When you think of great compact sedans, Hyundai is hardly the first name that springs to mind. But whilst we await the first fruits from their newfangled N Division, the latest Hyundai Elantra is attempting to carve an opening for the Korean brand to be identified as one that can produce vehicles of sufficient sporting character. Based on the same platform as the hatchback Elantra GT, the platform underneath must have potential as it’s been used to underpin the first Hyundai N car in the i30 N hot hatch. Lots of potential, but does the Elantra realize it?
Wide apertures allow for easy in- and egress to the Elantra’s fastback styled sedan shell. Once inside and model dependant, you could be met with leather upholstered, heated front seats, but even the base cloth seats are multi-way adjustable and easy to find a comfortable driving position. The available leather-clad steering wheel is tilt and telescopically adjustable – more than most – which further improves upon the adjustability. But there’s an abundance of harsh plastics – well disguised, but harsh nonetheless and definitely second rate compared to the Mazda 3. Higher specced models get leatherette door panel inserts though to lessen the cheapness.
Though Hyundai claims the Elantra as a 5 seater, there’s only really space for 4, the middle rear seat is a bit cramped. All others enjoy comfortable head and leg room. The rear bench folds in a 60/40 split to increase trunk space from its standard 14.4 cubic feet.
The Hyundai Elantra has a perfectly pleasant attitude to driving, comfortable over most bumps and broken surfaces, with ample weighting to the steering wheels and good levels of ride composure. Handling is nothing exceptional due to torsion beam suspension at the rear, though there is a Sport model that remedies this.
The Elantra Sport benefits from a few significant upgrades. The standard torsion beam rear suspension gets swapped out in the Sport for a multi-link rear suspension. The new suspension is tweaked for sporty handling, aided by the new 18-inch alloy wheels shod in all-season performance tires. The front brakes have also been upgraded, now featuring 12-inch rotors for additional stopping power. The handling is flatter and more precise as a result of the upgrades, but the chassis still offers a good balance and good composure over mid corner bumps. It’s not as dynamically talented as a Civic Si, but it’s pleasing nonetheless.
Three engines are available in the Elantra, with most models utilizing a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated 4-pot with 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. The Eco models get a turbocharged 1.4-liter with 128hp and an impressive 156 lb-ft, whilst the Sport gets a 1.6-liter turbo with 201hp and 195 lb-ft. All models feature front-wheel drive. SE and Sport models benefit from a 6-speed manual gearbox, whilst the SEL, Value and Limited models use a 6-speed auto – optional on the SE. Optional on the Sport, and the default on the Eco, is a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.
The Elantra can be had in 6 trims, SE, SEL, Value Edition, Eco, Sport, and Limited. The Sport offers the best all-round package, with equipment including an intuitive 7.0-inch touch screen infotainment system featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. An 8.0-inch unit is also available, as is an Infinity premium audio system. Other features include dual-zone climate, and a reverse camera. In the way of safety equipment, Hyundai has made the Elantra is available with lane departure warning and lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert and lane change assistant, automatic emergency braking, and forward collision warning, earning it an IIHS Top Safety Pick + award.
The Hyundai Elantra is an interesting proposition offering good value across the range. The Sport model offers the best of the bunch, and is the only decently specced model to get a manual gearbox. The changes beneath the surface are subtle, but effective, and the performance and handling dynamics bode well for future N-performance models.