Base Camp: 2021 Hyundai Elantra Essential
Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle on sale in Canada and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we'll let you know. If not, we'll recommend one that earns a passing grade.
Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, wide swaths of Canadians still purchase or lease compact sedans. Their numbers are shrinking, to be sure, but there are more than a few automakers willing to re-up their offerings in this important segment.
Not the least of which is Hyundai. For the 2021 model year, its compact Elantra has been extensively refurbished, donning a new set of clothes and snazzy interior. A Korean designer once told us that people in his country like it when a newly introduced model looks completely different from the old one it is replacing. This helps to explain Elantra’s wild design changes heading into this year.
Under the hood is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine making a totally appropriate 147 horsepower. Only this entry-level Elantra is offered with a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment, and the car is better off because of it. An automatic ‘box in the form of a continuously variable transmission is available at a $1,900 premium to the $17,899 base price.
Hyundai built its rep in this country on offering scads of standard features for reasonable prices. This does not change with the 2021 Elantra. Despite being at the bottom of the totem pole, the Essential trim included heated cloth front seats, remote keyless entry, and power windows with auto down for the driver. An 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system stands tall on the dashboard, ready to play ball with Bluetooth connectivity and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay.
Air conditioning is part of the deal, along with a tilt/telescope steering wheel and the heated side view mirrors are power adjustable. Spotting a base Elantra isn’t easy, since they incorporate alloy wheel (no steelies with hubcaps here) and colour-keyed trim. Sadly, anything other than the Polar White shown here will cost an extra $200.
What We’d Choose
It is tempting to bump oneself up to the Elantra Preferred, a machine which features several extra safety features like collision-avoidance assists for blind-spot and rear cross-traffic locations. There’s nothing wrong with a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, either. However, the $4,000 price walk does give us pause, though that delta shrinks to $2100 when one considers the automatic transmission.
Actually, it’s the latter that seals the Essential for us. Rowing your own gears isn’t for everyone (here’s a salute to all of you with a stop-and-go commute) but we’ll take our automotive fun where we can. Finding a well-equipped and uniquely styled car as part of the deal is simply icing on a particularly sweet cake.