The Hyundai Elantra Has a Secret Base Model With No Touchscreen

It’s ugly, but it’s still an improvement.

byJames Gilboy|
2021 Hyundai Elantra without a touchscreen
Al Kaif Motors

Touchscreens have become so ubiquitous in modern cars that it's hard to imagine a 2020-something model without one. But there's no need to, as a version of the Hyundai Elantra sold outside the U.S. can be ordered without a touchscreen—though it comes at the cost of one of the ugliest center consoles you'll ever see.

New cars in the U.S. are pretty much universally fitted with touchscreens due to safety regulations requiring backup cameras. That means that cars designed to be sold here have screens baked into their interior designs, even if automakers want to offer cheaper options. That's what compromises the design of the base, touchscreen-less Elantra sold in "developing" markets such as the Middle East.

An example of the stripped-down Hyundai can be found on the website of Saudi dealer Al Kaif Motors, where instead of the 8-inch touchscreen standard on U.S.-market Elantras, it features just a small dot-matrix display. It still has most of the features of the touchscreen models though, with Bluetooth audio, and a regular-old radio. (It probably doesn't have an AM receiver though, that's basically just a U.S. thing these days.)

Comparison to touchscreen models show the knobs and three buttons on either side of the screen are laid out in what looks like an identical fashion. That indicates most of the underlying electronics are the same, and that it might be possible to retrofit stripped-out cars like this with a touchscreen down the road. Probably not vice versa, though, owing to the greater number of functions controlled through the touchscreen.

Still, it's interesting to imagine what other modern cars could be like if they diverged from the touchscreen paradigm. We're already seeing a gradual trend toward physical controls like buttons and knobs, which gives hope for an automotive future with fewer distractions. After all, cars are for driving, not watching Marvel movies behind the wheel.

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