Hyundai has been on a hybrid tear over the past few years, adding a fuel-saving powertrain to the Sonata sedan and Tucson and Santa Fe crossovers, and offering the Ioniq in a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric trifecta. Now the all-new 2021 Hyundai Elantra gets a hybrid variant that goes up against more established cars in the compact sedan segment, including the Honda Insight and Toyota Corolla hybrids. With striking styling, an upscale interior, and tech including wireless Android Auto and AppleCarPlay and an NFC smartphone key, the Elantra Hybrid is a formidable competitor to these vehicles, and our new Editors’ Choice winner.
2021 Elantra Hybrid Pricing and Design
The 2021 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid comes in two trim levels—SEL and Limited—both with a 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder engine and electric motor powered by a 1.32-kWh lithium-ion battery. The hybrid powertrain produces 139 horsepower, a bit more than the Corolla Hybrid, but a bit less than the Honda Insight Hybrid. A 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission drives the front wheels.
The SEL trim starts at $23,550 and includes such standard exterior amenities as 16-inch alloy wheels, halogen headlights, LED daytime running lights, partial LED taillights, heated and body-colored mirrors, a chrome grille, and black side door moldings. The interior gets heated cloth front seats, a six-way power driver seat and four-way power front passenger seat, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, and dual-zone automatic climate control. The SEL’s standard tech amenities include a hands-free trunk release, Qi smartphone charging, Bluetooth for hands-free phone use and wireless streaming, the Blue Link telematics system, and Hyundai’s Digital Key that allows unlocking, starting, and driving using a smartphone or NFC card.
The standard infotainment system includes an 8-inch touch screen with a rearview camera, voice recognition, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, dual USB ports (one to connect a smartphone and one for charging), and a four-speaker audio system with AM/FM HD Radio. Standard driver assists include cruise control, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert, and auto high beams.
The Limited trim we tested starts at $28,100 and adds 17-inch wheels, LED headlights and taillights, a dark chrome grille, chrome side body moldings, integrated side mirror turn signals, a sunroof, a leather shift knob and seating, driver seat lumbar support and memory functions, and ventilated front seats. Tech includes dual 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and infotainment screens, navigation, an eight-speaker Bose sound system with SiriusXM satellite radio, dynamic voice recognition, front and rear parking sensors, lane centering, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with cyclist detection, and safe exit warning that alerts passengers when a vehicle is approaching from behind. After tacking on the premium package, the final sticker price comes to $30,200.
The exterior design Hyundai describes as having “parametric dynamics” gives the new Elantra a flowing, four-door-coupe look. The snazzy jewel pattern grille with integrated turn signals and sharply creased sheet metal undeniably make the Elantra Hybrid the most attractive vehicle in the segment.
The interior is equally stylish and roomy, even for taller rear seat passengers, despite the aggressively raked roof line. We like the new clean dashboard layout and the sleek look of how the 10.25-inch instrument panel and infotainment screens are merged under one piece of glass. That said, the use of hard plastic in some places cheapens the feel of the interior.
Elantra Hybrid Interface and Connectivity
Too many automakers often try to cram too much into increasingly larger screens. The Elantra Hybrid’s dual 10.25-inch screens make good use of their ample size, but without overwhelming you, giving the dash a minimalist feel.
The infotainment display has an intuitive layout with multiple screens that, like a smartphone, can be swiped for access, while the screen icons can also be rearranged to your preference. The larger instrument cluster is a case study in less is more, and presents information in an uncluttered, straightforward manner, with flashy animation thrown in when drive modes are switched.
Like most automakers, Hyundai has primarily ceded in-car connectivity to your smartphone via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. While Hyundai rightfully boasts of being one of the first non-luxury brands to offer wireless Android Auto and CarPlay, oddly only the lower-priced SEL has this feature, while the higher-end Limited trim requires a cable to connect to your phone.
The Limited comes standard with connected navigation that provides cloud-based real-time routing updates and three years of map refreshes. Hyundai’s Blue Link system provides routine telematics features such as automatic crash notification and emergency roadside assistance, and links to a smartphone app to allow for remotely locking/unlocking the car’s doors, turning on the climate control, and finding the vehicle by sounding the horn and flashing the lights.
Elantra Hybrid Performance and Fuel Economy
The 2021 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid moved quickly and smoothly while driving on LA’s crowded streets and freeways, as well as its steep canyon roads. Whether speeding up to merge onto the freeway, getting around slow-moving vehicles on the curvy west end of Sunset Boulevard, or climbing the twisty canyons above Malibu, the Elantra Hybrid handled it all with impressive—if not rousing—performance.
The six-speed transmission shifts smoothly and holds gears as long as needed. Compared with the continuously variable transmissions employed in the Toyota Corolla Hybrid and Honda Insight Hybrid, the Elantra feels torquier.
The Elantra Hybrid’s rear multi-link suspension makes it feel more planted and smooth over rough patches of pavement. We had the chance to drive the regular Elantra and hybrid back to back, and the hybrid was noticeably more controlled, with less body roll.
Hyundai claims the SEL gets 31/41/35mpg city/highway/combined, and 31/41/35mpg for the Limited. The SEL’s mpg tops the Corolla Hybrid and Insight, while the Limited comes in below the two competitors. However, when test driving the Limited with more concern for gauging the car’s giddy-up than fuel economy, we achieved over 49mpg according to the car’s computer.
A Winning Compact Sedan
The 2021 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid Limited costs a bit less than the top-of-the-line 2020 Honda Insight Touring, but easily surpasses it in terms of performance. And while the Elantra Hybrid Limited costs more than the 2020 Corolla Hybrid (which is only available in a single LE trim), it’s far and away a better car in terms of looks, performance, features, and interior comfort. That’s enough to make it our new Editors’ Choice winner for the segment.