing model. The 99.4 cubic feet of passenger volume is enough to get the 2021 Hyundai Elantra a mid-size classification from the EPA, making it roomier than rival sedans like the Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Jetta.

Even with its aggressively sloped roofline, the 2021 Elantra's headroom is practically identical to the 2016 to 2020 body style. The passenger compartment might be larger, but cargo volume is down slightly to 14.2 cubic feet compared to 14.2 cubic feet for the previous compact sedan.

Where the new Elantra really stands out from its compact sedan rivals is the design, quality and technology found inside this car. Overall fit and finish is remarkable for a sub-$20,000 compact car, and the cabin materials are definitely a class above. In place of the Elantra's standard analog gauges with a 4.2-inch digital information screen and an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, the Limited trim level adds a 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster and a 10.25-inch touchscreen navigation system, which helps the cabin look like a modern high-tech luxury sedan.

This trim level also comes with leather seats, leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel, wireless smartphone charging, adjustable ambient cabin lights and a 60/40 split rear seat with center armrest; the only option added to this tester was the $155 carpeted floor mats. The entry-level Elantra SE is no slouch when it comes to equipment, though, with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and dual USB ports all included in the base price.

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2021 Hyundai Elantra Limited Performance

Exterior view of the 2021 Hyundai Elantra Limited

The expanded 2021 Hyundai Elantra lineup offers a wider variety of powertrain options than ever before, but the standard model (like the one I tested) is powered by a 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder rated at 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. This engine is paired to a CVT with all other powertrain options offering either a dual-clutch automatic (standard on the Hybrid and optional on the N Line) or a six-speed manual (standard on the N Line). With this powertrain configuration, the 2021 Elantra returns EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 31 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway, and the trip computer showed an average of 38.4 mpg after a week with this tester.

Power output is identical for this new engine, but combining a longer, wider chassis with a lower curb weight lets the 2021 Hyundai Elantra feel sportier and more engaging to drive. All Elantra trim levels now come standard with four-wheel disc brakes, and the suspension tuning results in a smoother, quieter ride. Like the styling and available technology, the new Elantra has an overall ride quality that is a departure from the econo-box sedans that this compact segment was once rife with.

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2021 Hyundai Elantra Limited Safety

Exterior view of the 2021 Hyundai Elantra Limited

The totally redesigned 2021 Hyundai Elantra has not yet been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but it comes with plenty of safety content.

All trim levels get Forward Collision Avoidance with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Collision Avoidance, Rear Cross Traffic Collision Avoidance, Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Warning and Safe Exit Warning, while the Limited trim level adds an enhanced sensor-based Forward Collision Avoidance System, Smart Cruise Control and a Parking Distance Warning and Parking Collision Avoidance System while backing up.

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2021 Hyundai Elantra Limited Overall

Exterior view of the 2021 Hyundai Elantra Limited

The term "game changer" gets thrown around a lot these days, but the 2021 Hyundai Elantra does in fact change the game when it comes to the compact sedan segment. This market has changed tremendously since the Elantra first launched back in 1991, and the seventh-generation Elantra celebrated this 30-year anniversary by earning the coveted North American Car of the Year award.

Not only does this car boast a bold exterior design and a boatload of cabin technology, but it still packs the same incredible value for which Hyundai is known. The 2021 Hyundai Elantra has a starting price of $19,650, while the fully loaded Limited trim level starts at $25,450. Add in the destination charge and the sole option (the carpeted floor mats), the Elantra Limited driven for this review had an as-tested price of $26,600.

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Jeffrey N. Ross | May 28, 2021

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2021 Hyundai Elantra Limited Specs

Layout

2-door, 4-passenger, AWD

Engine/Transmission

Turbocharged 3.0L I6, 48-volt mild-hybrid, 382 hp, 364 lb-ft
Eight-speed automatic

Mileage

22/31 mpg (city/hwy)

NHTSA Safety Rating

N/A


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*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.