I’ve thought a lot recently about what car I would buy should I quite writing auto stories. I’ve driven the latest and greatest cars for the past quarter-century, but I certainly cannot personally afford many of them. I do know what I like, though: Exquisite style, the latest technology, an engaging driving experience, and stellar fuel economy. The 2021 Hyundai Elantra delivers on all counts – a value-packed stunner in a racy wrapper.
It’s been said it takes as much money to design an ugly car as a beautiful one, so at least we know Hyundai’s designers spent wisely. I really like the Elantra’s bravura, which starts with a wide black grille flanked by squinty projector beams and progresses into origami body creases, fastback roofline, and chiseled-in taillamps – all over dark 17” wheels. As with a lot of things, the rear view is one of its best. It shares cues with the larger Sonata, but comes off as even sportier and more expertly crafted.
One of my favorite cars right now is the C8 Corvette, and while the Elantra is no Chevrolet sports car, its interior does remind me of it. Twin screens showcase instruments in a configurable display butted against the infotainment touchscreen for audio, phone, and apps. A grab handle runs from dash to console. Seats are upholstered in cloth, but are heated, all-day comfortable, and deeply bolstered for fun weekend runs on your favorite two-lane backroad.
Below the screens are dual-zone automatic climate control, wireless phone charging pad, and deep cupholders. Bose audio, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come too. Or, connect via Bluetooth and USBs. Add luxuries like a power sunroof and a beautiful leather-wrapped steering wheel that’s a joy to hold…and behold. Safety is enhanced by adaptive cruise, forward collision alert with auto brake, lane keep assist, safe exit alert, and rear seat child minder.
You’re not going to lose yourself over the powertrain, but it does what it should in a car like the Elantra: Gets from A to B with enough zip and efficiency to enhance the drive. Turning the front wheels is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine delivering 147 horsepower and 132 lb.-ft. of torque. It comes with a continuously variable transmission that I would normally not love, but it provides faux shifts that give the feel of a traditional automatic. For the efficient part, it’s easy to appreciate 31/41-MPG city/highway.
Beyond the engine, the Elantra offers a sophisticated chassis. Tight steering and a crisp four-wheel-independent suspension encourage more adventure that just daily commutes. Drive modes don’t create any more power, but change the steering heft and throttle response from more spirited Sport to regular Normal and Efficient performance. It feels more like a smaller Genesis than a larger Accent - a car that will convince you the engineers beat the bean counters at every turn.
I would love to own any number of German sport sedans or the latest Corvette, but paying for one is not my reality. Instead, the Elantra SEL is a car I could enjoy looking at and driving every day – all at a price most can afford. Base Elantra models start at just $19,650 and came to just $25,400 well equipped. Competitors for this Alabama-built dream include the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Subaru Impreza, and Mazda3.

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Send comments to Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com; follow him on YouTube @AutoCasey.