2016 Hyundai Elantra Performance

7.0
Performance

The Hyundai Elantra is a pleasant vehicle to pilot in traffic, but it falls a little short of the performance offered by rivals from Volkswagen, Mazda, and Ford. That said, it's an above-average effort that drives at least as well as the latest Toyota Corolla.

The Elantra remains lean and efficient, with a 1.8-liter inline-4 standard in the base SE sedan and in the Limited. Rated at 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque, this powertrain's fairly smooth and accelerates respectably through a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual. Generally, the Elantra doesn't feel as energetic or engaging as the Ford Focus, though, because its throttle is slow to respond to inputs.

Acceleration is just adequate for the 2016 Elantra, and performance overall is capable and confident but not exciting.

Even so, the Elantra has a smooth idle, and stays calm throughout most of the rev range, an achievement that eludes larger four-cylinders and wasn't particularly a Hyundai strength in the past. In the Elantra, the four's right at home in the 2,500- to 4,500-rpm range, where it'll be pretty much whenever you're increasing speed with the responsive 6-speed automatic transmission, which will be far more popular than the perfectly fine 6-speed manual. Manuals get an ECO shift light, while automatics have an Active ECO mode that slows down shifts and throttle to boost fuel economy up to 7 percent.

To add some luster to the spec-sheet numbers, a Sport trim for the sedan comes with a 2.0-liter inline-4 shared with the Kia Forte. In the Elantra sedan, it's good for 173 hp and 154 lb-ft of torque, up 23 hp and 25 lb-ft from the smaller inline-4. We still haven't been able to drive an Elantra four-door with the new 4-cylinder engine, though in the Elantra GT hatchback it's more notable for extra engine noise than an improvement in acceleration. The Sport model comes with a round of handling changes that include stiffer shocks and springs and a bigger stabilizer bar.

The finer inputs are what separates the Elantra from those other compacts. Its steering isn't especially natural in its feedback, though the wandering common to first- and second-year Elantra sedans has mostly been filtered out. Ride quality is sporty without feeling overly firm, and the Elantra comes with standard four-wheel disc brakes and a firm pedal feel—better than the cost-cut rear-drum setup that's now so common in this class.

For 2015, all Elantra sedan models received selectable three-mode steering and revised steering feel; the modes provide different levels of heft for the wheel, but none of them really sharpen up the feedback on this electric rack.

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