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2015 Hyundai Elantra: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2015

The 2015 Hyundai Elantra is yet another Hyundai that makes our job a little more difficult. Hyundai has a knack for neutralizing criticism by improving its cars on an ongoing basis, and so it is with the company's stylish compact sedan. Fundamentally, this is the same car that debuted in 2011, but consistent updates since then have kept it fresh. Most notably, performance has improved thanks to the Sport model's stronger 2.0-liter engine, and there's more refinement too, thanks to a variety of added noise-suppressing measures.

However, just because Hyundai has addressed some concerns doesn't mean that the Elantra is perfect. The car's structure still feels a little less solid than the best in this segment (you can feel a difference on rough roads), and we're not sold on the Elantra as a driver's car, the Sport model notwithstanding.

There's no doubt, though, that the 2015 Elantra is more competitive than a car of its age has any right to be. What's not to like? We'll always think of something, but Hyundai keeps making us think harder with every passing year.

What's New for 2015?

Following extensive changes last year, the Elantra loses its coupe variant, but it otherwise essentially stands pat.

What We Like

Good fuel economy with 1.8-liter engine; strong value; bold styling; plenty of passenger space; long warranty

What We Don't

Doesn't feel as solid as some rivals; limited rear headroom

How Much?

$18,075-$22,525

Fuel Economy

Most 2015 Elantras will be equipped with a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 145 horsepower and 130 lb-ft of torque. Two transmissions are available: a rarely seen 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic. The manual returns 27 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, while the automatic gets up to 28 mpg city/38 mpg hwy.

The Elantra Sport is equipped with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 173 hp and 154 lb-ft. Fuel economy drops to 24 mpg city/35 mpg hwy with the automatic and 24 mpg city/34 mpg hwy with the manual.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Hyundai Elantra sedan is offered in three trim levels: SE, Limited and Sport.

The SE sedan ($18,075) gives you standard features such as 15-inch alloy wheels, driver-selectable steering effort, air conditioning, cruise control, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, full power accessories, a trip computer and a 6-speaker audio system with iPod/USB connectivity.

The Limited sedan ($22,525) steps it up a few notches, providing 17-in alloy wheels, automatic headlights with LED accents, fog lights, LED taillights, heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, leather upholstery, leatherette door trim, a leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel, a power driver's seat with power lumbar support, heated front and rear seats, a 4.3-in information display with a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a sliding center armrest.

The SE's optional Popular Equipment package consists of 16-in alloy wheels plus many of the Limited's standard features, including Bluetooth and the 4.3-in display. The SE's Style package includes the Popular Equipment package and adds a sunroof, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, projector headlights with LED accents and black cloth upholstery.

The Limited is eligible for an Ultimate package that tacks on a sunroof, keyless entry/start, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a 7-in touchscreen with a navigation system, Pandora radio and a 360-watt sound system.

The Sport sedan ($22,425) shares many of the Limited's features but comes with the stronger 2.0-liter engine, unique 17-in wheels and exterior trim, a sunroof, sport-tuned steering (nonadjustable), a sportier suspension and aluminum pedals. Its standard manual transmission accounts for the lower price tag; opting for the automatic makes this trim the priciest Elantra. An optional Technology package adds the technology features from the Limited trim's Ultimate package.

The sedan's back seat reveals its compact roots, with limited headroom for tall folks, but legroom is generous by segment standards. Trunk space, too, is generous at 14.8 cu ft.

Safety

The 2015 Hyundai Elantra comes with standard stability control and 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. Those brakes are a notable perk, since economy cars sometimes employ old-tech rear drum brakes. The Elantra also has six airbags (front, front-side and full-length side-curtain).

In government crash tests, the 2015 Elantra sedan scored five stars out of five overall, including four stars for front impacts and five stars for side impacts. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concurred, awarding the Elantra its highest rating of Good in all categories except the small-overlap front test, where it received an Acceptable rating (the second-highest).

Behind the Wheel

The Elantra's seats vary widely depending on whether you select cloth or leather. The cloth seats are supportive enough but a bit squishy, while the leather-trimmed versions are Euro-firm, a bonus for long trips. Now that a tilt-telescopic steering wheel is standard on every Elantra, dialing in a comfortable driving position is a piece of cake.

The Elantra's gauges employ Hyundai's trademark crisp white illumination with blue trim, and an eye-catching LCD trip computer comes standard in every Elantra. Materials quality is average-plus. The 4.3-in touchscreen is a nice standard feature on fancier models, but technophiles may want the full 7-in navigation system.

Under the hood, no one would call the 1.8-liter engine a powerhouse, but this motor does have personality, emitting a vaguely sporty growl above 5,000 revolutions per minute. We prefer the automatic transmission because it serves up some of the most responsive downshifts you'll find at any price. The Sport's 2.0-liter engine, familiar from Kia's compact cars, provides more punch, but it's not particularly refined, and fuel economy takes a hit. We'd like to see Hyundai give one of its turbocharged engines a shot in the Elantra, such as the Veloster Turbo's 1.6-liter unit.

On the road, the Elantra doesn't weigh much, even by economy-car standards, and that cuts both ways. On the one hand, the car feels nimble on the road, carving through corners with unexpected grace, particularly atop the available sport-tuned suspension. On the other hand, the Elantra's chassis quivers on rough pavement, falling short of the solidity standard set by stalwarts such as the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus. It's not a big deal, but it does take a bite out of the car's otherwise refined character. Overall, though, we find the Elantra's driving dynamics quite agreeable.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Chevrolet Cruze -- The much heavier Cruze has the solidity that the Elantra lacks, and it handles like a more expensive car. However, it's hampered by a lower-quality interior and powertrain refinement issues.

2015 Mazda3 -- The redesigned 3 delights with its upscale interior, nimble character and fantastic fuel economy.

2015 Ford Focus -- The Focus is still a star thanks to its Euro-style look and feel, along with its great fuel economy and performance.

Used Volkswagen CC -- The stylish CC is larger than the Hyundai, but it's also more powerful and substantial. You can find a certified pre-owned model for the price of a well-equipped Elantra.

AutoTrader's Advice

We like the Limited's 17-in wheels enough to pick it over the more value-oriented SE. The Elantra Limited is a classy-looking ride.

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2015 Hyundai Elantra: New Car Review - Autotrader