The Hyundai Elantra sedan has an edge in its family, with better gas mileage than its coupe and hatchback kin.
The Elantra sedan carries a 38-mile-per-gallon EPA highway rating across the board. It lacks a specific model with aero improvements to reach the 40-mpg bogey; its competition offers special versions with aerodynamic and powertrain tweaks to hit the magic marketing number.
The one major tradeoff for the diet that the Elantra was placed on, to optimize mileage, is that there's no spare tire--not even a porta-spare.
That 38-mpg figure alone makes the Elantra sedan a green car, but the sedan's city number of 28 miles per gallon gives it a blended fuel economy of 32 mpg, higher than many subcompacts, even. You'd have to check out some hybrid models--the Prius, the upcoming Ford Fusion Hybrid--to get better economy with gasoline, or VW's diesel Jetta and Passat.
Whether you classify them with the sedan or as separate vehicles, two new Elantras just barely miss the 40-mpg bogey. The 2013 Elantra Coupe, is rated by the EPA at 28/38 mpg with the manual transmission, but gets 27/37 mpg on the EPA cycle when it's fitted with the automatic gearbox. There's also a sporty Elantra GT hatchback, reviewed separately, which is estimated at 27/37 mpg with the automatic shifter, and 26/37 mpg with the automatic. In either case, those models are near or at the top of their competitive classes for gas mileage.
There has been some controversy over real-world mileage of the Elantra, with some owners claiming that they haven't been able to meet the EPA numbers. We've noticed numbers that are in the same range as those of other vehicles in this class--about 34 mpg combined in an extended drive, exceeding the EPA Combined rating by 1 mpg. And we've seen close to the EPA highway rating in a real-world Interstate cruise.
NOTE: The Elantra is one of several Hyundai vehicles found to have misstated gas-mileage ratings. A consumer group's complaints over lower real-world economy have led to an EPA check of Hyundai's self-certified numbers--which in turn has led to lowered official ratings from the original 29/40-mpg numbers. Owners can register with Hyundai to receive reimbursement for the gas consumed above and beyond expected levels; more details are found at HyundaiMPGInfo.com.