The new 2017 Hyundai Elantra represents the Korean carmaker’s latest push toward reinventing its historical image, and you notice it the first time you see the car. Its sculpted body’s edges flow similar to the Hyundai Sonata’s; the shape is unapologetically feminine and gives the Elantra subtle beauty not common in this class. The Elantra’s elegant, pretty form also improves its drag coefficient and helps its fuel economy, something compact-vehicle consumers prize.
For people who still assume cheap cars necessarily equal horrific products, the 2017 Hyundai Elantra offers substance to back up its style. Its interior is, as expected, more upscale than previous versions. Nice, soft-touch surfaces give an air of quality to the car, and where piano-black plastics reigned previously, brushed aluminum, light bits of chrome, and soft plastics now carry throughout. The seats and seating position work no matter if you’re 5-foot-2 or 6-foot-4; seats are comfortable and supple, yet secure and supportive. We never worried we would slide out of them while driving enthusiastically over twisting roads, and we never needed to stop and stretch due to fatigue while cruising. The interior is satisfying and feels spacious, and that’s partially down to Hyundai increasing its overall dimensions.
Yes, the car’s exterior classifies the Elantra officially as a compact, but the interior offers space that would feel appropriate in a midsize sedan. The same does not apply to the 147-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. However, with fully loaded Elantras weighing about 2,976 pounds, the car is not numbingly slow. We won’t call it peppy or enthusiastic, but it won’t leave you hanging out to dry with nonexistent response. Hyundai will release a Sport version of the Elantra—with a more powerful engine —at SEMA at the end of 2016; hopefully the engine will trickle down to the rest of the Elantra lineup.
For now, the Elantra’s four-cylinder returns between 29-33 mpg combined (depending on trim), according to Hyundai, and it achieved the figure easily as we drove a combination of roads that delivered heavy traffic, open back-routes, elevation changes, and snaking canyon switchbacks. An Eco mode that adjusts throttle position and the transmission’s shift points helps to eke out a few more miles to the gallon, too.
Compact-car buyers might focus traditionally on comfort and fuel economy, but Hyundai’s engineers know that isn’t good enough anymore. As evidence, toss the Elantra into a bend, and after a small amount of body roll, the car hooks up and remains planted. It’s no performance chariot, but the chassis provides excellent stability when needed, such as when you’re trying to avoid an accident. Additionally, the suspension deals well with bumps, potholes, and manholes, making comfort and stability some of the Elantra’s key selling points.
According to Hyundai, though, “Compact cars aren’t just basic units of transportation” anymore. Regardless of segment, people want bells and whistles, available navigation—in other words, a car that not only gets them from A to B, but does so in quiet ease and with the world at their fingertips. The Elantra offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as options, and within a few screen-taps you have access to almost every one of your phone’s features, including music, contacts, apps, and documents.
One thing that doesn’t work yet precisely as advertised: the Infinity Premium Audio unit that uses JBL’s Clari-Fi music restoration software. Clari-Fi uses a predictive algorithm to fill in holes in compressed music files such as MP3s. In theory, it balances the compressed files and produces a more authentic music experience. It gives the digital copy on your phone—something that’s been copied a hundred thousand times—added clarity and fidelity to make it sound more like the original track. However, it’s not always apparent the system is working. For certain genres, the Clari-Fi system sounds better than the original track, but that quality doesn’t span across the board.
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra’s overall quality, though, has taken another step forward. With a starting price of $17,985, compact-car buyers should take it seriously.
2017 Hyundai Elantra Specifications
- On Sale: Now
- Price: $17,985/$28,685 (base/as tested)
- Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve I-4/147 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 132 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic
- Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD sedan
- EPA Mileage: 26-28/36-38 mpg (city/highway)
- L x W x H: 179.9 x 70.9 x 56.5 in
- Wheelbase: 106.3 in
- Weight: 2,976 lb
- 0-60 mph:
- 8.9 sec (est)
- Top Speed: N/A