We recently tested the Elantra GT hatchback and found it to be a fun and flexible small hatch – one that might be better for some buyers than a crossover or SUV. And while those vehicles seem to be getting the lion’s share of sales, along with small hatchbacks, there’s still a need in the marketplace for the small sedan.
There’s always a sweet spot for cars like the Corolla, Civic and our tester, the Elantra sedan. They make great first cars for new drivers, great second cars for families, and comfortable and reliable transportation for older buyers, too.
The big surprise is that simple, basic, transportation has turned into stylish, luxurious and tech advanced – and still at small-car prices.
Pleasing to the eye.
Like many carmakers, Hyundai likes to keep the styling in the family with Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear–sized versions of their sedans – just pick the one that’s just right for you. So, no big surprise the Elantra has a scaled-down Sonata vibe to it. No problem there, our recently face-lifted Sonata tester was notably handsome with crisp lines.
More of the same here. Elantra has always had a bit of European to it, and the sedan looks modern and tasteful, with short overhangs. Completely redesigned in 2017, it received Hyundai’s signature hexagonal grille, HID headlights (with Dynamic Bending Light feature!) and eye-catching vertical LED daytime running lights – a first on an Elantra. Our top-of-the-line Limited model enjoyed the added bling of sporty 17” alloys, LED door handle approach lights, and LED turn signal indicators and LED taillights with a cool graphic.
Blue seems to be making a comeback – at least in the test vehicles we’ve been getting. Our tester’s Electric Blue was handsome and really popped.
Would you like SoyFoam with that?
No, we’re not sipping lattes, all Elantra seats are of SoyFoam – an environmentally friendly seating foam that substitutes petroleum based foams used in the past.
The rest of the Elantra’s interior is tasteful, in a restrained way. The Limited’s leather seats feel high quality, and the interior is so spacious, it’s classified as a Mid-size car by the EPA. The interior is typical Hyundai, with big gauges and a TFT display in between. There’s a large, legible center touchscreen display with excellent info-tainment, including AppleCarplay and Android Auto, and clear, simple switchgear for the climate controls underneath.
Limited doesn’t seem like a fair name for our tester – the list of equipment is impressive, with keyless entry and start, hands-free smart trunk, dual-zone climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror – even a 3-year subscription to the Blue Link Connected Care & Remote Package, with cool stuff like smartphone remote start and lock/unlock, destination search by google, automatic collision notification, and remote car finder. Very Cool.
Already on the road to poshville, our tester also included the Ultimate Package, which takes you deep into the land of the luxurious, with goodies like Navigation with 8-inch touchscreen including Siri Eyes-free, 8-speaker Infinity Premium Audio system, power sunroof, heated rear seats and added safety features.
We like the subtle things like a center stack angled 7 degrees toward the driver for an easier reach. Less subtle was some low-rent bits. While the upper parts of the dash and the touchpoints all feel of high quality, the lower console and dash area had hard, scratchy plastics. Like most makers, Our Limited must share bits with the bargain-basement models, and it peeks through here and there. Hey, SoyFoam don’t come cheap!
Little Big Car
The drive certainly feels luxurious. It’s an interesting comparison to the Elantra GT hatch we had, and even though that car didn’t have the turbo engine or direction sequential gearbox, it still felt sporty and willing to play.
The sedan – at least in Limited guise – is more interested in being smooth and comfy. With the 147-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder acceleration is solid, the ride is firm, the tires have good grip, but it never goads you into tossing it around. Brakes are a plus with good feel. Comfy it is. We should note that there is an Elantra Sport sedan trim – those looking for a more invigorating drive should look there.
Adding to the Limited’s comfort are an impressive list of safety features. In fact, Hyundai is making a big effort to make all Elantras safe. The SEL – one model above the most basic Elantra SE – features standard Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist. Nice.
The optional Ultimate Package on our tester added the safety goods you’d expect on a larger luxury car, including Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Smart Cruise Control, and Lane Keep Assist System. You feel well looked after.
Hyundai made its name on exceptional value, and although they don’t give them away like they used to, you still get a great bang for your buck. The SE starts at $16,950, with a 6-speed manual (add $1,000 for the automatic), a nice entry level sedan. We’d at least pop for the SEL at $18,650 including automatic, to get the added safety features, alloy wheels, nicer audio system and rear disc brakes.
There’s also the intriguing Eco edition, featuring a 1.4-liter Turbo and 7-speed dual clutch transmission – getting 40 mpg has never been more fun. Our enthusiast hearts would be pulled to the Sport model starting at $21,800 with a 1.6-liter turbo, unique sport body kit, sport seats and more.
Our Limited Tester started at $22,100. Combined with the Ultimate Package ($4,350) our tester carried a sticker of $27,335. We loaded up a Mazda 3 sedan, and came in at $27,990. A Civic Touring Sedan rang the bell at $26,800. All of these are attractive, well-equipped cars. We should add that Hyundai’s 10-year, 100,00-mile powertrain warranty make the Elantra a tempting car to hold on to long-term, or pass-down through the family.
Fresh styling, loads of tech, safety and comfort, all-in a convenient easy handle to size. The Elantra is a smart package and a smart buy.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.