Although the Hyundai Elantra is marketed as a compact car, its interior volume actually puts it in the EPA's mid-size class. That can be an important factor to consider for those looking for a roomy compact or even a less expensive alternative to the typical family sedan.
Size-wise in the compact class, the Elantra is up there with the VW Jetta—and a world away from the very tight accommodations you'll find in a Ford Focus or a Mazda 3.
Throughout the interior, you'll find plastics that are about par for the class—a mix of hard, scuff-resistant and soft-touch surfaces—and there are lots of useful cubbies and storage bins, including a covered one that sits ahead of the shift lever: it also contains the AUX jack, a power point, and the USB port in an easy to reach module, perfect for connecting smartphones. The leather that's available on sedans is perforated in a wave pattern and won't be mistaken for luxury hide, but it feels supple enough.
The Elantra soaks up road noise better than most small cars (in part because of its soft suspension calibration), and at 70 mph it's not much different than in a 4-cylinder mid-size sedan.
The Elantra's generous proportions are put to good use. In the front seats, leg room and head room are fine for even large adults. We would like to see better support baked into the front buckets, though, in the form of more bolstering and more bottom-cushion support, as well as some more length on the bottom cushion for long-distance touring comfort.
The leaner head room in the back seat is where the Elantra's compact positioning is most obvious. It's no worse than with most in the class in this respect—Volkswagen's Jetta is the standout here, with its outsized rear accommodations. Legroom in back is good, and it's easy to slide into the four-door's back bench. The Elantra gets kudos for offering rear-seat heaters, but it lacks air vents to provide warm air from the car's climate control system in back—common with most vehicles in the class, and some larger vehicles like the VW Passat.
The rear seats fold forward easily on either version, and that allows longer objects to be loaded into the relatively large, wide trunk. We like how the two easy-release pulls are within easy reach; the seats don't quite fold flat, but there's enough of an opening for fitting gear or tools for a trip across town.