Christopher Little

First Drive: 2017 Hyundai Elantra

The Elantra is Hyundai’s #1 selling vehicle. That means there’s a lot at stake when it comes time to update the platform. When Hyundai debuted the Elantra at the L.A. Auto Show last November, value and efficiency were the focus. This new Elantra packs class-leading technology into a more efficient package, all for $100 less than before. We were invited out to Imperial Beach, CA to be among the first to sample the 2017 Elantra for ourselves.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited 1

From the initial walkaround, it’s clear that this is a Hyundai. The distinctive trapezoidal grille and sharp character lines are instantly recognizable Hyundai traits. Seen here is Limited model with the top-trim Ultimate package. That means the HID headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED tail lights, 17″ alloy wheels, and sunroof are all included. Dimensions aren’t greatly changed from the previous generation, but the body now has a lower drag coefficient for improved fuel economy. That improvement comes, in part, from the new front air curtains which divert air from the front bumper out past the front wheels and down the side of the car. The Elantra’s enclosed underbody, lower bumper skirt, and longer trunk lid also contribute to its more efficient design. We were curious and a bit disappointed about the hidden tailpipe, especially since it’s been a design element used to differentiate powertrains on the Genesis and Sonata. Overall, however, it’s a distinctive new design that keeps with the Hyundai lineage.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited 6

The Elantra does have some glitzy optional exterior features, but Hyundai packs a laundry list of technology features inside. Even in this compact car segment, technical advances in entertainment and driver assistance have tricked down from premium models. The Ultimate package adds automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and automatic high beams. These are the same safety featured first debuted on the Hyundai Genesis only two years ago. In addition to safety, the Elantra features a 7″ touchscreen infotainment unit with Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility. The 8-speaker Harman Infinity system also get’s new Clari-Fi software to help correct the flaws in highly-compressed audio signals. Other luxury touches set the Elantra apart from its compact competitors. All four outboard seats are heated and the keyless entry system now has approach lighting and automatic trunk opening to make arriving at your Elantra even easier and more convenient. You can even link your smartphone and smartwatch to the BlueLink app to unlock and remote start the Elantra.

The Elantra launches with the 2.0L, Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine producing 147 hp and 132 lb-ft. Mated to a 6-speed manual or automatic, it returns a combined 33mpg. At idle, there isn’t a hint of engine noise or vibration discernible in the cabin. Only when you push deep into the gas pedal does the engine noise permeate the cabin. The transmission is clearly tuned with efficiency in mind, opting to shift early and often to keep revs down. The Elantra features three drive modes, Eco, Normal, and Sport. While the Sport setting forces the transmission to hold gears longer, the Elantra only really comes alive when you take control using the SHIFTRONIC gear selector. The stiffer chassis, now using 53% high-strength steel, and completely redesigned suspension give the Elantra a more controlled ride. The steering was pleasantly weighty, which made driving through the hills of San Diego more enjoyable than anticipated. The only demerits come from the soft brake pedal. Nobody will mistake the Elantra for a sports car, but the well-bolstered seats and thick steering wheel provided all the security required to keep you planted and in control.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited 5

The 2.0L SE and Limited Elantra models are making their way to dealers now, starting at $17,985. Our fully-loaded test car rang in at over $27,585. You don’t need every option, however. A well-equipped SE with Apple Car Play/Android Auto starts at $19,785 and climbs to $21,085 if you add in the Tech Package. This Spring, a 1.4T Eco model is on the way as well. Making 128 hp and 156 lb-ft torque, the Eco will get a 7-speed DCT transmission and is estimated to return 35mpg. This fall, Hyundai will also launch the 1.6T Sport model with a 6-speed manual or 7-speed DCT, and 18″ wheels. To further improve dynamics, the Sport will also get an all-new independent rear suspension with unique tuning. So if there isn’t an Elantra for you just yet, there will be by year end.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited 8

The 2017 Hyundai Elantra retains enough familiarity to bring existing owners back to the showroom. More importantly, however, its suite of new safety and technology features set it apart in the compact car segment. It’s that kind of leading innovation that will attract new buyers. Luxury options launched on the Genesis only last year have already tricked down to Hyundai’s entry-level model. The Elantra’s driving dynamics won’t blow you away, but provide the confidence and responsiveness required to be a top seller. The bold new design and upscale interior make the new Elantra one to watch for.

-Christopher Little

First Drive: 2015 Hyundai Genesis
First Drive: 2015 Hyundai Sonata

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