2021 Hyundai Elantra Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Seat belt, airbag, forward collision avoidance, and acceleration issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

We are investigating transmission issues with this vehicle. See if you are eligible to join our class action investigation. Was your vehicle recalled for seat belt pretensioner issues? Read our post on the Hyundai & Kia Seat Belt Pretensioner Recall.

There’s no denying that the Elantra is a popular compact sedan. Launched in 1990, it’s been around the block many times. The 2021 Hyundai Elantra boasts a “sensuous sportiness design identity” along with “exciting driving dynamics” and other features. But owners whose seat belts malfunction, engines surge, and cars accelerate out of control when they press the brakes aren’t even vaguely excited.   

Click on another model years to view more problems: 2019   2020   2022   2023

Most Reported Problems

Issues reported to various reliable platforms including Lemberg Law and official complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) tell a story that reveals multiple problems.

Seat belt issues, sometimes combined with faulty airbags, are top of the list. There are also lots of problems relating to forward collision avoidance and vehicle speed control. Many owners report that the forward collision avoidance system fails, while others report major acceleration issues. The latter includes cars that stop accelerating as well as others that accelerate when the driver is pressing the brakes. There are lots of reports that say the car won’t accelerate and then surges forward. Some owners have had issues with engines seizing.

In an effort to identify the components and systems at fault, we can look at numbers. Seat belts are top of the list followed by forward collision avoidance, vehicle speed control, the electrical system, the engine, and the brakes. But (in alphabetical order), the child seat, exterior lighting, fuel/propulsion system, lane departure, powertrain, seats, service brakes, steering, structure, suspension, and visibility all feature as well.

Recalls and Investigations

There are also five recalls for the 2021 Hyundai Electra, all of which involve other Hyundai vehicles as well. Three of these warn that seat belt pretensioners may explode. One states that seat back recliners may not have been properly welded. The fifth warns that the windshield has bonding issues and could detach from the car if there is a crash.

While unintended vehicle acceleration is reportedly a huge problem with all 2021 Elantra vehicles, there is only a recall for 37,997 2021-2023 Elantra HEV vehicles. This states clearly that, “A software error in the motor control unit may cause unintended vehicle acceleration after the brake pedal is released.” There is no explanation as to why the other 2021 Elantra vehicles aren’t included in the recall.

There is also an investigation opened in August 2022, that is looking at an issue that seat belt pretensioners may rupture. This includes all 2021 Elantra vehicles, including HEV vehicles.

2021 Hyundai Elantra Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Seat Belts
Forward Collision Avoidance: Warnings
Unknown Or Other
Electrical System
Vehicle Speed Control
Forward Collision Avoidance: Adaptive Cruise Control
Service Brakes
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
Power Train

Seat Belt Problems

The most recent seat belt recall was issued in May 2022, warning that “an exploding seat belt pretensioner can project metal fragments into the vehicle, strike vehicle occupants, and result in injury.” It replaced two previous recalls that were issued in October 2021 and April 2022. It states that any vehicles already repaired under the previous recalls will need to have the new remedy completed.

Most complaints listed as being a seat belt problem state (as recently as December 2022) that the parts required for recall repair weren’t available. But there are a few that describe chilling incidents.

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Malfunctioning Seat Belts

In June 2022, a mother and son were traveling together when the Elantra crashed. He was driving and “had begun to make a left turn onto a highway as an oncoming vehicle struck the front passenger side of the vehicle at a high rate of speed.” The impact sent the vehicle spinning and both of them “were tossed around inside the vehicle due to the impact. The airbags did deploy.” Both were transported to the hospital. The woman “suffered blunt force injury to her chest and multiple rib fractures to both sides of her ribs. She also suffered lacerations to her liver and left leg, as well as fractures to her right tibia and left ankle.” She died as a result of her injuries. Her son “suffered from a left bruised carotid artery, a broken right hip and a right lung contusion.” The car was totaled and towed away.

After the accident, the family received the most recent recall notification!

A complaint from a Connecticut owner tells how a “child became entrapped in (a) car seat.” A parent unbuckled the seat belt to get the child out, but the belt “snagged” on the underside of the car seat. The “belt would not retract from the retractor mechanism. With (the) child’s movement, (the) belt only tightened around his upper chest and neck. Two adults could not get (the) belt to release.” To release the child “and prevent strangulation,” they cut the belt.

Forward Collision Avoidance Failure

Sometimes the system engages unnecessarily, sometimes it doesn’t engage at all.

“My vehicle has become a deathtrap waiting to happen,” states an owner from Kentucky in an NHTSA complaint. Three times while turning, the steering wheel locked up and the forward collision warning system engaged, stopping the car on the road. Twice the car had to be towed to the dealership. “The dealer has been working very hard to identify the issue while working with Hyundai tech services. They have poured countless hours and money into this car and still have not been able to identify and correct it.”

An owner from New York states that the forward collision warning system continually disengages “dangerously and inappropriately, almost causing me to be hit from behind.” The complaint goes on to say that software updates haven’t remedied the problem.

An owner from Missouri states that the “Forward collision system continually fails. This disables the vehicle’s cruise control. The vehicle has been in the shop multiple times with no resolution.”

The forward collision warning and braking system automatically engage repeatedly, another owner from New York states. “I always keep a good distance in front when driving, but because of the system inappropriately engaging I almost got rear-ended about four times.” When it happened in the middle lane of a bridge in heavy traffic, “it was terrifying and EXTREMELY DANGEROUS!”

When the car belonging to a man from California crashed into a wall there was no front-end collision warning and the auto braking system didn’t engage. The system still doesn’t function, but the dealership can’t find anything wrong with it.

Issues with Acceleration When Braking

Problems related to spontaneous acceleration are regarded as vehicle speed control, engine, and/or brake problems.

An owner from Tennessee states that the Elantra surges unexpectedly “and you cannot get it to slow down except by keeping your foot on the brake and pulling off the road. This has happened multiple times.” Alarmingly, the complaint states, “Recently, I had the car in for service and they said they did a recall for the software to stop this condition from happening again. However, one month later, it happened and this time it was the worst I have ever experienced. As I kept my foot off the accelerator, it surged over 15mph from the speed I was originally at with me doing nothing and it was still gaining. My car was trying to accelerate with my foot on the brake and I had to cross lanes of traffic to get to the side of the road to restart the vehicle.”

Complaining that the car “lurched” or accelerated multiple times when his foot wasn’t on the accelerator pedal, an owner states that because the dealer could “pull any codes” they “deemed the car safe.”

An owner from California has a similar story. The complaint states that the “car will accelerate when pressing on brakes.” Although it happened at least three times at random moments while on the road, the dealership is never able to replicate the issue.

But an owner from Texas reports that first the car won’t accelerate, then it accelerates on its own while the driver’s foot is on the brake. “Even worse, while driving, the car will go into accident-avoidance mode, even though there is nothing in front of us.”

An owner from Las Angeles states that spontaneous acceleration resulted in his car crashing into a wall.

Airbag Problems

Airbag problems don’t rank in terms of numbers, but they do in terms of severity.

In October 2023, an owner from Texas was driving at about 2 mph with the brake pedal depressed. The car accelerated and crashed into another vehicle. The airbags didn’t deploy and the owner “sustained stomach chest and arm injuries that required medical attention.”

When a 2021 Elantra’s brakes failed in February 2022, an owner from Illinois crashed into another vehicle. The airbags didn’t deploy. “The (dealership) mechanic checked the brake pads, drove it for 3 miles, and deemed that the vehicle’s pads were adequate.” After taking the car back to the dealership for other issues related to the engine and taillight, they carried out inspections that verified the codes were working. “When I visited the Body Shop & Collision (Center) I was told to ‘hire an attorney’. The vehicle was defective and should have never been on the streets.” They had discovered that the airbag sensor was impacted and “highly damaged,” and the airbags should have deployed.

An owner from Arizona was crashed into by a pickup truck and the car was hit on the right rear door side and back bumper. He called the dealership and they said it was the first call they had received about the problem. The police confirmed that no airbags deployed in the crash.

A man from California was lucky not to be injured when he crashed on a freeway. There was no collision warning, the airbags didn’t deploy, and the car was badly damaged.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

If you think that your 2021 Hyundai Elantra may be a lemon, Lemberg Law is available to assess your problems free of charge. The law makes Hyundai pay lemon law legal fees. Furthermore, every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace, or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners.

Fill out a contact form or phone our Helpline if you’d like a free assessment and advice.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones
  • Esperanza M

    I have a 2021 Hyundai Elantra out of no where the whole dashboard shuts down, Dealership says not covered under warranty I am concerned of cost. No real answers from any one, This issue has been going on for three months I have only had seven months. Did I just buy a lemon?

  • Rob

    Great article. Really helpful to see that it’s not just me. I have a 2021 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid Blue. Started having issues with the forward collision sensors mid road trip. No bumps, no nothing crazy, just driving on the open road and then the. cruise control kicked off and the sensor warnings came on. Brought it in, the dealership had it for an entire week. They recalibrated and it worked for about a week and then failed again, and it was back in the shop again several weeks later. They ordered a new part and when it finally came in, it wouldn’t calibrate because “the signals from the sensor were being sent to the wrong places on the control board”. While there, they performed a software update. Now the car lunges suddenly when slowing down or stopped. I have to drive it with my foot over the brake to keep it from trying to get me to participate in an unintentional street race or rear end collision. I will be bringing it back to the dealership for a 4th visit to troubleshoot the sensor when the next one comes in. Also, to troubleshoot the lunging acceleration/deceleration/jerking issue, and to troubleshoot a whirring sound that the steering wheel just started making. This car gets me to work, but I’m starting to worry for my life and those of the other hundreds of thousands of drivers I pass by every day. Not sure what more I can do here.

  • Zeek

    My Elantra hybrid Reeves up, lunges forward, or stalls leaving you a sitting duck while pulling onto the road. When it lunges forward it is hard to stop the car which is a serious safety issue for rear end collisions etc. No service light has come on and their crappy software diagnostics shows the car has no issues. After being towed to a second dealership the tech experienced the lunging etc while on a test drive. For the 4th time their computer diagnostics failed to detect any issue. With a big to-do Hyundai USA advised the dealer to replace the transmission and after 2000 new miles the same lunging and reeving and stalling happened again. So Hyundai failed to fix the issue with my car for the 4th time. The car is back in the shop and a rental was never offered from this terrible company. Stay away from these cars they are not worth the headache. They need investigated for their fraudulent diagnostic software that is keeping these cars on the road and preventing people from lemon law proceedings, fraud is fraud. In fact if you are involved with a person driving a Hyundai consider suing Hyundai USA. They know all about these issues and don’t care to address them until someone is killed. At this point I would call it manslaughter.

  • Ben

    Having issues with same model

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