2017 Hyundai ElantraPosted on May 11th, 2016
Redesigned midsize design gains in style, comfort and safety
By Nina Russin
The automaker that built its reputation as a value leader has come of age, as evidenced in the all-new Hyundai Elantra midsize sedan. While the sedan offers buyers a lot of content for the money, the newest Elantra is equally competitive on other fronts: its distinctive exterior, extensive roster of available safety features and vastly improved fit and finish throughout the interior.
Competing in the largest passenger car segment, the Elantra covers a lot of ground with the base SE priced from $17,150 and upscale Limited priced from $22,350 that includes features such as leather upholstery, Bluetooth, satellite radio, keyless start, blind spot monitoring and a rearview camera as standard equipment.
Options on the test car include a tech package that adds navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, premium audio system with digital file decompression and heated seats, as well as a premium package adding HID headlamps, pedestrian detection with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and driver’s seat memory. Final MSRP including destination is $27,710.
Test drive in Arizona
Over the past week I drove the Elantra around Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as through the foothills of the San Tan Mountains southeast of town. The test drive gave included rush-hour traffic, some altitude and stop-and-go driving on surface streets.
The Limited model is available with one powertrain only: a two-liter gasoline direct injection engine rated at 147-horsepower and six-speed automatic transmission. Buyers who choose the less expensive SE can opt for a manual gearbox and should.
While the engine has plenty of horsepower for normal driving it is short on torque: most obvious during hard acceleration. Since the automatic transmission’s shift points were calibrated to favor fuel economy, it’s hard for the driver to take advantage of peak torque: 132 pound-feet. I found myself having to dig deep into the throttle while accelerating onto the highway and when trying to pass slower vehicles at speed.
Fuel economy during the test drive was better than advertised. I averaged about 35 miles-per-gallon: three miles-per-gallon better than the EPA estimate.
The electric power steering system works well although there is a slight hesitation in on-center response. A 34.78-foot turning circle makes it easy to maneuver into tight parking spots. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels give the Elantra a fat footprint for better response at high speeds.
The suspension consists of MacPherson struts with twin-tube shocks up front and a torsion beam rear axle. I found the ride from the driver’s seat to be quite comfortable, with the suspension providing a good buffer between myself and the pavement on uneven surfaces. Four-wheel disc brakes stop the sedan in firm, linear fashion.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior, enabling occupants in both rows to converse or enjoy the premium audio system.
The Elantra interior is the car’s most noticeable improvement. Hyundai has listened to its customers and fixed the issues that plagued earlier versions of this and other models: among them the hard-to-read gauge cluster and center stack screen. The gauge cluster on the 2017 model is beautifully designed, incorporating a thin-film-transistor information screen that enables the driver to track real-time fuel economy, driving range and more.
Designers gave the center stack screen a deep recess, so it is no longer washed out by bright sunlight in mid-day. A split screen enables the driver to monitor navigation maps and audio channels at the same time.
Keyless entry and start saves the driver from fumbling for the key fob, adding a measure of safety after dark. This is the time of year when mid-day temperatures in Phoenix approach triple digits and I become acutely aware of chrome touch points in the interior. In this case, the chrome ring around the shift lever made the lever difficult to grab, especially when shifting into reverse.
The power driver’s seat is easy to adjust, with ample lower lumbar support for drives several hours in duration. Dual-zone climate controls help front-row occupants stay comfortable in temperature extremes.
At night, the high-intensity discharge headlamps with dynamic bending light illuminate dark intersections better than traditional headlamps, allowing the driver to see pedestrians that might be waiting to cross. Pedestrian detection with automatic stop is a wonderful technology, and it’s good to see it expand beyond the luxury segment.
The Elantra’s spacious trunk has plenty of room for luggage, golf bags and moderate-size camping equipment. Cyclists will be better served with one of the OEMs crossovers that has a taller, more versatile cargo area.
The test car comes with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, blind spot monitoring, rearview camera, hill start assist and tire pressure monitoring. Hyundai’s ten year/100,000-mile warranty includes five years of roadside assistance with unlimited mileage.
Hyundai manufactures the Elantra at its Montgomery, Alabama assembly plant.
Like: A stylish, well-crafted mid-size sedan with a high level of standard safety features and exceptional fuel economy.
Dislike: Two-liter engine lacks low-end power. Chrome ring on shift lever can get dangerously hot, making it difficult to shift the car into reverse.
Model: Elantra Limited
Base price: $22,350
As tested: $27,710
Horsepower: 147 Hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 132 lbs.-ft. @ 4500 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 28/37 mpg city/highway