We are currently living in a golden age of compact cars. From distinctive styling to new powertrains that offer impressive power and fuel economy, the compact car has been growing up. One of the key players in this dramatic change is Hyundai. When they introduced the last-generation Elantra for the 2011 model year, it was unlike any compact that Hyundai or for that matter, any automaker had produced. The swoopy lines of the exterior made the Elantra look more expensive than it was. Plus the combination of a smooth ride and long list of standard features helped propel the model towards the top.
How do you follow up this impressive act? Hyundai decided to play it safe when it introduced the 2017 Elantra at the 2015 LA Auto Show - evolution and not revolution. Was this the right decision considering the current crop of compacts? We spent a week in the Elantra Limited sedan to find out.
The basic shape of the Elantra is mostly unchanged to the last-generation model. But Hyundai has done some finessing to it. The front features a larger hexagonal grille that has been appearing on Hyundai’s crossover lineup. There is also a new front bumper with a vertical strand of LED lights and reshaped headlights. The side profile becomes bolder with sculpting along the doors and more prominent character lines. In the back, the Elantra takes the trunk lid from the larger Sonata and new taillights. It might not be as daring as the new Honda Civic or Mazda3, but the Elantra has an air of elegance. It stands out but doesn’t scream about it.
The interior is where you begin to see the big changes. Higher quality materials like soft-touch plastics are used in a lot of the interior. The dashboard design and layout is the same as the Sonata. This means a much easier control layout than the outgoing model and larger buttons for the various controls. Our Limited tester came with a 7-inch touchscreen as standard. Hyundai’s infotainment system is one of the better systems thanks to easy-to-understand interface and blazing performance. The 2017 Elantra brings forth Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. With our iPhone hooked up to the system, we found Hyundai’s implementation to be one of the best. It only took a few seconds for the system to recognize the phone before bringing up the CarPlay interface. From there, performance was smooth and we had no issues with either the system or phone locking up.
Compared to the outgoing Elantra, the new model is about an inch longer and wider. This space has been put to good use in the back seat as legroom has improved. Headroom is still a tough affair if you happen to above 5’8” as your head will be touching the roof. The front seats provide a fair amount of adjustments to get yourself comfortable. The one item we would have liked is a bit more thigh support for longer trips.
Most Elantras will feature the engine seen in our tester, a 2.0L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder with 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet. A six-speed automatic is only available on the Limited, but the base SE has the choice between it and a six-speed manual. Compared to the 2.0L found in the last-generation Elantra, there isn’t any real improvement in the power delivery. It still takes its sweet time to get up to speed whether driving on a country road or merging onto a freeway. Out of all the compacts we have driven in 2016, the Elantra is right alongside the Nissan Sentra for being some of the slowest vehicles in the class. The six-speed automatic does a competent job with providing smooth gear changes.
Hyundai has two other engines on offer for the Elantra: A turbocharged 1.4L found in the Eco and updated turbocharged 1.6L coming in the new Elantra Sport. For our money, going with either one of these engines would be the better option. We’ll have a better opinion whenever we get behind the wheel of either model in the future.
EPA fuel economy figures for the 2017 Hyundai Elantra stand at 27 City/38 Highway/32 Combined. Our week consisting of 60 percent city driving and 40 percent highway returned an average of 30.7 mpg.
If there one area the last Hyundai Elantra did very well, it was ride comfort. The new model continues this with improved suspension tuning that irons out most bumps and imperfections. But Hyundai still has a lot of work to do when it comes to noise isolation. A fair amount of road and wind noise comes inside, making the Elantra not a great choice to do a long trip in. Handling has seen a noticeable improvement with the Elantra showing less body roll in cornering. Thank the additional structural rigidity Hyundai has added to the Elantra. Still, the steering could use a bit more work. It feels way too light and you’ll find yourself doing a fair amount of correction when driving on the highway.
Hyundai took a big risk with the last-generation Elantra and it proved to be a major success. The design and features on offer shook up the compact car arena and sent manufacturers back to their drawing boards to build something that could take on the Elantra. But for this new model, Hyundai played it safe. They took an idea that was working and just improved it. In certain areas, this is a good thing. The interior is a much nicer place to be in and the addition of CarPlay and Android Auto is nice to have. But Hyundai could have done more to make the Elantra stand out even further. The 2.0L four-cylinder could have a little bit more power and more work should have been done in terms of keeping outside noises from entering the interior.
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra is an improvement over the outgoing model. But in light of fresh competition such as the Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Civic, the Elantra doesn’t find itself on top as it once did.
Cheers: Still sharp looking, Improved interior design, Comfortable ride
Jeers: Slow performance, Too much outside noise coming in, Seats could be improved for longer trips
Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Elantra, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Engine: 2.0L MPI Atkinson Cycle Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 147 @ 6,200
Torque @ RPM: 132 @ 4,500
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/32
Curb Weight: 2,811 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, Alabama
Base Price: $22,350
As Tested Price: $23,310 (Includes $835.00 Destination Charge)
Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00