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2017 Hyundai Elantra REVIEW: Surprises around every corner

by Roy Choi | March 20, 2016March 20, 2016 6:00 am PDT

The 2017 Hyundai Elantra is surprising in just about every way: Looks, drive, space, price, safety and tech. Especially the tech, but more on that later. Hyundai invited TechnoBuffalo to test out the new Elantra on its media drive event in Imperial Beach, California. I will admit, I wasn’t expecting much from the Hyundai compact car. How much could Hyundai improve on this “budget” category? I was wrong and walked away pleasantly surprised by this “little” car. 

The compact car category has been primarily about the affordable (cost of ownership, maintenance costs, fuel costs) factor associated with car ownership. However, Hyundai, explains, that consumers want more in the way of looks, drivability and features, even if they are budget conscious. The new 2017 Elantra delivers on all those fronts. In the end, you get much more. 

Take a look at the new design cues, they remind me of design elements from the Hyundai Genesis and the Sonata. Some really great design elements that I love in both those cars are found in new Elantra. It has new stylish vertical LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, 17-inch alloy wheels and inclusion of some very bold design lines (a shift from the rounder design elements found in the previous generation).

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The new Elantra incorporates Hyundai’s newest Advanced High Strength Steel technology that makes the car more rigid and improves ride quality. In addition to the new steel technology other elements like additional insulation, sound dampening, higher quality carpet, and new materials isolate road noise more effectively and provide for an overall pleasant ride.

I’ve had some experience with the Elantra in the past. My wife drove one for many years, before we married. It was a capable, economical, car that did what it needed to do. But I’ve got to say the new 2017 Elantra is simply phenomenal and blew my expectations out of the water. 

 

Drive 

The new 2017 Elantra sports some impressive specs for a car that starts at around just $17,000, for the record the model we drove was $27,000.  The 2017 Elantra has an upgraded engine, improved steel chassis (lighter, sturdier), improved suspension, and increased sound dampening.  

That all adds up to a sturdier, peppier drive than the previous Elantra.  The acceleration was quick and without lag. I was surprised considering cars in this category aren’t so known for their power. Hyundai attributes the responsiveness of a new generation 2.0L Atkinson tuned engine, higher strength metals, structural adhesives, and vertical suspension (vs. recline type). 

We took the car around San Diego County, through the backroads near the San Diego Wildlife Refuge and Otay Lake. There were plenty of hills, that quite frankly I thought the Elantra would not be able to handle. I was wrong. I kept telling my driving partner how well the car handled, and did so with great steering and never did I feel like I was missing any power. I stepped on the accelerator and we went, quickly. In fact, the 2017 Elantra handled better than any previous generation Elantra and even cars in higher categories. 

The car feels super solid, especially for a vehicle of its size and weight. Hyundai touts its new high strength steel and use of more structural adhesives for the increased rigidity for the more solid ride, but it also adds to the structural integrity of the car as well.  The suspension on the 2017 Elantra also helps give the car a smoother, responsive and quieter ride. The new suspension is not only beefier than the previous generation, but it’s also shifting from a recline type rear suspension to a vertical one.

The new Elantra comes in two new powertrains, 2.0L MPI Atkinson cycle engine (manual or automatic transmission), that touts 147 HP at 6200 RPM with 132 torque. It is not a race car, but it will be more than capable as an everyday commuter and surprisingly fun to drive.

The brakes were good, not too squishy, and not to jerky. It felt perfect for the car.  

Like I said, the 2017 Hyundai Elantra is pleasantly surprising. Definitely more car than I expected, especially for the price.

Design

I’m really digging the new design features of the newest Hyundai vehicles: Genesis and Tuscon. The Elantra fits well amongst those cars. The design elements brought over from Audi by Hyundai Head Designer, Peter Schreyer, are definitely apparent in the new 2017 Elantra. The car reminds me more of a baby Genesis than a smaller version of the Sonata, if that sells the car to you.  

I love the taillights on the new Hyundais, which again remind me of a lot of elements we’ve grown accustomed to.  They are sharp, eye catching and really bring out stronger design elements on the rest of the car.  

Hyundai is pushing this car as a compact, but as we’ve seen with all other Hyundai cars, this car pushes itself into the mid-size category.  In fact the internal space of the new 2017 Elantra is on par with the Cadillac CTS and larger interior volume than the Audi A4 or BMW 3-series. For the record, the legroom up front and in the back were more than sufficient, when I sat in the front seat with the seat pulled as far back as possible I was able to kick my feet up without touching (I’m 5 feet 10-inches tall on a good day) and I feel i had a good 3-inches of leg room before my feet could touch the floor. I would probably squish the rear passengers, though I reached back and there were a good 3-4 inches behind me even with the front seat pulled all the way back.  If you are seated normally, there is no worry for any lack of leg room.

The Elantra offers some amazing technology that you probably would not have found in a sub $40,000 car two years ago. You can get some of them starting at the $17,150 price point such as keyless entry and blind spot mirror. Between $17,000 and $27,000 there are varying levels of trims and options and there’s something for everyone. The Elantra fully loaded tops out at around $27,000 with leather seats, 8-inch nav display, Android Auto and Car Play, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist (not just lane departure warning), blind spot detection, rear traffic camera, cross traffic warning, auto-trunk opening, and a handful of features I’m probably forgetting to mention. But for $27,000 you should be floored by all the options that are available on this car. The car can almost drive itself with those features. You’d be hard pressed to find a car with all those features in the $40,000 price point let alone one for $27,000. As for how well the features worked, the adaptive cruise control worked as you’d expect, the lane keep assist is probably one of the best I’ve ever used, and that’s even compared to cars that cost three times as much as the new Elantra. Hyundai threw in just about any convenience feature and safety feature you can think of at the high-end, even adaptive cruise control and emergency auto-braking to keep you from getting into accidents.

The trim we took out on the road sported HID headlights with dynamic bending light, so the headlights point to the direction as you turn the car’s steering wheel. Our model also had the available 17-inch alloy wheels, side mirror turn indicators and available door approach handles.

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Hyundai Elantra

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Buy

This car is a bargain, and you will be pleasantly surprised from the moment you sit in it. You’ll be surprised again when you start the engine after you’ve been enveloped by all the safety and convenience technology. You’ll be surprised yet again as you hit the road as the car pepps along freeways. The Elantra is so much more than you would expect from a car in this price and category. From $17,000 to $27,000, there’s plenty of car to love in the new Elantra. The drive, price, features, safety and tech all make the 2017 Hyundai Elantra a great buy. 


Roy Choi

Roy Choi is a Southern California native. He has been infatuated with technology reviews ever since he bought his first crummy laptop in the summer...

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