Long gone are the days when buying a compact sedan meant forgoing the creature comforts of larger, more expensive cars. Every time an entry in the class is redesigned, it brings with it greater and greater aspirations; the sedans are now so fiercely competitive that automakers strain to put their latest and greatest technologies into their most affordable cars. As a result, cars such as the all-new 2017 Hyundai Elantra boast a level of quality, refinement, and features that easily put to rest the notion that an affordable car needs to represent any sort of compromise.
As soon as you see the 2017 Hyundai Elantra, which has grown not only in size but also in character compared to its predecessor, its sharp, taut lines strike you with a more modern look than its predecessor’s swoopy curves. Fully loaded with the 17-inch wheels and LED lights of our Limited Ultimate test car, the Elantra looks even more convincingly mature. Our only reservation is that, as with the larger Sonata, the Elantra doesn’t have a distinctive style of its own that speaks to the Hyundai brand. Maybe it’s that Hyundai is still in the process of defining itself as it poaches more and more design talent from other manufacturers, but the Elantra feels like a compromise between the designs of other cars. We wish Hyundai had taken bolder design risks in the vein of cars such as the Honda Civic and Mazda3.
On the road, the 2017 Hyundai Elantra continues to demonstrate how the automaker has improved a lot in a short time. Its 2.0-liter engine is a sweet, smooth mill that does a great job of fading into the background. It’s a noticeable change from the engine in the 2016 Elantra we drove a few weeks earlier, which was perfectly peppy but buzzy and rattly. As is the case with most cars in this class, acceleration in the 2017 model isn’t neck-breaking, but the Elantra’s automatic transmission shifts promptly and smoothly, so we never found ourselves wanting for more oomph in a few days of suburban and highway driving. Fuel economy ratings are 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway, which is impressive, but the best in the class now crack 40 mpg. The Mazda3, for example, has been rated at 41 mpg highway with its 2.0-liter four-cylinder since its redesign in 2013.
A similar smoothness comes through the chassis, which again is a welcome improvement over the sometimes brittle rides of earlier Elantras. The 2017 model deftly soaks up chatter and bumps from the roadway. Light, quick steering makes urban maneuvers simple, too, though the Elantra isn’t quite as natural to steer as our new segment fave, the Civic.
Oodles of equipment, reasonable pricing
The biggest sign that compact sedans have moved beyond their humble roots is in the impressive level of equipment available. Our test car, for instance, packed gadgets we once expected only in premium cars: remote start, leather seats, HID headlights, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, memory power seats, a great hands-free automatic trunk release, navigation, and heated rear seats, all part of the Limited Ultimate package. It is, however, the only package that offers automatic emergency braking, a feature we consider a huge benefit to car safety. We wish Hyundai would democratize that crash-prevention feature and make it available on more affordable trim levels other than our $27,170 tester.
But you needn’t pay that much for a well-equipped Elantra: Hyundai says the most popular configuration is the SE with the Popular Equipment package, which starts at just $19,785. It packs a touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, a backup camera, alloy wheels, cruise control, keyless entry, heated mirrors, and automatic headlights—pretty much all the gadgets we want in a modern compact sedan besides remote start and active safety tech.
A big step forward
The story of the 2017 Hyundai Elantra isn’t just about value-for-money, though; it’s about all-round quality. We’ve long moved past the era when people only shopped Hyundais for a long warranty and a low entry price, but the 2017 Elantra proves that the company has not only maintained those values but progressed even farther. With better refinement and design than ever before, plus a wealth of available features, it’s a strong contender in its segment.
2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited Ultimate Specifications
|Price:||$23,185/$27,710 (base/as tested)|
|Engine:||2.0L DOHC 16-valve I-4/147 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 132 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm|
|Layout:||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD sedan|
|EPA Mileage:||28/37 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H:||179.9 x 70.9 x 56.5 in|
|0-60 MPH:||9.0 sec (est)|