How much tech can $20K buy? Plenty
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?
US $20,655 (Gas)
US $24,545 (Hybrid)
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.