New & Used Hyundai Elantra: In Depth
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The Hyundai Elantra is the South Korean automaker's family of compact cars.
In its most recent form, the Elantra was sold as a sedan, a coupe, and a hatchback. It won many honors, including the 2012 North American Car of the Year title.
The Hyundai Elantra is new for the 2017 model year—so far, as a sedan only. It's now in its fifth generation, and is a rival for vehicles such as the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Mazda 3 as well as the Chevrolet Cruze, Dodge Dart, Nissan Sentra, and Volkswagen Golf, and its cousin, the Kia Forte.
MORE: Read our 2017 Hyundai Elantra review
The new 2017 Hyundai Elantra
The new Elantra that arrives for the 2017 model year is a more sedately styled sedan that has improved its quietness and refinement, much as Hyundai did with the bigger Sonata that was new in 2015.
The Elantra's styling bravado has been pared down, and supplemented with more safety features, a more comfortable cabin, and higher fuel economy.
Inside and out, the Elantra's lines have been dialed down and smoothed out. The space for people and cargo has been boosted, too: with about an inch more in overall length and in width, the new Elantra is firmly in the mid-size category, though Hyundai sells it as a compact car.
Two new powertrains help Hyundai nudge the Elantra's efficiency to new highs. A new 2.0-liter four makes 147 horsepower; its gas mileage ratings are 29 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 33 mpg combined when coupled with a 6-speed automatic. A new Elantra Eco uses a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder with 128 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque, coupled to a 7-speed, dual-clutch transmission for an estimated 35 mpg on the EPA combined cycle.
The powertrains deliver adequate power, but much smoother performance in Limited models. Those Limited sedans have more insulation between the engine and cabin, thicker glass, and more sound-deadening material surrounding the cockpit. With them, the Elantra is now about as quiet as the Sonata.
Handling has improved with a stiffer body and a redesigned torsion-beam rear axle. The stronger body should also help crash-test scores; the automaker is seeking a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS as well as a five-star overall rating from the NHTSA. Seven airbags are standard, and a rearview camera is available.
New features on the options list include forward-collision warnings with automatic braking; adaptive cruise control; and blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts. Other new features will include a handsfree, gesture-enabled trunk release; Android Auto; and a new navigation system.
The new Elantra goes on sale early in 2016, as a four-door sedan. While the Coupe body style is gone, a new Elantra GT hatchback is expected in the 2017 model year.Hyundai Elantra history
From 1992 to 2000, the first two generations of Elantras were, like most Hyundais of the era, inexpensive economy cars. After 2000, the Elantra made great strides toward mainstream levels of equipment and quality, including standard front and side airbags, air conditioning, and power locks and windows.
Redesigned again in 2007, the last-generation Elantra and the Elantra Touring wagon offered even more room, more powerful and efficient engines, and standard safety features like electronic stability control, brake assist, side-curtain airbags, active head restraints, and all-disc anti-lock brakes. The modern-day Elantra GT five-door hatchback has replaced the Touring wagon in the current Elantra lineup.
With that 2007-2010 model, Hyundai managed to earn a new level of respect for reliability and resale value—even against stalwarts like the Civic and Corolla. This Elantra was offered in just three trims, with the Limited model available from 2001 to 2006 cut from the lineup. The GLS and SE trims were complemented by the Blue, a special fuel-efficiency-focused version of the sedan available only with a 5-speed manual transmission. The Elantra Touring was only available in GLS and SE trims.
Hyundai Elantra, 2012-2016
With its 2011 redesign, the Elantra made a bold design gamble. Its radical new style was built on the automaker's "fluidic sculpture" theme seen on the larger Sonata; it featured dramatic curves and deep cutlines, and inside, an hourglass-shaped center stack. Power came from a 148-hp, 1.8-liter engine, and with weight reduced, the model initially had a 40-mpg highway rating across the entire lineup. While these models weren't especially enjoyable to drive, they were well-equipped small cars, with refinement a step above past efforts, including much reduced wind and road noise.
This Elantra's crash-test ratings were initially a mixed bag. The IIHS gave it the Top Safety Pick award and eventually, the car achieved a five-star overall rating from the NHTSA after some running updates. This Elantra also offered some features that weren't necessarily commonplace in this size class, including a touchscreen navigation system with real-time weather and traffic; heated rear seats; and a rearview camera.
One black mark on the 2011-2013 Elantra lineup: Hyundai was found to have overstated its fuel-economy numbers for several vehicle lines, due to what it deemed procedural errors during its testing. Hyundai initially claimed up to 40 mpg highway for some models, but after a consumer campaign alleged lower real-world economy, the EPA ran a confirmation check of the Elantra lineup and of several other Hyundai and Kia vehicles. The tests resulted in restated fuel-economy numbers for all involved model years. Owners were asked register with Hyundai to receive reimbursement for the gas consumed above and beyond expected levels. For more details, head to HyundaiMPGInfo.com.
The 2013 model year marked the introduction of a new Hyundai Elantra Coupe, essentially a two-door version of the Elantra sedan, as well as a Hyundai Elantra GT hatchback. The GT had more in common with the compact Hyundai hatchbacks sold in Europe. It was related more in name than in hardware to the Elantra sedan and coupe, as it had its own bodywork that's about 9 inches shorter overall, with sharp fastback styling featuring some overt Mazda 3 cues. The interior was quite different, too: the dash was shallower, without the hourglass shape that defines the center stack of controls in the coupe and sedan. The GT had its own rear suspension design, and a three-mode electric steering rack that offered added heft, though feedback was still limited.
The 2014 model year brought a new Elantra Sport four-door model that used a 174-hp version of Hyundai's 2.0-liter four-cylinder. That engine was also added to the Elantra GT range as an option. This was also the second and final year of availability for the Elantra Coupe, which did not return for 2015 due to low sales volumes.
Hyundai updated the Elantra GT for 2016. Changes included a new front end with a slatted grille, a revised navigation system with Siri Eyes Free functionality, ventilated front seats, and the latest Hyundai Blue Link services, which brought remote-start and other capabilities via smartphone app.