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Hyundai Elantra reveals new tech, coupe looks and its first hybrid

With class-exclusive wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto, plus phone-as-key tech and massive screens, this 2021 sedan isn't messing around.

2021 Hyundai Elantra promo
Well, you won't mistake this face for another economy sedan, will you?

Hyundai basically stole the words directly from me for how I would open this story. Some automakers have given up on passenger cars, yada yada, but Hyundai hasn't only continued to offer them, it's doubled down. It goes something like that.

Indeed, the 2021 Hyundai Elantra is proof the South Korean automaker sees a bright future for sedans, because the latest model is loaded to the brim with new features, both standard and optional. Not only has the automaker packed it with goods, but as is the norm these days, this compact car is a little longer, wider and holds passengers more comfortably than before.

The automaker's designers worked their magic to design the 2021 Elantra as the second model to adhere to its "Sensuous Sportiness" design language. It also meant pushing the car in a more four-door-coupe-like direction. The new Elantra is just under an inch lower to help accomplish the goal, but the wheelbase is actually longer than its main Honda Civic rival, to give you some perspective.

Again, I think there's something in the water over at Hyundai, because the 2021 Elantra looks very dramatic. Even better, it moves away from a look sponsored by triangles found in the current car. The jewel-pattern grille boasts integrated turn signals, and the grille helps shape the headlights. Hyundai also said it worked to integrate the jewel-like shapes along the side with a jagged look and the hood's profile is supposed to create a feeling of tension. Buyers will be able to fill the four corners out with 15-, 16- or 17-inch wheels. At the rear, new taillights create a signature that resembles the company's H logo and a wide, horizontal line helps create width at the rear.

Inside, designers worked to create an "immersive cocoon" similar to an airplane cockpit. Here you'll find two 10.25-inch displays (one for infotainment, the other for the gauge cluster, and a lot of the essential gear and trim pieces placed lower than a typical design. The design is all on purpose to convey a sense of a cockpit, much like a coupe.

Enough on the looks, though, and let's shift to the mechanical pieces because there's a big change. Hyundai will offer an Elantra Hybrid for the first time, and the automaker expects it'll return 50 miles per gallon combined. A 1.6-liter Atkinson cycle inline-four engine and a 1.32 kilowatt-hour battery work together to make 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. But Hyundai didn't slap a continuously variable transmission in the hybrid: There's a six-speed dual-clutch transmission that should be engaging and provide quick shifts. All other Elantras will use a 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle inline-four and it's paired with a CVT. The hybrid model sounds like the best of the group with more torque and only slightly less horsepower. The standard engine only makes 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque, Hyundai thinks the Elantra will serve up best-in-class fuel economy.

Overall, the 2021 Elantra should be a far better handler as it rides on Hyundai's latest compact-car platform. It's lighter and the company said it gave engineers room to create a more agile-handling car.

All right, so I mentioned technology, and there's a lot of it present. In fact, Hyundai nabbed a first with the Elantra, as it comes standard with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in the eight-inch infotainment screen. Even for those that don't splurge on the most expensive model, Hyundai will let you cut the cord. Further, standard active safety systems cover all the basics such as automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, automatic high beams for the headlights and even a driver attention warning system. The last one monitors drivers to help detect if the driver's starting to feel fatigued behind the wheel.

It's incredibly rare to find an economy car with a display this large, let alone two.


One final party trick for drivers will be a smart voice recognition system. Drivers will be able to tell their Elantra to turn on the climate control, set the heated seats to various levels, turn the blower fan to a desired position and more. Buyers will also be able to add in a Bose audio system, the previously mentioned 10.25-inch infotainment screen and wireless phone charging.

Sounds like that's it, but it's not. Hyundai will also offer the 2021 Elantra with a digital key option and make the physical key a thing of the past. Owners will get a dedicated app that works with Near Field Communication technology and a Bluetooth Low Energy signal to lock/unlock and start the car. The only catch is it'll only work with certain Android phones at launch.

We won't see the 2021 Elantra hit dealers until much later this year, with production scheduled to start at the company's plant in Alabama this coming fall. In the meantime, Hyundai probably put Honda, Toyota and the like on notice.

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First published March 17.