So, I’m driving the new Hyundai Elantra Hybrid. Rather, it’s mostly driving itself, and doing so much better than some luxury cars I’ve tested. It regulates its speed on a tricky parkway north of Manhattan, on a dark night, even as traffic slows or stops. It steers through curves so confidently that this traffic-clogged escape route becomes almost meditatively calm. I’ve got time to ponder the Hyundai’s numbers, including the SEL Hybrid model’s stellar 54-mile-per-gallon EPA rating (4.36 liters per 100 kilometers) in combined city/highway driving. The US $24,545 base price reads like a misprint, considering how much sheer stuff is aboard, including technology that was a big deal on $100,000 cars a decade ago, if it existed at all.
The list includes automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control with automated lane-centering that proved so effective on my evening run. A wireless connection for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is not only a segment exclusive but still hit-or-miss in luxury showrooms. Voice recognition and a phone-based digital key offer more trickle-down tech. My test car with all these goes for upwards of $26,000, still insanely inexpensive. Did I mention the conjoined display screens, a digital flourish that recalls a Mercedes-Benz?
The Hybrid integrates a 1.6-liter gas engine with an electric motor and 1.3-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, for a total of 104 kilowatts (139 horsepower) and 264 newton meters (195 pound-feet) of torque. That spin is mediated through a six-speed automatic transmission with an advanced dual-clutch arrangement—a staple of supercars, and nearly unheard of at these prices. A high-performance Elantra N Line is in the works for later in 2021, perhaps with (pulse quickens here) an increasingly rare manual transmission option. The Elantra seems destined to cover a lot of territory.