2017 Hyundai ELANTRA Ultimate – Road Test Review + Drive Video

The 2017 Elantra Limited is a knockout.

It blew us away with its supremely European handling and best-ever-tested autonomous drive.

How do we do this phenomenal car justice in a text-only written review?  Impossible!

As such, we have the usual 50 photos of the car plus a very cool HD drive video to come along for the ride.

Just try not to be wowed by what this Acura ILX rival can do!


HD DRIVE VIDEO – 2017 Hyundai ELANTRA Ultimate




First things first, though.  How does it look?  Remarkably mature and sophisticated.  The Elantra Limited is the top of the range, and this car brings along a few key upgrades versus other Elantras.  Most notably, the 17-inch alloys that fill out the arches far more confidently than the MPG-focused rims on the also-tested 2017 Elantra ECO.

LED daytime running lights are joined by LED taillights for the Limited spec, and our car goes beyond this for the lighting.  The Tech and Ultimate packs bring along HID low-beams with adaptive cornering functionality.  A feature that astounded us on cars like the F-Type R Jaguar and Infiniti QX80 — now available in a $27k compact?

The swivel of the HID projector balls around corners is not the only swanky feature of the Elantra, though.  Far from it.  More on the huge list of goodies the Tech/Ultimate upgrades bring along in the next section.

For now, the styling.  Up front, we have a confident new full-frame grille in dark satin grey with horizontal slats.  The LEDs make an upward strake on each front fender, leading into the matching-white HID lowbeam nicely.  The whole look is slightly softer in front than the new Civic, and has a bit of Dodge Dart-meets-Corolla S about its general face.  Not a bad thing on first glance, but not terrific either.

The 2017 Elantra is a full inch wider than before, but loses much of the crisp panel shaping from the 2016 models.  This is most visible in profile, were the new Elantra has much smoother, more rounded appearances for its upper shoulderline.  This subtle, upward-arcing swage line was previous razor-sharp and appeared to be quite a deep metal stamping.  The effect helped the old Elantra look remarkably fresh, even a few years since its arrival.

The new model loses that crisp, unique look to its flanks and most of its nose/tail.  The replacement?  A more timeless and global — perhaps even Euro, dare we say — clean feel to the car all around.  There are highlights, though.  We love the curt overhangs front and rear.  The integrated spoiler out back is actually the trunk metal pulled rearward in a classy and very BMW-like flip at its edges.

Slimline taillights are gorgeous with their three individual LED light-pods, and the car is actually quite handsome from the rear three-quarter angle — ever a tough one for compact sedans.

The 2017 Elantra might not visually captivate as well as the previous generation, but this metalwork is far, far stiffer than ever before.  A rigid chassis makes solid mounting points for its new Euro-honed suspension and drive controls.  Into the cabin we go!


The Elantra’s cabin is instantly one of the best-assembled and highest quality in its segment. Perhaps slightly behind the new Honda Civic for feeling pricey, but far better than the Honda or Acura ILX at feeling classy and serene.  The new design eschews wild dashboard curves for a clean, geometric aesthetic for its low and unintrusive dashboard design.  The appeal of a low upper dash is clear: it helps avoid that Ford Focus-like claustrophobia — where the center pod feels like it wants to come sit in your lap.

No, the Elantra’s upper dash is chill, calm and keeps its distance.  Visibility is terrific and the silver-sheen effect lining the main controls is actually pretty elegant.  It is metallicized so its cool to the touch.  Also is non-reflective and and won’t shoot a weird sun angle directly into your eye.  Not as much of a clifflike top to the dash really is a smart effort.  See the Corolla’s clifflike switch between upper dash and center to know why Hyundai’s is better.

Simple shapes also have a side benefit: they make the controls and layout easy to master.  Getting in for the first time leaves an unmistakable sense of quality to the Elantra.  Push on those door panels, tug the dash and feel the soft-touch plastics.  All very, very impressive.

The leather seating of this Elantra Limited is nice to have, with subtle perforations (but not full cooled seats, which are still a bit above this pricepoint).  The leather feels acceptably soft, but not as great as the semi-aniline leather wrap for the steering wheel and shifter.  These touchpoints are phenomenally good.

Seating support is quite good around corners. Seating position is top-of-class, too, with a huge range of adjustment.  Mercifully, the seat can ride deep and low toward the floor — at least an extra four inches lower than possible in any Focus or Corolla.  Perfect for sporty drivers and tall folks alike.

An unusually huge range of adjustment for the tilt/telescoping steering wheel comes far out and very low when needed.  All quite good.  Almost as good as the easy-to-master MID-cluster controls, operated via a very high-tech-feeling toggle on the steering-wheel. (This high-res midcluster is actually part of the Tech pack below, not a Limited standard feature.)  Unlike most mainstream cars, though, the Elantra lets you make real changes to the car’s settings and displays.  Another rarity for the one-mode-fits-all mood in many compacts.


The Elantra Limited comes standard with guidelined backup camera, proximity key/pushbutton start, touchscreen audio, dual automatic climate controls, LED blinker repeaters in the mirrors, exterior approach puddle lamps, handsfree SmartTrunk and more.  It is seriously plush in there for a price in the 22s.  Android Auto and Apple CarPlay?  Yes.  Bluetooth of course, even Hyundai Bluelink connected-car services as a trial.  Seriously impressive stuff, with almost none of the above goodies available on most rivals at any cost.

All this is well and good for the Elantra and its new owner (you).

LIMITED ULTIMATE?  Industry-Leading

Where the car is a premium-killer in its upgrades comes in two stages.  The first is the $2500 Tech Pack and the second is the $1900 Ultimate pack.  Going Ultimate requires the tech box checked first, by the way.


  • 8-inch touchscreen nav (+1 inch vs 7-inch screen in lower Elantras, plus adds nav
  • premium 8-speaker audio with subwoofer
  • high-res 4-inch mid cluster menu/display
  • moonroof
  • heated front and rear seats
  • auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink and compass


  • HID lowbeams with dynamic bending light
  • auto emergency braking
  • smart cruise
  • lane-keep assist (!  more on this below)
  • memory seats and mirrors

It is VERY rare for us to make lists of features.  We’re just slightly astounded that all these very-new and very-advanced items come on a compact car at all.  Let alone for about $4400 more than the stock machine.

The really impressive part of these upgrades, though, is how well they work.  No cut-rate suppliers — these features are nearly the same as a $7700 Infiniti option pack.  And, excluding the not-very-effective autodimming mirrors, the Hyundai Elantra’s systems are smarter, faster and better than the aforementioned luxury car with an $80k price.AUTO_DRIVE

Adaptive cruise and lake-keep assist are spreading to more and more premium cars lately.  But not all systems are created equal.  Some are jumpy, lazy, slow and slightly spooky.  (Will it correct the steeringwheel this time??!  We asked ourselves recently in a RAV4 Limited..)

Hyundai’s smart cruise is fantastic. It is actually a replacement for controlling the throttle.  It brakes like a human, accelerates like a human — yet is smooth and automatic.  No humans needed!  Until you come to a stop, that is. It is not a full-speed system so once it brakes you to a halt, it needs input to stay automatic.  We couldn’t fool it or catch it out.  Even on narrow two-lines, curvey four-lanes and everywhere in between.  It just works flawlessly.

The Lane-Keep Assist in this Elantra is where it wipes the floor with its yestertech rivals.  Most lane-keep systems are totally passive.  If you go over a lane line, it nudges you back over into your lane.  But this is where it ends for most systems — they will bong you back and forth between the lanelines like bumper bowling.  The Elantra can do this too, in its passive setting.  But in that mid-cluster menu is an easter egg so delicious…….!

“Active” lane tracking.  Enable this and the Elantra really does drive itself.

Anticipating corners, staying perfectly center, turning you around the bends… it is truly a game-changer.  For the first time, it feels like the system is just “helping” you drive.  It works, and we were/are astounded.

Not a full autonomous drive, of course.  Hands have to be on steering wheel ever 20 seconds or so to keep the system active.  Even so.  Wow.  This auto-steer is the best we’ve ever tested.

Doubting?  Watch the lane-keep in action midway though the above drive video.


The Elantra Limited comes standard with an eager 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.  Its 147 ponies are not an impressive tally on paper, but honestly pull quite hard!  We’d estimate the car is pushing and extra 20HP or so extra by how quick it felt in our hands.  Or perhaps it is the new automatic.  Still a six-speed, but fully redone with better logic, faster gearchanges and a more premium feel.  The six-speed also has a mini-clutch torque converter addition that lets it be more precise.  It works.  Feels like a direct-drive with no slop in Sport mode, but also shifts like butter when driven slowly in traffic.

We found the Elantra’s best detail to be its Drive Mode selector.  Normal, Eco and SPORT are a tap away, and change not just the shift points but the throttle and steering too.  In sport, this is a seriously excellent helm.

The steering is firm like an Audi at dead-ahead, yet feelsome like a BMW with some lock around corners. It is heavy and firm in Sport, and we love it.

Sport also helps the Elantra feel much quicker.  Normal is a bit cushier through the wheel, and takes more throttle effort to get moving rapidly.  Same, but more-so, in Eco.

Sport is where this car belongs, and where it lived in its time with us.  We wish you could default it to drive in Sport, versus selecting it each drive.  But still.  Super impressive.

Rolling refinement is top-of-class, with a muted engine growl and nearly no wind noise versus its rivals.  Still a bit of road rumble from the tires, but silent and refined like a mid-size much more than other compacts.

Capping all this goodness?  Honest, realworld mileage that is stellar.  We achieved our highest-ever MPG average for press cars in this Elantra, for example.  Its EPA stats are 28/37, with a 32-MPG combined average that is doable, easily, in real life.  Mighty impressive stuff.


2017 Elantras start from the upper teens, but our Elantra Limited stickers from $22,350 before the $835 delivery fee.  About $23k out the door, then, for a terrific car.

The Tech and Ultimate option packages take our total to $27,710.


$27k for a compact?  This is high, is it not?  We’d normally suggest skipping the big option groups.

Not In This Case.

This terrific 2017 Elantra drives like it is from Germany, and has roominess rivalling some midsize models even from its $23k ballpark.  With the Tech and Ultimate upgrades, though, the Elantra becomes something else entirely.  Think of the car not as a Corolla-beater, but a true premium compact like the Acura ILX or Audi A3.  It really is that good.  With rivals like those, the new Elantra Ultimate even scores on the value front: thousands less than the ILX and nearly $10k under the Mercedes-Benz CLA or Audi A3.

Don’t believe me?  Take one for a test drive!  Sport mode engaged, Active LaneKeep turned on… and this Hyundai Elantra Limited really does do the impossible: makes chumps out of cars costing 3x as much.