For 2016, Hyundai Elantra gets new front and rear styling, with LED lighting on 2016 Elantra Sport and 2016 Elantra Limited models.
We think the Hyundai Elantra is better than the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla in some ways. The Elantra offers more value than most compacts. The Elantra is good looking, grown up, well liked, pleasant to drive in traffic, and it has a good safety record.
Elantra comes in two body styles: Elantra SE, Sport and Limited models are four-door sedans. Elantra GT models are five-door hatchbacks (see separate New Car Test Drive review). Elantra is called a compact but its interior says mid-size.
The Elantra is an above-average compact. It’s as big as a Volkswagen Jetta and drives as well as a Toyota Corolla, but isn’t as energetic or engaging as a Ford Focus, and it falls short of the performance of the Jetta and Mazda3.
The standard engine, found in Elantra SE and Elantra Limited, is an efficient 1.8-liter four-cylinder that makes 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque, and gets an EPA-estimated 28/38 mpg City/Highway. The 1.8-liter offers respectable smoothness and acceleration (after a slow throttle response). There’s a choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic.
Elantra Sport comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 173 hp and 154 lb-ft of torque, and it is also available with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The 2.0-liter gets an EPA-estimated 28 mpg Combined, compared with 32 mg Combined for the 1.8-liter automatic.
The 2016 Elantra gets five stars from NHTSA and Top Safety Pick from IIHS, with Acceptable in the overlap test and Good in all other tests.
We love the energetic daring design of the Elantra. Complex curves swoop toward the rear and gather there, while others push against the flow, bowed forward at the cuts of the doors.
It’s a flawless, confident, and sophisticated profile that takes the Korean automaker into the land of fresh thinkers.
The Elantra looks like it’s moving. Details are covered, from the crease that runs to the C-pillar to the marker lights that hang over the centers of the front wheels. We like the rising line from the lipped wheelwells to the taillights.
The interior is daring too, just look at that hourglass center console, which is fresh, distinctive, and brilliant where it meets the dashboard. But the interior is also subdued, as the same complex curves are cohesive.
The front seats are shy in bolstering and seat cushioning, but there’s good elbow room all over. Legroom in the front is fine for tall persons, and the rear is fine for adults; but headroom is tight, like any compact except maybe the Jetta. Heated rear seats are available as an option, but not a separate heat vent for the rear.
The interior plastics, both hard and soft, are par for the class. There are a lot of useful storage spots. There’s a handy module with an auxiliary jack, power point, and USB port. The available leather is supple, perforated in a wave pattern.
It’s quieter inside than most small cars, partly because the suspension is soft; at highway speeds it’s as quiet as a mid-size car.
The rear seats easily fold forward, nearly flat.
Elantra’s 1.8-liter engine has a smooth idle. It stays calm in most of the rev range, unlike larger four-cylinder engines. It’s right at home between 2500 and 4000 rpm, especially with the 6-speed automatic, which has an ECO mode that relaxes shift and throttle response, gaining up to 7 percent better fuel mileage.
The Elantra isn’t as lively or fun as the Ford Focus or Mazda3. The throttle, transmission and steering just aren’t as quick. The electric power steering can be set for three levels of resistance, but none of them sharpen the feedback.
The ride is sporty, not firm, and the brake pedal is firm. The Elantra uses disc brakes front and rear, unlike too many other compacts that use drums on the rear to cut costs.
The Elantra Sport uses the same 2.0-liter engine that’s in the Kia Forte, with 23 more horsepower and 25 more foot-pounds of torque than the base sedan. To us, the bigger engine seemed to make more of a difference in engine noise than thrust. The Sport also features stiffer shocks and springs, and a fatter stabilizer bar.
The Elantra wins some and loses some, in its competitive compact field. We think it wins big in styling, and only loses a little in the other areas. It looks like a more expensive sedan. Great value for the price.
Driving impressions by The Car Connection. Sam Moses contributed to this report.