by Jay Traugott
For the first time ever, Hyundai has launched a hybrid variant of its highly popular Elantra sedan, the 2021 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid. The latest generation gasoline-powered Elantra has also been revealed and it's stunning inside and out. But it's the Elantra Hybrid that many will begin turning their attention towards for one significant reason: fuel economy of up to 52 mpg. You read that right. That's nearly the same as the long-time hybrid king, the Toyota Prius. What's more, the new Elantra Hybrid is not limited to only a base trim but rather can be optioned to a level the Toyota Corolla Hybrid cannot. Hyundai saw an opening in the compact hybrid sedan segment and went for it.
It's also important to know that, for now, official EPA figures for the Elantra Hybrid have not been released; the above figure comes directly from Hyundai. Still, the 2021 Elantra Hybrid could potentially be a segment game changer due to its expected high mpg rating, bold styling, and superior level of standard and optional features.
There's no doubt Hyundai took a big chance with the new Elantra Hybrid's exterior styling. Aside from some expected 'Hybrid' badges, the hybrid model looks identical to the non-hybrid. Is that a good thing? Time and sales figures will tell, but there's no doubt Hyundai wants the Elantra Hybrid to make a statement.
Hyundai designers could be criticized for not knowing when to lift the pen, while others will love the new look. The large front grille features a jewel-like design pattern with integrated turn signals while the headlights are almost a styling extension of the grille as they continue upwards along the creased hood. Not only is there a very distinct character line going from the front wheel wells to the taillights, but it also splits downward on the front doors to create a triangle shape, reminiscent of the front grille pattern. Will it stand the test of the time? Ask again in five years.
Out back, the taillights are connected by a light strip. The trunk lid is angled in a way where it appears it's sticking out. Although this may look like a fastback design, it's not. The new Elantra lineup is still a traditional four-door sedan albeit with four-door coupe styling.
If you think the new Elantra Hybrid's front seat design looks airplane-inspired then you're right. Hyundai describes this as an "immersive cocoon" interior due to its airplane cockpit influence. There are not one but two 10.25-inch display screens, one serves as the driver's instrument cluster while the second is the infotainment touchscreen. Expect all data regarding mileage and other hybrid-related information to be displayed in the gauge cluster.
Notable design features include the new steering wheel and the slim air vents that run the length of the dashboard that contrasts with traditional buttons for the HVAC system and volume knob.
Overall interior space has also been increased over the previous generation Elantra as the new car utilizes a platform that has a longer wheelbase. As a result, Hyundai says the Elantra and Elantra Hybrid have best-in-class rear legroom. The wider track creates increased shoulder room for both front and rear passengers. Trunk room has also been increased to 14.2 cubic feet which, again according to Hyundai, is 8 percent bigger than the Toyota Corolla's trunk space.
While the gasoline-powered 2021 Elantra comes powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine good for 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, the Elantra Hybrid features something a bit different: a 1.6-liter GDI Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder linked to a permanent-magnetic electric motor churning out 32 kWh that receives its juice from a lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 1.32 kWh. This creates a combined total output of 139 hp and 195 lb-ft.
Yes, this is a bit less power than the regular Elantra, but the hybrid variant also has a fast-shifting six-speed dual-clutch transmission sending power to the front wheels instead of the less exciting CVT in the non-hybrid.
As previously noted, official EPA ratings have yet to be announced, but Hyundai is already claiming a combined rating above 50 mpg. What's more, the Elantra Hybrid is capable of driving on electric power only for short distances, though only at relatively low speeds.
Expect the same standard and optional driver-assist and safety features found in the regular new Elantra as well.
Hyundai has not released official pricing for either the 2021 Elantra or 2021 Elantra Hybrid, but expect those figures to come in the coming months. Both vehicles are slated to begin sales towards the end of this year. Production will take place in Ulsan, South Korea and at Hyundai's Alabama facility.
In the past, the Toyota Prius was the most important hybrid vehicle on the market, but no more. It now faces competition from within, specifically the Toyota Corolla Hybrid, which offers nearly identical fuel economy ratings. Another important contender in this segment is the Honda Insight. The EPA has rated both the Corolla Hybrid and Insight at 52 mpg combined. There's a very good chance the new 2021 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid will top them both.