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2016 vs. 2017 Hyundai Elantra: What's the Difference?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro March 2016

The Hyundai Elantra has been a mainstay in the compact-car world for years -- and now it's completely redesigned for 2017 with a new look and a lot of other updates. But what exactly has changed between the 2017 Hyundai Elantra and the outgoing 2016 model? And is the new version worth a premium over a used or certified pre-owned (CPO) model? We've created a close comparison between the new Elantra and the outgoing model in order to help you decide.

Exterior

On the outside, major differences separate the new Hyundai Elantra from the outgoing model. While we liked the outgoing Elantra's bold, swoopy look, the new model is more grown up, with a more mature and subtle -- but still handsome -- overall look. We strongly suspect that you won't mistake the old Elantra for the new one, but we also suspect that you may mistake the latest Elantra's more grown-up design for that of a larger model, such as Hyundai's midsize Sonata sedan.

It's also worth noting that the latest Elantra is only available as a sedan. While Hyundai says a revised version of the outgoing GT hatchback is coming -- likely next year -- the coupe model has been canceled. If you want a coupe (or if you're looking for a hatchback and you want to buy right away), you have no choice but to pick the outgoing Elantra.

Interior

Just like on the outside, the latest Elantra offers a far more grown-up interior design than its predecessor. Say goodbye to the pinched look of the outgoing model's center control stack, along with the stylized and sculpted dashboard that gave the old Elantra an especially daring interior design. It's all replaced with a totally new look -- one that features a larger, more user-friendly center control stack and a more upscale, traditional overall design. When you get inside the new Elantra, you'll immediately realize that this small car is growing up.

Mechanicals

The outgoing Elantra offered two engines. Most models came with a 145-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder, which touted fuel economy ratings of up to 28 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. Drivers looking for more power could upgrade to the Elantra Sport and its 173-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, which offered up to 24 mpg city/35 mpg hwy. Both Elantra models offered a 6-speed manual or optional 6-speed automatic transmission.

The new Elantra also offers two engines. Most models use a 147-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, which boasts up to 29 mpg city/38 mpg hwy -- an increase of only 2 additional hp over the outgoing model and 1 mpg in the city. Meanwhile, the efficiency-focused Elantra Eco uses a 128-hp 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. This engine, which is only available with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, has not yet been rated for fuel economy by the Environmental Protection Agency, but Hyundai promises 35 mpg in combined city and highway driving.

While base engines are virtually identical in terms of both power and gas mileage between the new Elantra and the outgoing model, the Elantra Eco is the fuel economy star of the compact car's lineup -- and if you're especially interested in gas mileage, it's the one you'll want to pick.

Features & Technology

Although we never really thought the outgoing Elantra was low on equipment, we're really impressed with the new model. It's a step above its predecessor, touting an available 8-inch touchscreen (the old model maxed out at 7 inches), an 8-speaker Infinity sound system, adaptive xenon headlights, adaptive cruise control and several other cutting-edge safety features (which we've described below).

Of course, none of these items comes standard on the base model, so if you're looking for the cheapest possible Elantra, you may not notice a huge difference between the new version and the old one. But if you want a well-equipped car with as many of the latest and greatest features as you can find, there's no doubt that only the 2017 Elantra delivers what you're looking for.

Driving Experience

On the road, the new Elantra and the outgoing model offer fairly similar driving experiences. This shouldn't surprise you, considering that the old one offered 145 hp while the new one has 147 horses -- and they're about the same overall size. Admittedly, we think the latest Elantra is quieter and smoother than the old version, but that's true of just about every redesigned car. Overall, you won't find much of a difference here.

You will, however, notice a little less available oomph, since the Elantra Sport is no longer offered. For 2017, the Elantra's backup engine turns from more powerful to more efficient -- and while we haven't yet driven the Elantra Eco, we suspect it won't quite offer the same verve as the more powerful Sport (or even the base-level Elantra). Still, with the latest model's more comfortable and more luxurious ride, we think most buyers will want the new Elantra on their compact-car shopping lists.

Safety

Although the latest Elantra has not yet been crash-tested by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the outgoing version earned a perfect 5-star overall score. The 2017 Elantra has also not yet been tested by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, though the outgoing model fared only OK, earning mostly Good scores, save for a mere Acceptable rating in the firm's challenging small-overlap frontal crash test.

As for safety features, the new Elantra has the old one beaten by a mile. While all Elantra models come standard with side airbags and anti-lock brakes, only the new one offers high-tech safety features such as forward-collision warning with automatic braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert. The most advanced safety feature in the outgoing model, meanwhile, was a backup camera. The result: If safety is a priority, you should buy a well-equipped 2017 Elantra. Along with the new Honda Civic, it's among the safest overall vehicles in its class.

Conclusions

The 2017 Hyundai Elantra offers a major step up over the outgoing model, as it touts a more mature design, a nicer interior and a long list of new tech gadgets and safety features on higher trim levels. For shoppers with a generous budget, we wouldn't hesitate to recommend the new Elantra over its predecessor.

With that said, drivers who are interested in getting an Elantra for the lowest possible price may still prefer the old model. That's because the base-level Elantra doesn't add much more equipment for 2017 -- and the new and old Elantra have roughly the same entry-level powertrain. If you opt for a CPO 2015 or 2016 Elantra, you'll even get Hyundai's excellent 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

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Used 2017 Hyundai Elantra SE Sedan
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Used 2017 Hyundai Elantra SE Sedan
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 vs. 2017 Hyundai Elantra: What's the Difference? - Autotrader