Decades ago, Americans didn’t consider Hyundai an automotive contender. Though it’s still no luxury carmaker, it’s inching toward distinguished territory. That’s thanks in part to a lineup of competitive vehicles, including the Elantra. This little sedan has improved greatly over the years, and now it’s the North American Car of the Year (NACTOY).
That’s no small feat. Competition for the NACTOY is fierce, and only the best of the best make the cut. So, what’s so special about the 2021 Hyundai Elantra that catapulted it to the top of the crop?
NACTOY is a prestigious award
Founded in 1994, the NACTOY Awards go to only new vehicles. More than 40 models competed for the 2021 prize. A jury of 50 professional automotive journalists from the United States and Canada judged the vehicles. The testing takes a year to complete, so it’s thorough. The 2021 Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Sentra, and Genesis G80 advanced to the final round in the car category.
To reach that point, each vehicle gets three votes. The jurors review areas such as segment leadership, innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction, and value.
“Early in the fall, the jurors consider all the new or substantially changed vehicles and pick approximately 10 eligible vehicles from each category (Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle), for additional consideration in a test drive event,” NACTOY says of its rigorous selection process.
“Jurors attend launch programs for each eligible vehicle and/or receive vehicle loans, then test drive them again during a three-day, back-to-back comparison held in October for side-by-side evaluations. Early in December, the jurors vote on those short-list vehicles, sending their ballots directly to Deloitte & Touche in Detroit. That vote narrows the field to three cars, three utility vehicles, and three trucks. Those finalists are disclosed at a luncheon held by the Automotive Press Association in Detroit. The final round of voting, also tallied by Deloitte, determines one winner in each of the Car, Truck and Utility categories.”
The 2021 Hyundai Elantra prevailed
Even though the competition was stiff this year, the 2021 Hyundai Elantra claimed the crown among cars. This is actually the Elantra’s second time winning this award, another huge accomplishment.
According to Hyundai, the only other two cars to have won the NACTOY more than once are the Chevrolet Corvette and Honda Civic. This is actually the third time a Hyundai sedan has competed for North American Car of the Year.
Is the Hyundai Elantra worthy?
The 2021 Hyundai Elantra isn’t the same cheap-looking compact car that debuted in 1992. In fact, it’s not the same Elantra that came out in 2020. Hyundai redesigned the Elantra from the ground up, MotorTrend reports. That means new engines, chassis, design, and technology.
In fact, the Elantra offers three engine options. The first is a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle l-4. The second is a 1.6-liter turbo l-4. Then there’s a hybrid that’ll please eco-conscious consumers who aren’t yet ready to sit at a charging station for hours.
The base model’s ride impressed but didn’t thrill MotorTrend’s reviewers. And cheap plastics in the cabin drag down the car’s value. Still, the Elantra starts at $20,645, a great price for all the base trim’s tech.
Overall, the amazing base MSRP, decent drive, and range of options make the 2021 Hyundai Elantra a worthy contender for the NACTOY. It’s also good enough to wow 50 jurors, so there’s no question it earned this prestigious award.