Sunday, January 23, 2022
First Reviews 2021 Hyundai Elantra First Drive Review: Poised For Dominance

2021 Hyundai Elantra First Drive Review: Poised For Dominance

Hyundai has pulled all the stops for the all-new 2021 Elantra.


  • The Base price in Canada for the 2021 Hyundai Elantra is $17,899.

  • The Elantra is the third best-selling car in Canada.

  • Hyundai will launch at least 12 new products in the near future.


The “Big 3” have pulled the plug on the car and the Japanese and Korean automakers will forever be thankful. Long before the North American brands opted out of the car segments, they’d already lost against the likes of Hyundai, Honda, and Toyota. Hyundai has taken this opportunity and is running with it launching not only a new midsize Sonata but an all-new best-selling compact Elantra.

In Canada, compact cars still account for more than 275,000 annual sales proving simply that a good product in this segment can generate massive volume. In 2019, the Hyundai Elantra found itself as the third best-sellers in the segment, a spot it has held for many years. The Elantra continues to inch ever closer to the #2 spot long held by the Toyota Corolla, forever trailing behind the Honda Civic. These three cars alone accounted for nearly 160,000 sales of the total 275,000. To say this is a hotly contested category is an understatement.

The winning formula

2021 Hyundai Elantra | Photo: Olivier Delorme

For its 7th generation of the Elantra, Hyundai has stayed true to its proven format that sees design change radically while refinement, value, and performance evolve. On the last point, this applies solely to the “regular” Elantra as the pipeline holds a hybrid as well as two “N” variants, an N Line, and a full-fledged 276-horsepower N.

Hyundai products both benefit and suffer from their constantly reinvented designs. The benefits stem from their ability to design something unique, unlike any other vehicle in their respective segments which literally draws crowds of buyers. The 5th generation 2010 Elantra is proof of this. Gorgeous when launched, it rapidly became a common sight which was instantly dated when the 2015 6th generation car was introduced.

For the 7th round, Hyundai has applied its extremely complex and busy Parametric Dynamics design language to the Elantra, and once more, it looks like nothing else, except perhaps the Sonata. The sharp creases, highly evolved headlight and grille configuration and incredibly stylized hind quarters reveal new details every time one study’s the car but before long, so many new Elantras will be on the road that it will forevermore be from the current era.

Priced like a compact, dressed to the nines

2021 Hyundai Elantra | Photo: Olivier Delorme

This wise strategy does have the effect of getting current owners, wanting to get the all-new car, to trade-in and up sooner than they expected… Thankfully for them, if they can hold out on getting the latest model, they will never bore of the 2021 Elantra’s cabin. Granted, we drove Ultimate Tech-trimmed cars ($28,299) however so premium is this car’s interior that a $36,299 would not seem out of place.

The basic Essential trim includes a 4.2-inch instrument display with an 8-inch touchscreen display along with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. As part of the Tech package, both screens grow that an incredible 10.25 inches paired as one large display. In truth, this setup is reminiscent of what is found in the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Further to this, the Ultimate features leather, a cooled wireless charging pad, a Bose audio system, and more.

And while the Ultimate will only account for a small percentage of all sales, the mid-range Preferred still delivers a heated steering wheel, keyless entry and start, remote starting, as well as numerous active features such as Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Assist. All of this for only $21,899.

The dashboard’s presentation is unquestionably premium. The ergonomics are spot-on and Hyundai’s gone out of its way to make the driver feel special by wrapping him or her in a clearly outline zone. Fit and finish are beyond reproach and, although not entirely unique, the extended vent-like décor that bisects the entire dashboard is exceptional and rich. Finally, the cabin is absolutely vast. Despite the Elantra being slightly lower than previously, the car is wider and features a marginally longer wheelbase which translates into more room.

Powertrain and chassis evolution

2021 Hyundai Elantra | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The more evolutionary aspect of the 2021 Hyundai Elantra is in its powertrain. The naturally aspirated 2.0-litre, although revised for improved fuel economy, still delivers 147 horsepower and 132 lb.-ft. of torque. The Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT), Hyundai-speak for Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), is standard across all trims save for the very basic Essential which is delivered with a 6-speed manual.

The IVT is as competent as it has always been, perfectly mimicking shifts and maintaining the 2.0-litre in the more potent regions of its powerband. As such, the Elantra is far more entertaining to drive than expected. Part of this reality comes from the revisions made to the car’s chassis and the increase in length between the axles.

The most noteworthy improvement I found was improved steering response – Hyundai Auto Group cars typically suffer from vague on-center steering assistance however it was barely noticeable in the Elantra. Ride and handling have evolved – the car certainly feels more refined and overall smoother.

The best Elantra yet, the strongest contender too

2021 Hyundai Elantra | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The battle at the top, between the #1 Honda Civic, #2 Toyota Corolla, and #3 Hyundai Elantra will continue to rage on as each car is extremely competent. The Civic is the oldest of the three but a new one is not that far off. The Corolla is only about two years old and should be facelifted before long. In other words, no matter how good the new 2021 Hyundai Elantra is, it is unlikely to move the mountains that are Toyota and Honda.

Of all the compact cars, the Mazda3 is without a doubt the most premium and refined. The new Elantra comes close to matching it in both respects. The Elantra does manage to out-class the Civic and Corolla when it comes to cabin presentation. Perhaps this will be enough for the Hyundai to work its way closer to the top. And possibly even dominate.

2021 Hyundai Elantra | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Hyundai Elantra | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Hyundai Elantra | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai

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