The previous-generation Hyundai Elantra was a head-turner when it came out in 2011, and its bold curves still looked good when production ended five years later. But the fully redesigned 2017 Hyundai Elantra follows the lead of Hyundai’s larger Sonata by taking on a more conservative and understated look. Most notably, the Elantra now sports the hexagonal corporate grille found on other Hyundai models, along with more subtle contours and creases for the sheet metal. While one could argue that the 2017 Elantra has lost a bit of its rock-n-roll spirit, the more mature look reflects the car’s polish and refinement.
Sitting down behind the wheel, you’ll again find some similarities to the Sonata. The new Elantra’s interior is comfortable and gives off a premium vibe. Hyundai has done a great job of making the control layout and touchscreen easy to use, and that’s true even on high-end models with all the bells and whistles. Though the new Elantra is slightly wider than the old one, interior volume is largely the same. Instead, Hyundai has reallocated that space, adding room to the backseat while taking a little bit away from the front row and the trunk.
SE and Limited versions of the Elantra get a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Output and fuel economy ratings are little changed from the old Elantra’s 1.8-liter engine, though we expect to uncover some real-world differences when we subject a 2.0-liter Elantra to full Edmunds testing. There’s also a new Elantra Eco model that features a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine with a seven-speed transmission tuned for superior gas mileage. Across all models, Hyundai has strengthened and refined the Elantra’s suspension to help smooth out the car’s ride quality when driving over rough pavement.
There’s a trend in the marketplace toward offering high-end equipment in smaller cars, and Hyundai is embracing it. Though the base SE model’s standard features are decidedly sparse — no Bluetooth, no rearview camera, no touchscreen audio and no steering-wheel stereo controls — the top-of-the-line Limited model is generously equipped and can be optioned with extras like adaptive cruise control, lane-departure intervention and xenon headlights that swivel when you go around turns. A solid middle-ground choice is the SE model with the Popular Equipment package, which compares well on features and price to its competitors.
As for those competitors, you’ll certainly want to check out the Honda Civic during your shopping process. It boasts aggressive styling, responsive handling and plenty of features from the base model on up, along with an available turbocharged engine that delivers excellent performance and fuel economy. The Mazda 3 is another stylish, sporty and fuel-efficient pick, although it lacks the backseat space of the Honda and Hyundai. We’d also recommend the value-packed Kia Forte, and if you’re up for a hatchback, the Volkswagen Golf stands apart with its sophisticated feel and standard turbocharged power. Overall, the redesigned 2017 Hyundai Elantra is a careful evolutionary step, but there’s more than enough good stuff here to keep it high on our list of recommended small sedans.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra is a four-door compact sedan offered in three trim levels: SE, Eco and Limited.
The SE model comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, height-adjustable front seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split folding rear seatback and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio and a CD player.
Automatic-transmission SE models offer a Popular Equipment package that includes 16-inch alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, automatic headlights, cruise control, a 7-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, smartphone integration (Android Auto and Apple CarPlay) and steering wheel controls (but no CD player).
Also optional on the SE is a Tech package (requires the Popular Equipment package) that adds LED daytime running lights, keyless ignition and entry, a hands-free trunk opener, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and sun visors with extensions and vanity mirrors.
The Eco model is similar to the SE with Popular Equipment and Tech packages but substitutes 15-inch alloy wheels and a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine paired to a seven-speed automatic transmission. There are no options available for the Eco model.
The Limited model comes with everything found on the SE with Popular Equipment and Tech packages, plus 17-inch alloy wheels, additional chrome body trim, LED taillights, leather upholstery, a power-adjustable driver seat (with power lumbar adjustment), Hyundai’s Blue Link system and a second (charge-only) USB port.
Limited models have their own Tech package that includes a sunroof, heated rear seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a bigger driver information display, an 8-inch touchscreen, voice commands, a navigation system and an eight-speaker Infinity sound system.
The Limited also offers an Ultimate package (requires Tech package) that bundles adaptive xenon headlights, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and mitigation, lane departure warning and intervention, and driver memory settings.
Powertrains and Performance
SE and Limited versions of the 2017 Hyundai Elantra get a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. SE models are offered with a six-speed manual transmission; a six-speed automatic is optional on SE and standard on Limited. All Elantras are front-wheel drive.
The EPA rates the manual Elantra at 29 mpg combined (26 city/36 highway). Automatic Elantra SEs with 15-inch wheels are EPA-rated at 33 mpg combined (29 city/38 highway). With 16-inch wheels, which are standard on the Limited and optional on the SE, the numbers drop slightly to 32 mpg combined (28 city/37 highway).
The Elantra Eco model gets a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder rated at 128 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque. This engine comes exclusively with a seven-speed automated manual transmission that essentially functions like an automatic. The EPA had not tested the Elantra Eco as of this writing, but Hyundai says it expects the Elantra Eco to earn 35 mpg for the EPA’s combined rating.
All Elantras come standard with antilock brakes, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and traction and stability control. SE and Eco models have front disc and rear drum brakes; Limited models get four-wheel disc brakes. A rearview camera is included with the SE’s Popular Equipment package, while the optional Tech package adds blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Those items come standard on the Limited. Optional on the Limited is forward collision warning (with pedestrian detection) bundled with automatic emergency braking and a lane-departure warning and intervention system that can steer the car back into its lane should it start to drift.
The Elantra can also be had with Hyundai’s Blue Link system, which provides emergency assistance, automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle recovery, remote access (starting, locking and unlocking) and secondary driver monitoring (geo-fencing, speed and curfew alerts and valet alerts).
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra’s newfound maturity shows up in the cabin, where you’ll find quality materials and attractive trim that enhances the interior without dominating it. Hyundai has taken advantage of the real estate on the Elantra’s broad dash, spreading out the stereo, navigation and climate controls and using big buttons with clear labels. This makes the controls easy to find while driving, but in some cases they are a bit too spread out; depending on their height, some drivers may find the left-most stereo controls (including the volume knob) hidden behind the steering wheel.
Like most middle-agers, the 2017 Hyundai Elantra has spread out a bit: The new car is about an inch longer and wider than the old Elantra. Hyundai has used the extra space to increase rear-seat head-, shoulder and legroom, making a ride in the Elantra’s backseat a more palatable prospect. The trunk has shrunk, however, from 14.8 cubic feet to 14.4 cubes, and the front seats have lost a little leg- and headroom. Happily, those seats are adequately supportive, and they offer a good range of adjustment.
The previous-generation Elantra lacked a bit of urge compared to the competition, and we were hoping the new 2.0-liter engine would provide better acceleration. With its barely improved power and torque, though, class-average acceleration is about the best it can hope for. In our brief experience with the Eco and its turbocharged engine, we found it slow to respond when accelerating away from a stop, and otherwise unremarkable. That’s life in the fuel-efficient lane for you.
The Elantra’s road manners match its grown-up styling. The ride quality is composed, the interior is quiet at highway speeds and in general it’s a nice car to drive. When going around turns, the Elantra has respectable amounts of stability and grip. But it doesn’t have the fun-to-drive factor of a Honda Civic or a Mazda 3, which is partially due to the car’s numb steering feel.