2017 Hyundai Elantra First Review

By Matt Degen on February 1, 2016 2:00 PM

If you want some of the freshest, most cutting-edge, passenger-coddling features available in a midsize sedan, but in a smaller package, the revamped 2017 Hyundai Elantra may be the car for you. That's a key takeaway after driving the all-new, six-generation of Hyundai's compact sedan.

Hyundai's Elantra sedan has grown slightly over the previous edition, but in what is becoming par for the course, this latest installment is also roomier inside, slightly more fuel efficient and powerful. And as we previously wrote, at $17,985, the 2017 Elantra has a starting price that's actually $100 lower than the outgoing model.

Comfort, quality, and a long warranty

Where the new Elantra really ups its game, though, is its content. This isn't a surprise coming from Hyundai. The automaker has long been strong on value, and in more recent years it has been just as adamant about offering cars with highly impressive features. As for Hyundai quality? The automaker long ago addressed those woes and offers the best warranty in the biz as proof, one that includes 10 years/100,000 miles of confidence behind the powertrain.

The 2017 Elantra just went on sale and is initially being offered in two trim levels -- SE and Limited -- and with one engine, an all-new 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. More offerings are coming, including an Eco model with a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder this spring and, later this year, the debut of a sport variant with a much greater pony count over the standard model. Stay tuned for more details on that one. No resurrection of the short-lived Elantra Coupe is planned. The Elantra GT hatchback, meanwhile, will get its makeover later, possibly for the 2018 model year.

An "Ultimate" compact sedan

For our initial impression of the latest Elantra, Hyundai invited us to San Diego and handed us the keys to a Limited model with the Ultimate Package. The first thing we noticed are all the features Hyundai ladled on the Elantra, stuff that not long ago was impressive to find on a mainstream midsize sedan like the Hyundai Sonata. Now they've trickled down to a compact.

Among the highlights are smart cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure and lane-keep systems, high-end Infinity audio system, 8-inch touchscreen navigation system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, and leather seating (heated front and rear). Exclusive to a mainstream compact sedan are the 2017 Elantra's available automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, driver's side memory seat and power-operated trunk with hands-free opening. That's a lot of stuff, and wholly impressive for the price of our tester: $27,710.

But how's it drive?

Very good. In fact, better than you'd expect given the Elantra's not exactly mind-blowing power output -- 147 horsepower/132 lb-ft of torque -- and continued use of a torsion beam rear suspension in lieu of a pricier multilink setup.

Yet this all-new engine does more with less. Interestingly, it's an Atkinson-cycle, the type of gasoline power plant usually associated with hybrids. Hyundai says it is the only one of its kind being combined with multiport fuel injection among compact cars. This engine was chosen because it helps reduce pumping losses by delaying the close of the intake valve on the compression stroke, which maximizes the expansion ratio.

For the rest of us who aren't automotive engineers, just know this: In real-world driving this engine feels more powerful than its numbers suggest. Linked to a 6-speed automatic (standard in all trims except the most basic Elantra SE), the powertrain eagerly pleased. We reckon most Elantra drivers won't be testing its limits by flogging their sedan on twisty two-lane roads. We did and came away surprised at how well the Elantra held its own.

Multiple drive modes, improved suspension

For such driving the Elantra works best in Sport mode (normal is fine for, well, normal driving, while an Eco mode is available for those aiming to meet or exceed the Elantra's 28 city/37 highway mpg ratings). The Elantra's Drive Mode Select is standard on all models with an automatic transmission, which means almost all of them. We like the Sport mode in vigorous driving because it noticeably stiffens steering feel (and does so better than past incarnations of Hyundai's electric power steering systems), and optimizes transmission response by shifting at higher revs and holding gears longer in the process. The 6-speed transmission was also eager to downshift, always a benefit when passing slower drivers or having fun on such aforementioned twisty roads.

Also in the “does-better-than-we'd-expect” category is the Elantra's suspension. While even the latest model is still using a torsion beam rear, it's been redesigned and beefed up. The result is a ride that sticks to the pavement better than a small sedan should when pushed, yet compliant enough for the kind of highway and errand-running surface-street driving most buyers will actually do. We still give the fun-to-drive crown to the Mazda3, though. The new Elantra is more nimble than the outgoing model, but still can't match the prowess of  Mazda's athlete among compact sedans.

But as we've said, most compact buyers aren't seeking corner-carving thrills on their daily commute. And for the few who are, Hyundai hopes to woo them with the upcoming Elantra Sport. For the far greater majority who are seeking the latest creature comforts, good fuel economy and sleek looks at an impressive value, the 2017 Elantra packs all that in a package that's more enticing than ever.


 

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