New 2021 Hyundai Elanta Named Car Of The Year

by Tom Crosby

New 2021 Hyundai Elanta Named Car Of The Year

For the third time in five years, Hyundai has redesigned its best-selling Hyundai Elantra, and the result — the Elantra wins the North American Car of the Year for 2021. The Elantra is now arguably the best-looking compact sedan as well as one of the least expensive.

For the past 27 years, the annual prestigious North American Car of the Year award has honored excellence in innovation, design, safety, performance, technology, driver satisfaction, as well as value in the automotive industry.

For our test-drive, we had a Hyundai Elantra Limited, top gas-only trim above S, SEL and new performance trims N and N-Line. Note, that there is a hybrid edition. The GT hatchback was discontinued.

Elantra now boasts a longer, wider body that sits lower to the ground. It includes more standard features, better voice recognition and improved gas mileage while slightly increasing interior space.

Despite a decline nationally in sedan sales, the Korean manufacturer believes the seventh generation Elantra can now lure buyers from the front runners, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, both of which cost hundreds more in similar trim/option levels.

Using what it calls Sensuous Sportiness in Parametric Dynamics to reshape the profile, Hyundai also made the car lighter and stronger using Hyundai’s third-generation K3 platform. The Elantra is expected to receive top safety scores when crash tested.

On the exterior, the car has a jewel-patterned interlocking grille, sculpted sides, hood creases, edged angles on both front and rear. The matching-wheel design creates what Hyundai calls a “disrupter look” for the coupe-like four-door sedan.

Behind the wheel, Hyundai’s Intelligent Variable Transmission interacts flawlessly with the 2.0-liter engine
for ongoing acceleration requests although it doesn’t produce immediate quickness in exchange for excellent miles per gallon.
With 17-inch tires, the suspension absorbs road impact well. The Elantra’s handling is excellent with the lowered body profile reducing lean in turns. Standard cutting-edge driver safety aids are plentiful, although the lowered body of the car does hinder entry/egress for certain drivers and passengers.

Inside, the well-designed cabin cockpit, bolstered perforated leather seats were comfortable, the rear seating was adequate except for very tall adults. The dashboard features an eye-catching angled 10.5-inch touchscreen connected to a 10.5-inch infotainment screen, both with large digital displays.

A felt-like headliner, two-tone textured plastic and cloth trim, a unique cornering passenger side handle and 64-color mood lighting helped create stylish ambiance.

The Elantra’s Blue Link Connected Car Service has excellent voice recognition and offers several features and functions, like getting sport scores or using a smartphone app to remotely lock or unlock doors, start the engine or pre-heat or cool the cabin.

Additional pluses, include a fully-extended visor, a compact spare tire and wireless Android Auto and CarPlay are standard.

And to on top of all of this, Elantra has one of the best industry warranties with 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage and three-year complimentary maintenance.


At a Glance

LIKES: Stylish, spacious cabin/cargo areas, handling, price, mileage, safety aids, and infotainment system
DISLIKES: Sluggish acceleration, road noise
BOTTOM LINE: A solid, affordable competitor in compact/mid-size sedan market


Fact File: 2021 Hyundai Elanta Limited

Base price w/destination fee
Curb weight
EPA Rating
$26,455 ($26,610) as tested)
2,868 lbs
107.1 inches
184.1 inches
71.9 inches
2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, DOHC
147-hp @ 6,200 rpm
132 lbs.-ft. @ 4,500 rpm
Intelligent Variable transmission
31 mpg city/41hwy
14-gallon tank
0-60 in just over 8 seconds


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Tom Crosby has written more than 1,000 automotive reviews and is a retired Vice President of Communications for AAA Carolinas. He has seen dramatic changes in the automotive industry over the past 25 years and ponders the advent of self-driving vehicles, electric-only vehicles, sophisticated in-car telematics, and the financial challenges facing automotive manufacturers in an increasingly congested worldwide market.

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