- Tames down styling excesses
- Much quieter, smoother ride
- More space in an already spacious car
- Top-notch advanced safety features
- New Eco model
- Milder styling isn't as distinctive
- No gains in power
- Lots of black plastic trim inside
- Acceleration is just average
- Rearview camera is an option on most models
We miss the brash, buzzy looks, for sure—but the 2017 Hyundai Elantra is now one of the most refined economy cars on the road.
Ten years ago, the Hyundai Elantra was an also-ran in the compact-car sales sweepstakes. It wasn't anywhere near the ranks of the best sellers or best performers—cars like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Ford Focus.
A 2011 redesign changed all that, and today the Elantra is one of our top-rated economy sedans, in the same league as the Focus, Mazda 3, and the brilliant new Honda Civic. The 2011 Elantra scored heavily with its edgy styling, and backed up that promising shape with a spacious cabin and a strong set of standard features.
What happens when Hyundai tinkers with that winning formula? With the 2017 Elantra, Hyundai trades off brash looks for a more refined ride, and it pays off handsomely. We rate it a 6.8 overall, with kudos for its front-seat space, features, and gas mileage. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Hyundai Elantra styling and comfort
The previous Elantra was one of the cars that announced a new generation of stylish Hyundais. The new Elantra—the sixth by Hyundai's reckoning—represents a step away from the extravagantly curved and detailed design of that fifth-generation car. Like the Sonata, the lines have been dialed down considerably, smoothed out, becalmed.
At the front, it's a success, with a wider, deeper grille giving the Elantra more presence. Boomerang-shaped LED running lights brighten the front-end treatment. With less sculpting down the body sides, the Elantra is simpler, and less distinctive. The C-shaped lines that pulled the rear of the car forward are gone, replaced by more vertical door cuts and a more carefully draped rear roofline, capped by LED taillights.
The Elantra's interior is a dead ringer for the one in the latest Sonata. It's built along horizontal themes, with a large space reserved under a simple dash hood for a touchscreen, canted slightly toward the driver. The gauges incorporate a separate 4.2-inch LCD display on some models for ancillary functions like audio and navigation. Secondary functions such as climate control and audio are controlled with knobs and keys, thank goodness, and the cockpit wears a mix of soft-touch plastics and metallic finishes just as in the Sonata, offset by a fair amount of hard black plastic.
With about an inch more in overall length and in width, the new Elantra improves slightly on the current model's already generous interior space. It's been an edge case, on the border between compact and mid-size, but now the Elantra is a little more firmly in the mid-size category, along with cars like the new Civic.
Front-seat space is very good, with seats more firmly shaped and bolstered than in the past. There's plenty of small-item storage in the doors, console, and in a covered bin that sits ahead of the shift lever.
The back seats are less grippy and sit slightly higher, but head room and knee room are still good for adult passengers, even under the optional sunroof.
With more insulation between the engine and cabin, thicker glass, and more sound-deadening material surrounding the cockpit, the Elantra Limited is about as quiet as the Sonata. Not all models get the same cabin-quieting touches, though.
Hyundai Elantra performance
Driving the Elantra is the Sonata story all over again. What it gives up in slick styling hooks, the Elantra gains in smoothness and comfort.
With a pair of new powertrains, the Elantra's fuel economy is a bigger story than its straight-line performance. On standard Elantras, a 2.0-liter inline-4 provides 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque, running on a lean Atkinson cycle for better fuel efficiency. A 6-speed automatic is an option; there's a base model with a 6-speed manual, but it's destined to be a rarity.
Performance by usual yardsticks is just average, but the 2017 Hyundai Elantra's one of the most composed small cars we've driven. Acceleration is tempered and even, though the standard 4-cylinder is happy to wind to its rev limits without too much complaint. The 6-speed shifts are staged for economy, not speed, and no paddle shift controls are fitted. An optional set of driving modes can put the drivetrain into a Sport mode with crisper, quicker shifts.
A new Elantra Eco sports a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-4 with 128 hp and 156 lb-ft, teamed to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission for an estimated 35 mpg on the EPA combined cycle—which would match the new Honda Civic and its 4-cylinder/continuously variable transmission combo for efficiency. Over a 2,900-mile road trip, we averaged more than 41 mpg in highway driving.
Sporty road manners aren't a priority here, not like they are in the Focus or even the new Civic Touring. A basic strut front and twist-beam rear suspension have been tuned to deliver a remarkably supple, composed ride—as much due to their optimized design as to the Elantra's very stiff body. It's made up of lots of high-strength steel and industrial adhesives. The stiff body has helped steering some; it wanders less than in the previous car, but still feels best in Sport driving mode, where lower electric steering assist helps it track more cleanly.
In all, the Elantra has a more substantial feel now. It doesn't punish drivers for taking a side road instead of a highway, nor does it ask to be thrashed like a Focus or Mazda 3.
Hyundai Elantra safety and features
Hyundai earned top scores for the 2017 Elantra from the IIHS, including a Top Safety Pick+ award. The NHTSA has given it four stars overall. Seven airbags are standard and a rearview camera is available.
So is a bundle of advanced safety technology that uses cameras and radar to provide forward-collision warnings with automatic braking; adaptive cruise control; lane-departure warnings and lane keep assist; and blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts. But the bundle is only offered on the most expensive Limited model.
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra SE carries a base price of just under $18,000. It has standard power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; air conditioning; cloth upholstery; tilt and telescoping steering; 15-inch wheels; a six-way adjustable driver seat; and an AM/FM/XM/CD audio system with six speakers. The automatic transmission is a $1,000 option.
On the features list, the new Elantra offers available heated and ventilated front seats; memory seats; a split/fold rear seat; automatic climate control; a hands-free, gesture-enabled trunk release; USB ports and Bluetooth; Android Auto; and a new navigation system.
A premium audio system, satellite radio, and smartphone connectivity are also available, along with Hyundai's Blue Link telematics package that enables features like remote door unlock and remote start by smartphone. All told, the Elantra can cost up to $27,500 when loaded with all available features.
2017 Hyundai Elantra
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra has a more subdued look than its predecessor.
The brash design of the previous Hyundai Elantra has been toned down, and smoothed out, for the new model year. That styling was a brash calling card for the brand—but as it's done with the Sonata, Hyundai is calming things down with a quieter, more timeless look.
We call it a 6 for styling, with above-average sheet metal mated to a plainer cabin. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
A wider body and a deeper grille give the 2017 Elantra more presence on the road. The cleaner, simpler curves on its sides are less compelling than before. The kicky roofline has been tamed, the C-shaped cut lines of the rear doors have been straightened up, and the rear fenders and roofline blend together in a more conventional way in the same way they do on a Ford Fusion or a Chrysler 200.
The details that work better on this Elantra include new air intakes at the front corners to smooth airflow around the tires. They're slits that tuck in along available LED daytime running lights in attractive bracket shapes. The doors have a deep shoulder line that contrasts nicely with the swell of the fenders—it's a look Acura's worn before, but the Elantra wears it better.
A trio of LED taillights per side progress from center to side in a subtly changed pentagonal shape. It reads like a Mensa test where you're supposed to predict the next shape.
The cabin of the new Elantra also adopts a more straightforward, linear shape, very closely resembling the one in the Sonata. The interesting hourglass shape of the center console has been deleted; instead there's a subtler, European-influenced look like the one on recent Benz and BMW sedans. It's built along horizontal themes, with a large space reserved under a simple dash hood for a touchscreen, canted slightly toward the driver. It's tightly composed and without any extraneous lines, but much of it is trimmed in black plastic with a more economical look than in the previous Elantra.
2017 Hyundai Elantra
Performance by usual yardsticks is just average, but the 2017 Hyundai Elantra's one of the most composed small cars we've driven.
When it comes to performance, the Elantra lines up squarely in the middle of its segment. It's a repeat of the story Hyundai wrote with the current Sonata: acceleration and grip are pleasant and uneventful, while composure and refinement take the lead.
We rate it a 6 for performance, giving it extra credit above our baseline of 5 for its good ride quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Elantra adopts a new inline-4 for the 2017 model year. It's a 2.0-liter inline-4 with 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque, with a limited lean-burn cycle that improves fuel economy slightly. Coupled to a 6-speed automatic, the base Elantra SE earns EPA ratings of 28 mpg city, 37 highway, 32 combined. Limited models weigh more, so its numbers are slightly lower, at 28/37/32 mpg combined.
A 6-speed manual is actually the base transmission on the Elantra SE, but it will be a rare combination. Its fuel economy is 26/36/29 mpg combined.
The updated powertrain has tempered acceleration that's quieter and more distant than the previous Elantra, thanks to lots of sound deadening on upper trim levels. It's happy to rev near its redline, though exercising it through the otherwise sweet-shifting automatic means moving the gear lever to a side-saddle slot—no paddle shift controls are offered on these Elantras, at least not yet.
Two other powertrains join the Elantra for the 2017 model year. The Elantra Eco is powered by a 1.4-liter turbo inline-4 with 128 hp, 156 lb-ft, and a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. In the Elantra Eco, Hyundai promises EPA combined fuel economy of 35 mpg, which equals the numbers of the majority of models in the Honda Civic sedan lineup. In a 2,900-mile road trip, we averaged more than 41 mpg in highway mileage.
Elantra ride and handling
Solidly average powertrain performance meets capable, predictable handling in the Elantra. Sporty road manners aren't a priority here, not like they are in the Focus or even the new Civic Touring. Steering, transmission, and throttle tip-in can be tweaked with an available driving-mode switch—but of all its Eco, Normal, and Sport modes, it's telling that the Elantra's Normal mode is best tailored to its refined take on economical driving.
Given our choice, we'd like to be able to tune the Elantra's driving modes independently. The transmission could use the wake-up call delivered by Sport mode—by default, like most modern automatics, it's programmed to upshift quickly and to dawdle on calls for downshifts. That's even more pronounced in Eco mode.
Steering is better, though, in Normal or Sport mode. The Elantra still suffers somewhat from a light wander on divided highways, a combination of electric power steering design and tire choice. Normal mode feels more natural than Sport, but the added weight of Sport mode helps the car track better.
The stiff new body of the Elantra makes itself known in ride quality. With a redesigned suspension, this Elantra tackles the sometimes brittle ride of the previous car, and delivers one of the smoothest rides in the segment.
With basic MacPherson front struts and a torsion-beam rear axle, a more vertical shock position and more absorbent material for bushings, the Elantra has a composed response to bumps. It's not overly firm even on the Limited's 17-inch, 45-series tires. It's supple, and much closer to the ideal set by the Civic Touring and most of the Golf lineup.
Whether it comes to powertrain performance, or ride and handling, the Elantra's made the same leap of substance we observed in the current Sonata. It doesn't beg to be thrashed like a Mazda 3—but the Elantra doesn't punish you for choosing a back road over a freeway.
The Sport model in the Elantra ups performance with a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4 producing 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. This setup has a smidge of turbo lag and willingness to pull hard to redline. All that power is sent to the front wheels through either a slick-shifting 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. While Hyundai doesn’t provide official performance specs, our butt dyno puts it in the 7.5-second range for a 0-60 mph run.
The firmer shocks and multi-link setup in the rear suspension noticeably change the dynamics over lesser Elantra terms with a more connected and controlled feel. The dual-clutch transmission is acceptable for daily driving and far better tuned than the same transmission in the Eco model, especially on the 1-2 and 2-3 shifts. That said, the 6-speed manual is a surprisingly good transmission and we recommend it.
Unfortunately the powertrain and driving experience aren’t backed up by the brakes, which, when cold feel wooden and give little confidence. A few hard stops and you’ll notice fade with a distinct squishy feel.
2017 Hyundai Elantra
Comfort & Quality
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra isn't much bigger than before—it's still one of the biggest, most comfortable small sedans you can buy.
A mid-size car by the EPA's classification standard, the 2017 Hyundai Elantra has a spacious, airy interior with nicely supportive seats and a bit more grainy plastic than it's had in the past.
We rate it a 7 for comfort and quality, based on its front-seat and cargo space. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
By the numbers, the new Elantra is 0.8 inches longer, up to 179.9 inches, while the 106.3-inch wheelbase is unchanged from the last generation. At 69.9 inches, it's an inch wider than before, and curb weight ranges from just under 2,800 pounds to just under 3,000 pounds.
Just as it did in the last generation, the Elantra has very good space in front, even for tall drivers. The seats are more comfortably shaped than before, with firmer and more pronounced bolsters on the bottom cushion. A power driver seat is an option, but the passenger seat is only manually adjustable; both can be optioned up with seat heaters.
Front passengers have a wealth of small-item storage. Two cupholders sit on the console next to the hand brake, and a deep, covered bin ahead of the shift lever houses USB and aux ports and power points.
In back, the Elantra's seat is flatter and less grippy, but still surrounded by good amounts of head and knee room. The seat cushion is slightly lower than we like, but it grants everyone under 6 feet tall enough head room, even if there's a sunroof.
Storage and quality
The rear seats have a fold-down section that increases the usefulness of the Elantra's trunk. At 14.4 cubic feet, it's large enough for a few roll-aboards, and liftover height is low. Hyundai offers a gesture-controlled, hands-free trunk lid, a feature we used to think was excessive until we waved a foot under it while laden with business-travel bags. Killer app? Acknowledged.
Quality perceptions are a wash in the new Elantra versus the last model. The new car has a lot of black plastic trimming the doors, the carpeting on the package shelf is a bit furry, but the doors close with a solid, satisfying noise and a lack of flutter.
More expensive versions also have more sound damping. For an economy car, the Elantra is pretty quiet inside, even under full throttle. However, not all Elantras get all the available sound-damping features, like a hood insulation panel and sound-deadening material in the pillars, fenders, and floorpans. Hyundai didn't provide a base model for comparison.
More than half the Elantra's body is made from high-strength steel and much of it is bonded together with a layer of industrial glue. That makes the new Elantra's body is about a third stiffer than the previous car, which translates directly to a quieter ride and better handling.
2017 Hyundai Elantra
The 2017 Elantra performs well in IIHS testing, but the feds came up with different results.
The Hyundai Elantra has some crash-test data, and it's a wash between the NHTSA and the insurance industry.
The IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick+, meaning good scores on all crash tests and excellent advanced safety features such as forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking.
The NHTSA, however, gives the Elantra a four-star rating overall, noting that during side-impact testing (where it earned a five-star rating), the left rear door panel touched the rear passenger test dummy.
We award points for the Elantra for its IIHS rating and for its inexpensive safety add-ons, but deduct them for the NHTSA test scores and for the lack of a rearview camera on all versions. In the end, we arrive at a score of 6 for safety; we'll update this if the Elantra is re-tested. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
All Elantra sedans come with stability control, a driver knee airbag, and a driver-side blind-spot mirror. A rearview camera and blind-spot monitors are offered as options on the Elantra SE, and are standard on the Elantra Limited.
The Elantra Limited can also be outfitted with a bundle of safety technology that's more advanced than just about any of its compact-priced rivals. The package includes forward-collision warnings with automatic braking and pedestrian detection; adaptive cruise control; lane-keeping assist; and blind-spot monitors. Unfortunately, it's a package not offered on the less expensive Elantra sedans.
We'll update this section as more data is published.
2017 Hyundai Elantra
The Elantra has added more tech features, while prices have stayed stable.
Pricing for the 2017 Hyundai Elantra starts at just under $18,000, and for that price, the Elantra SE sedan comes with standard power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; cloth upholstery; 15-inch wheels; tilt and telescoping steering; a six-way adjustable driver seat; and an AM/FM/XM/CD audio system with six speakers. Selecting the automatic raises the price by $1,000.
A touchscreen audio system is available on the SE, and it's the entry point in the lineup for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; they're factored in along with a 7.0-inch touchscreen. The Elantra can be outfitted with two USB ports, so that one can be dedicated to phones running through either of those interfaces.
The Elantra SE options list includes cruise control; steering-wheel audio controls; Bluetooth with audio streaming; heated front seats; 16-inch wheels; heated side mirrors; automatic climate control; and a hands-free trunk lid. Leather upholstery, a power driver seat, and heated rear seats are not offered on the SE.
The Elantra Eco model starts at $20,650 and its features list largely will mirror the SE's content.
The $23,185 Elantra Limited adds a standard 6-speed automatic with the drive-mode selector; 17-inch wheels; automatic headlights; dual-zone climate control; heated side mirrors; the hands-free trunk lid; a power driver seat; leather upholstery; keyless ignition; adjustable headrests; and Bluetooth.
Options on the Limited include navigation with a 8.0-inch touchscreen and Google destination search; BlueLink telematics services; Infinity premium audio with ClariFi (it restores some of the waveform lost to audio compression across a number of audio types); a power sunroof; heated rear seats; and the advanced safety technology features. With all options selected, the Elantra Limited reaches a price of about $27,500.
We give the Elantra a features score of 8, for good standard and optional equipment, and credit for good infotainment via its CarPlay/Android Auto integration. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
2017 Hyundai Elantra
Fuel economy is very good, if not class-leading, in the 2017 Hyundai Elantra.
The Hyundai Elantra's gas mileage is quite good, though it shadows the rival Honda Civic by a couple of miles per gallon.
On our green scale, it earns an 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
With the standard 2.0-liter inline-4 and 6-speed automatic, the more lightly equipped Elantra SE turns in EPA ratings of 29 mpg city, 38 highway, 33 combined.
A 6-speed manual is offered on the Elantra SE, but it's expected to consume only a very small slice of American sales. Its fuel economy is 26/36/29 mpg, according to the EPA.
With its considerable standard feature set, the Elantra Limited weighs more, which brings its gas-mileage numbers down to 28/37/32 mpg.
Later in the model year, the Elantra Eco will join the lineup. Hyundai says it will post the best EPA ratings of the Elantra family with its 1.4-liter turbo-4 and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, with a combined rating of 35 mpg. That matches the best Honda Civic of the new model year, but while the Elantra hits that mark with a single model, the Civic earns it nearly across the board.
The new Elantra Sport with a larger 1.6-liter inline-4 manages 26/33/29 mpg with an automatic, 22/30/25 mpg with the manual.