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2017 Hyundai Elantra: First Drive Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro February 2016

The compact car world is evolving quickly. Just two years ago, when the third-generation Mazda3 came out, it was considered a marvel for offering advanced safety features such as adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning. Now, those items are commonplace, with many other small cars adopting the features -- along with a slew of other high-tech gadgets and more modern, alluring designs.

The 2017 Hyundai Elantra is the latest challenger in this fast-moving segment. So does it have what it takes to stand out among ever-changing rivals? We recently spent some time behind the wheel of an all-new model in order to find out.

Inside and Out

On the outside, the latest Elantra certainly looks the part, although that's no surprise, as one could argue that it was the last-generation Elantra that touched off the "stylish compact car" trend when it was last redesigned for 2011. While the new Elantra isn't as swoopy and eye-catching as the outgoing model, its more mature looks will likely resonate with shoppers who want their compact car to look a little more sedate than silly. Currently only available as a sedan, the Elantra will cast aside its coupe variant for 2017 -- though Hyundai says a redesigned version of the 5-door GT hatchback is on its way.

Inside, the Elantra also impresses. This is once again no surprise, considering the high quality of Hyundai's recent interiors. While the cabin also loses the outgoing model's bold look, it now offers more room and more practical placement of controls and gadgets, with function dominating form. We especially like the Elantra's excellent materials, which gives it an upscale feel that's only recently finding its place in the compact car world.

Moving Along

Under the hood, the Elantra breaks from tradition. While previous models have only offered one engine, the latest Elantra has two options. Most models get a 147-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that is capable of up to 29 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. The upcoming Elantra Eco will offer a 128-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder that should get a few extra mpg. We only had the chance to try out the 2.0-liter engine -- a smooth and quiet powertrain mated to an equally smooth 6-speed automatic.

On the road, the Elantra is a mixed bag. Acceleration is only mediocre, as some rivals offer up to 40 more hp. While ride quality, handling and steering are all good, they're not great, and the Elantra lags behind some more engaging rivals such as the Mazda3 and the latest Honda Civic. Overall, however, the Elantra feels a lot more substantial than it really is, mating more mature road manners with its more mature design. But it doesn't stand out as especially fun or exciting to drive. Then again, we suspect most compact car shoppers aren't looking for a lot of excitement behind the wheel.

Compact Luxury

As for gadgets, the Elantra is now loaded. While base-level models ($18,000 for a stick shift or $19,000 for an automatic) are still relatively devoid of equipment, a simple $800 popular equipment package changes that by adding alloy wheels, automatic headlights, cruise control, a 7-inch touchscreen, a backup camera and smartphone integration with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. That's an excellent deal for under $20,000 with shipping.

Go all out in the Elantra and you'll end up spending nearly $28,000, but you'll get an 8-in touchscreen, an Infinity sound system, leather upholstery, adaptive xenon headlights and a wide range of new safety gadgets, such as adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with automatic braking and lane-keep assist. In a word, the 2017 Hyundai Elantra is just as advanced as its most cutting-edge rivals such as the Mazda3 and the latest Honda Civic. Our only gripe is that those safety options require spending big money on an upscale Elantra Limited. That's true of most rivals, too, but we wish it weren't.

Worth a Look?

In all, we thoroughly enjoyed the 2017 Elantra. While it may not have rivals beaten out when it comes to driving experience, the Elantra still offers exactly what draws most shoppers to Hyundai in the first place: value. It touts a lot of equipment, a class-leading warranty and, now, a more mature, upscale interior and exterior design, all at a reasonable price compared to rivals. To us, there's no doubt that the latest Elantra is among the best compact cars on the market, and it definitely deserves a place on your shopping list.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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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.
2017 Hyundai Elantra: First Drive Review - Autotrader