Over the past few years, Hyundai has stepped up its hybrid game. The Ioniq became the first dedicated hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric vehicle in its lineup, offering 58 mpg and lots of value. Recent debuts like the Sonata, Tucson, and Santa Fe are adding hybrid variants as consumers look for green alternatives. The 2021 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid joins that group of vehicles, offering a handsome style, up to 56 mpg, and a well-appointed cabin.
The Elantra Hybrid will be taking on the Honda Insight and Toyota Corolla Hybrid, two compact sedans that have a longer history and bigger share of the market than the Hyundai. But Hyundai is proving that hybrids can be efficient, handsome, and affordable, as the Elantra Hybrid starts at $24,545.
How Does The Hyundai Elantra Hybrid Drive?
The 2021 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid employs a 1.6-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine and electric motor mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The 1.32-kWh lithium-ion battery is located under the rear seats, and the Elantra Hybrid produces 139 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque combined. Those power numbers keep the Elantra sandwiched above the Corolla Hybrid and just below the Insight.
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On the street, that recipe feels adequate for the Elantra, if not impressive. The Elantra Hybrid feels decently quick for a fuel-efficient sedan, but it’s not sporty or engaging to drive. While the hybrid system produces just enough power to push the Elantra up a steep canyon road without struggling, it lacks any kind of dynamic feel. However, the transmission does a great job shifting gears up or down quickly, and it’s happy to hold gears as long as needed. Compared to the Corolla Hybrid and the Insight, which don’t use transmissions with fixed gears, the Elantra feels a bit torquier and more responsive.
Unlike the regular Elantra, the Elantra Hybrid has a rear multilink suspension that makes the ride more settled. Driving the hybrid and the regular Elantra back to back showed a big difference in terms of handling, with the hybrid showing more body control and less roll. On the majestic Pacific Coast Highway, the hybrid tackled the bumps and ruts better than its internal combustion sibling. Steering for both cars is pretty much the same—on the soft side while providing some feedback, but not much.
Hyundai estimates the Elantra Hybrid will deliver 53/56/54 mpg city/highway/combined for the SEL and 49/52/50 mpg for the Limited. The SEL numbers are better than the Corolla Hybrid and Insight, with the Limited sitting at the bottom of the list. We only had a chance to drive the Limited, and despite pushing it hard for 70 miles, we achieved just over 52 mpg, per the car’s computer.
Is the Interior of the Elantra Hybrid Different From the ICE?
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Given that the seventh-generation Elantra was developed with the hybrid in mind, there are no compromises in interior space. That means the Elantra Hybrid is quite spacious inside. Like we said during our Elantra First Drive, the cabin is spacious even for tall passengers. Despite the fastback-like profile, headroom in the second row is ample, and legroom is superb.
The SEL is the base version of the Elantra Hybrid, and it comes well equipped from the start (even better than the SEL non-hybrid). The base trim comes with 16-inch wheels, LED daytime running lights and taillights, heated front seats, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, two USB ports, dual zone ACC, and a handful of active safety features (forward collision avoidance assist, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic assist, lane keep assist, and safe exit warning).
The Hybrid Limited adds a 10.3-inch touchscreen with navigation and wired Android Auto and CarPlay, a Bose audio system with eight speakers, 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, a sunroof, wireless charging, leather seats, another 10.3-inch touchscreen that serves as a digital instrument cluster, and Hyundai’s Digital Key, which allows users to lock, unlock, and start the car with their Android phone. The Limited also adds more safety technologies, such as smart cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, parking distance warning, and highway drive assist.
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Our biggest critique of the interior is the extensive use of hard plastics. Whether you touch the door panels or dashboard, the hard plastics feel inferior for the segment, especially when you have two enormous screens that seem like they came out of a Mercedes. Hyundai should not let its guard down to sacrifice quality for technology.
Besides the hybrid badge outside and the special graphics of the infotainment screen showing real-time information about the hybrid powertrain, there are no aesthetic differences with the internal combustion Elantra.
Should I Buy the 2021 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid?
Starting at $24,545, the SEL brings a ton of value to the 2021 Elantra Hybrid, getting updated technology, superb interior space, and a multilink suspension. The Limited raises the bar in terms of equipment; priced at $29,095, it’s the most expensive Elantra (without counting the N). Regardless of the trim you choose, the Elantra Hybrid puts up a good fight against the Corolla Hybrid and the Insight. If you’re looking to buy a compact hybrid, the Elantra should be on your list.
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