Once again, Hyundai is holding a winning hand with the introduction of its all-new 2017 Elantra sedan.
The previous-generation Elantra surprised some when it was redesigned and won the "2012 North American Car of the Year" title, beating the Volkswagen Passat and Ford Focus. The Elantra was a fresh, youthful face in the competitive compact class with flowing body lines that Hyundai called "fluidic sculpture." That, and a long list of amenities, propelled total sales to 913,042 from 2012 through 2015.
Now Hyundai looks to consolidate its winnings by offering a more mature looking, even mainstream design. Most striking, the new Elantra features a large, bold hexagonal grille, along with LED taillights and running lights.
It maintains compact dimensions. The 2017 model is less than an inch longer than its predecessor and exactly an inch wider. But clever packaging results in a total of more than 110 cubic feet of interior volume, with 96 cubic feet for passengers and 14 cubic feet of trunk space. That classifies it as a midsize car according to the EPA, though it is marketed as a compact.
The interior room becomes apparent as soon as you get inside. There's decent head and knee room in back for two 6-footers without infringing on the driver and front passenger. However, despite a nearly flat floor, the center rear passenger is relegated to a hard, high cushion.
Despite its intended audience of buyers with modest incomes, the 2017 Elantra -- starting at $17,150 -- delivers a host of available features usually associated with premium and even luxury cars. Among them:
-- Automatic emergency braking from up to 50 mph with pedestrian detection.
-- Adaptive cruise control that maintains a preset distance from the car ahead.
-- Lane departure mitigation with steering assist.
-- Blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert.
The base Elantra SE is the only model that offers a six-speed manual gearbox. There was no opportunity at the introduction to drive that version but if the stick shift is similar to the one on the previous Elantra, it's a sweetheart.
The model tested for this review was the top-line Limited with a starting price of $23,185. With optional Tech and Ultimate packages, the tester topped out at $27,710. The level of equipment was not unlike that of a premium-priced car.
It included all of the aforementioned safety and convenience equipment, plus leather upholstery, navigation system, Harman/Kardon audio system with satellite and HD radio, Pandora, Bluetooth telephone, Android and Apple car play, motorized sunroof, heated front and rear seats, lighted outside door handles, and memory settings for the power driver's seat and outside mirrors.
The Elantra engine delivers 147 horsepower and 132 lb.-ft. of torque from 2.0 liters of displacement. Power travels to the front wheels through an easy shifting six-speed automatic transmission. With a slippery 0.27 coefficient of drag, the city/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated at 28/37/32 mpg.
Unusual in this car class are Eco, Normal, and Sport driving modes. In the normal and Eco modes, the Elantra delivers a comfortable ride. Eco maximizes fuel economy, and the Sport mode tightens the steering and adjusts transmission shifting to provide more power at low engine revolutions, as well as more rapid acceleration.
In the Sport mode, the acceleration is not snappy but it is adequate for stoplight sprints and passing on two-lane roads. However, the Sport mode delivers tighter and more responsive performance on twisting mountain roads. The six-speed automatic also can be shifted manually.
Later, Hyundai plans to introduce two other Elantra models, starting with the Eco, which offers a new, 128-hp, turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission. A brief drive in a pre-production model demonstrated quicker mid-range throttle response than with the 2.0-liter engine.
An upcoming Sport model will feature a 200-hp, 1.6-liter engine with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
With cars like the 2017 Hyundai Elantra and the new 2016 Honda Civic, it's easy to understand why the compact class is holding its own in the face of an onslaught from the popular compact crossover utility vehicle segment.
Copyright © 2016 Motor Matters
|Base price||$23,185 (as tested: $27,710)|
|Curb weight||2,976 lbs.|
|Engine type||Atkinson 4-cyl. w/MPI|
|Epa mileage rating||28 mpg city, 37 mpg highway|
|Fuel capacity||14 gal.|
|Horsepower (net)||147 at 6200 rpm|
|Overall length||179.9 in.|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||132 at 4500 rpm|
|Vehicle type||5-passenger FWD midsize sedan|
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