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ORIGAMI SURPRISE: 2021 HYUNDAI ELANTRA LIMITED

Remember when Hyundai was pushing the envelope on the Elantra back in 2010? We’d like to think that’s what put them on the road map to popularity. Seeing how the last generation was a corporate snooze-fest, we’ll gloss over those years as if it never happened as Hyundai is back at it, pushing the element of surprise when it comes to their latest installment of their consumer popular compact sedan.

We’ve been seeing quite the mass market update in the compact sedan segment with nearly every automaker releasing some form of new design. With it being Hyundai’s turn on the Elantra, they certainly didn’t hold back from the protractor allowing for all sorts of abstract angles and funky shapes like the ‘H’ LED wrapping rear taillight, grille integrated turn signal and sharp creases in the side door panels. As if it’s an origami swan.

Even though this is a whole new generation for the Hyundai Elantra, its main source of power remains unchanged as it uses the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine from the previous generation. Having forgone the turbocharged ways of the modern world for its standard engine, the Elantra’s 147-horsepower and 132 lbs-ft of torque isn’t exactly one we’d take to the bank to cash our check on pleasant performance. Using a new fancy terminology IVT (intelligent variable transmission), it’s a continuous single speed variable transmission that simulates a six-speed automatic; feeling more like a CVT it comes across very humdrum with little aspiration to gain momentum, which means it takes roughly 8.5-seconds to get to 60-mph from a stop. Yawn. The performance fits the mundane world of commuting and daily routines – its power band is sufficient to pass slower drivers and pull out in traffic but will never the win over the ones that feel the need for speed.

On the better end of the gamut, the Elantra’s chassis is quite superb – it carries fluid motions through its suspension that manages to handle the road with confidence. The ride quality carries a taut firmness, as if it has come out of a German sedan. The steering is also tight with a nicely balanced weight with a well-rounded responsive range in its motions. Driving the city streets feels almost satisfying with our 17-inch wheels hugging the road and providing a sensation that is generally uncommon for a plush compact. Well done, Elantra.

Because this is a new year and an all-new Elantra, things have gotten bigger – this compact is starting to grow out of its compact ways as it has grown out in width and length. This reflects highly on interior volume, more so in the back as there are buckets of space for rear passengers. Being that our sampler was sitting at the top end of the trim options as the Limited, our Elantra was about as well as equipped as one would expect a Limited to have. The interior had a handsome display of leather seating with a unique stripe pattern in the seat bolsters. The interior design is simple and modern with a premium feel and use of upscale materials. Our Limited offered the nicely upgraded dual 10.25-inch instrument cluster and touch screen infotainment system.

While the interior is appealing and fresh for the Elantra, we started to question some of Hyundai’s madness with the oddly designed steering wheel, the weirdly placed “oh crap” handle separating the passenger and driver in the center console and the strangely placed circular design pattern next to the instrument cluster that took us to read the owner’s manual and a Google search to discover it a blank space for the boost gauge for the N Line model.

There is a small problem however with the all-new Hyundai Elantra – and we must apologize to Hyundai since we have to put this rather bluntly. At $26,600 for the Elantra Limited, it starts to push the boundary of looking at its competition – the sweet spot to the Elantra is with the SEL and N Line options. The SEL starts at $20,900 and comes with Hyundai’s latest in safety hardware, push button start, and Bluelink Assist. Even after a couple of its available options that can bring it towards the Limited standards, aside from leather seats, the SEL still comes in under $24,000. The N Line on the other hand holds its own specialness, naturally. The N Line is more expensive than the SEL at $24,100, but it does come with its carried over, delightful 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, good for 201-horsepower and can be a little sassy whippersnapper that can give the Elantra that edginess we’re looking for from its performance. Unfortunately the N Line cannot be upgraded to feature the nifty options the Limited may have like the dual 10.25-inch digital displays or advanced stop/go adaptive cruise control system; but what it lacks from the Limited makes up for in its sporty edge with stylish sport seats and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity through its 8-inch touch screen.

Our Hyundai Elantra Limited was certainly a fine ride – after achieving its targeted 31-mpg in the city and an available 41-mpg on the highway, the SEL version would be the suitable contender. Should the sights of the Limited still catch your wondering eyes, perhaps it may be worth while holding back until the all-new Elantra Hybrid releases with its new 1.6-liter hybrid powertrain of a combined 139-horsepower and 195lbs-ft of torque and available 50-mpg capability… Or at least until the more powerful, Elantra N hits dealer showroom floors.

VEHICLE SPECIFICATIONS

Vehicle: 2021 Hyundai Elantra Limited
Base Price: $19,650
As-Tested Price: $26,600

PERFORMANCE SPECIFICATIONS

Engine: 2.0-liter Four-Cylinder
HP | Torque: 147-HP |132 lb-ft of Torque
Transmission: I.V.T. (Intelligent Variable Transmission)
Drivetrain: Front-Wheel Drive
MPG: 31 | 41| 35 (City | Highway | Combined)
As-Tested MPG: 32.1-MPG City (Highway MPG testing is currently suspended due to high fuel prices)
Fuel Range: 410 miles
0-60 MPH: ±8.0 seconds

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