LOS ANGELES — We came here to test drive six years’ worth of development. That is how long it has taken Hyundai to start bringing this new generation of Elantra to market.
There are four branches to the Elantra family tree. The normal front-wheel-drive sedan, the performance line, and the hybrid. What’s more, there will soon be a version designed for the racetrack.
The first of this new breed of Hyundai was the Veloster N. Now, two more are being introduced to market. There is the N Line and then there is the more powerful N. We’ll begin to see the former by the end of 2020 and the latter sometime in 2021.
We test drove the Elantra N Line. Like all N Line cars, it had a unique front fascia and grille and gloss black sideview mirrors. A unique rear fascia, dual exhaust, and sport seats were part of the package.
A unique leather-wrapped perforated N steering wheel stood out. The seats had leather bolsters and N logos. There was an N Line gearshift with metal accents and leather inserts, N Line analog gauge cluster, Red stitching and trim accents differentiated the N Line from the standard Elantra. Wireless charging, a smartphone digital key, alloy pedals and a black headliner filled out the package.
Our test vehicle had a 1.6-liter direct-injected turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is also available.
This combination made 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque from 1,500 rpm to 4,500 rpm.
We left the hotel, drove north for a half block, and took a left onto Sunset Boulevard. For those not familiar with this thoroughfare, it was four lanes, two each way, but there was nothing expansive about it.
The lanes are narrow, and in places, it is like driving through the woods because of all the foliage, particularly in Beverly Hills, and it is a mix of buses, pickup trucks, regular cars and a multitude of luxury cars including Rolls-Royces.
The point is that the Elantra N Line had more than enough oomph to speed up and slow down as needed. Sightlines were better than good to see who or what was on the quarters of our N Line; we could see vehicles on all sides, though the view through the rearview mirror was a bit obscured by the rear seat headrests.
Remember, we had a six-speed manual in sometimes stop and go traffic. Upshifting and downshifting were easy. At times we got aggressive in our driving and the Elantra N Line handled well. The suspension was sport-tuned but it never felt stiff. A multilink independent rear suspension helped us assertively navigate the twisting chute that was this section of Sunset.
After 15 or so miles, we got to the Pacific Coast Highway and turned north or right. The highway is scenic because of the ocean but it was uneven and a good place to test the dampers which in the Elantra’s case were firm and not too soft. In other words, there wasn’t any bouncing.
After two and a half miles, we took a right onto Topanga Road. It is a two-lane climbing road that is full of tight turns and lots of hairpin turns that must be taken at 30 mph or less.
The Elantra N Line was easy to steer, it was hard to imagine there was a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine under the hood. But it got up and over and around some treacherous ascending turns on roads like Mulholland Highway, Las Virgenes Road and Cold Canyon Road. It certainly earned its road creds as far as we were concerned.
Inside, the Elantra N Line had a simple layout. The odometer had racing flags in red to signal its racetrack DNA. The speedometer was straightforward and, in the center,, while there was a TFT screen on the right.
It had a touch infotainment screen. A navigation system would have been helpful after we got lost trying to find our lunch destination. Rather than try to find it in these canyons, we opted to find Pacific Coast Highway, it was a follow-the-sky situation, and head back to the hotel.
The next day we took a normal Elantra out for a test. This time we headed south to Santa Monica Boulevard. There was far more traffic, but it was nowhere as curvy or undulating as Sunset.
Our test car had a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that made 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to Hyundai’s intelligent variable transmission, or CVT.
We won’t get into the difference in Hyundai’s IVT versus a normal CVT. But we can tell you this: it was efficient, quiet, power flowed to the pavement without much lag and when we got on the I-405 South, it responded well when we wanted to accelerate briskly.
We transferred onto the Santa Monica Freeway to the rest of the country, and took that to the PCH. From there we headed 15 miles up the road to the lunch destination. This time we made it.
This Elantra was surprisingly quick. Must have been the horsepower, which was substantial for a compact sedan. Again, we were impressed. With the expressways here, there is no time to sightsee, as there was a lot going on. Still, we barely noticed that we had a variable transmission.
We took the 2021 Elantra Hybrid back to the hotel from lunch. It had an aluminum block four-cylinder gasoline engine that made 104 horsepower and 109 pound-feet of torque. Add the electric motor and the combination made 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque.
We went back up the PCH and took a left onto Sunset. This hybrid had a six-speed dual-clutch transmission and that made a difference on the chute that is Sunset headed northwest from the Pacific Ocean.
Acceleration to get over the swells in the road, handling to get around the sharp short curves and the suspension which kept the car firm and in the lane were all notable. What’s more, this car had an EPA rating of 53 mpg on the highway, 56 mpg on the highway and 54 mpg combined.
Buyers can opt for all sorts of equipment on Elantra, depending on what model they choose.
Avoidance equipment including blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert were featured. Forward-collision alert with pedestrian detection were also part of the safety package. Automatic high beams, safe-exit warning and lane-following assist were also on the menu.
Of course, there were the usual creature comforts: voice controls, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were available. LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights were part of a package. And the list went on.
The point is that the 2021 Hyundai Elantra had a powertrain as well as an equipment package for just about all automotive pocketbooks. And there is a high-performance version on the way. Right now, prices start at $19,650 and rise to $28,100 plus a $995 freight charge, depending on powertrain and trim line.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.