A major milestone for Hyundai's rising reputation for styling, the Elantra sedan and coupe share the "fluidic styling" theme, but skip the awkward passages that are easy to pick out on the otherwise striking Sonata. The Elantra's almost perfect in its execution, more smoothly rendered, more clearly detailed than its mid-size companion piece.
From almost every angle, the Elantra sedan looks like it's already in motion, usually a sign of good car design. It's aggressive, more athletic than the Sonata, and a complete opposite to the previous Elantra--with the rear door cuts particularly effective cues that seem to pull the shape taut for release, like a slingshot.
The level of detailing for the Elantra's exterior is particularly noteworthy. Up close, the front marker lights extend to a point almost directly over the front wheel center—and to the front of the cowl—and the windshield that looks like it might possibly be the steepest of any small car. Take another step back and there's an entirely new dimension—as the deep crease from beside the headlamps softens as it continues all the way to the C-pillar and that prominent, rising shoulder line emerges from smooth sheetmetal just inches behind the lipped wheelwells.
The coupe's almost as spot-on: it reads thicker than the Honda Civic Coupe, and some of the thickness hits at the rear end where the sedan is at its most dramatic. The coupe does get some touches unavailable on the sedan, like a small decklid spoiler, dual exhaust tips, and on the SE, glints of piano black on the grille.
The wins logged by the sheetmetal are matched by some great execution in the cabin. The unfettered swoops of the exterior are toned down in the right way; the curves are there, just pulled in more compelling and cohesive ways. The pinch point where the center console meets the rest of the dash is brilliant: the hourglass shape isn't just fresh and distinctive, it's a perfect niche for resting knees that usually get a hard ridge and no apologies. It's just one cue in a design from a brand that's had few visuals all to itself in the past. It's an effort that brims with confidence.