The 2018 Hyundai Elantra may be labeled a compact sedan, but its roomy interior, deep trunk and smooth ride definitely don’t feel it. The Elantra’s numerous positive attributes all add up to good news for consumers seeking excellent fuel economy and a low price in an entry-level car, but who also want style, comfort and modern connectivity features. With the Elantra, even basic models are well-equipped, and upscale versions are positively luxurious. Plus, every Elantra comes standard with Hyundai’s excellent warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage and 10 years or 100,000 miles of powertrain protection.
Regrettably, with its latest redesign, the Elantra is no longer the price leader of the segment, which means you may pay a little more to get the Elantra’s excellent upgrades. More importantly, it competes in a segment with a number of well-established challengers, meaning you’ll want to shop the competition before signing the papers, no matter how much you like the Elantra.
What’s New for 2018?
For 2018, the Elantra gains a new SEL trim, which is basically last year’s SE with the Popular Equipment package. The Sport trim gains a power sunroof, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, while the Limited gains three years Blue Link Connected Services. See the 2018 Hyundai Elantra models for sale near you
What We Like
High-end grown-up cabin; comfortable seats; smooth driving experience; long list of features
What We Don’t
Styling doesn’t stand out; certain safety features are confined solely to pricey high-end models
The 2018 Hyundai Elantra is offered with three engine options. Base-level SE, SEL, Value and upscale Limited models come with the sedan’s 147-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, which is offered with a 6-speed manual (SE only) or a 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is 26 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway with the stick shift, or up to 29 mpg city and 38 mpg hwy with the automatic.
Meanwhile, the fuel-efficient Elantra Eco touts a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 128 hp. This model, which is only offered with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, gets 32 mpg city/40 mpg hwy.
The Sport trim is powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine good for 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy with the 6-speed manual is rated at 22 mpg city/30 mpg hwy, while the 7-speed automatic attains 25 mpg city/33 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The latest Hyundai Elantra is offered in six trim levels: SE, SEL, Value, fuel-efficient Eco, Sport and upscale Limited.
The base-level SE ($18,000) comes standard with air conditioning, a 6-speaker sound system, power accessories (windows, mirrors and locks), a 60/40 split-folding back seat, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, satellite radio and a CD player.
If you opt for the automatic transmission ($1,000) it will get you cruise control and Bluetooth.
The SEL ($19,735) adds alloy wheels, a backup camera, 7-in touchscreen radio with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, Bluetooth, cruise control, 4-wheel disc brakes, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Value ($20,735) adds a power sunroof, LED daytime running lights, hands-free power trunk opener, dual-zone automatic temperature control, heated front seats, proximity key with push-button start and dual illuminated vanity mirrors.
The Eco ($21,435) builds on the Value but substitutes a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, unique 15-in alloy wheels and a unique 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The Sport ($22,685) gains a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, 6-speed manual transmission, 18-in alloy wheels, multi-link rear suspension, sport tuned suspension, sport front grille, sport rear diffuser, power sunroof, HID headlights, leather sport front seats, sport instrument gauge cluster, flat-bottom leather wrapped steering wheel and a black headliner. A 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is optional.
Topping the range is the Limited ($23,400), which adds 17-in alloy wheels, leather seats, a power driver’s seat with lumbar support, auto-up power driver’s window, HID headlights with Dynamic Bending, dual charging USB ports and LED taillights.
Optional on the Sport is the Premium package ($2,250) that adds navigation with 8-in touchscreen, 8-speaker Infinity audio system, the full Blue Link suite of service for three years and dual automatic temperature control.
Optional on the Limited is the Ultimate Package ($4,350), which adds heated rear seats, a power sunroof, an 8-in center touchscreen, an 8-speaker Infinity sound system, navigation, forward-collision warning with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam assist, lane-keep assist and driver memory settings.
Standard safety features on all models are anti-lock brakes, side-curtain airbags and traction control with stability control, while a backup camera, a rear cross-traffic alert system and a blind spot monitor are standard on the SEL and higher trims. Although it’s pricey, the Elantra Limited with the Ultimate package also includes forward-collision warning with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, adaptive xenon headlights and lane-keep assist.
In government crash test, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Elantra 4 stars overall, but with a safety concern warning for the rear seat passenger in the side impact test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Elantra excellent marks in all crash tests and awarded it a Top Safety Pick Plus award.
Behind the Wheel
On the road, the Elantra with the base 2.0-liter engine 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. Things improve greatly with the 201-hp Sport trim, but that requires an additional couple thousand dollars over the SEL and Value trims.
Overall, however, the Elantra feels a lot more substantial than it really is, mating more mature road manners with its more mature design. It also touts well-shaped seats, predictable handling and a soft, comfortable ride. 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.
As for equipment, we found everything to be well-labeled, easy-to-use and appropriately laid out. The infotainment system is easy-to-use and quick to respond, and we like the fact that it’s easy to get the Elantra with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Our only gripe was that we found the Elantra Limited’s optional lane-keep assist system to be a little aggressive compared to other systems.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Honda Civic — The Honda Civic is the gold standard for this class, offering an excellent interior, a lot of new equipment, fuel-efficient engines and passenger room galore.
2018 Mazda3 — The Mazda3 is among our favorite compact cars, as it offers sharp handling, sharp styling, excellent fuel economy and a lot of the Elantra’s gadgets.
2018 Toyota Corolla — The Corolla is not especially sporty or loaded with features, but it gets the job done, touting a comfortable ride and long-lasting durability. Every Corolla also comes standard with a pre-collision system, lane-departure warning, auto high beams and adaptive cruise control.
Used Hyundai Sonata — If you like the Elantra’s equipment and styling but need more space, you should consider a used version of the brand’s midsize Sonata sedan, which feels like a larger version of the Elantra.
Picking the best Elantra is hard, because many of the excellent safety options we’d like are confined to the pricey Ultimate package in the Limited trim. As a result, we’d go with the Elantra SEL or Value. Affordable and well-equipped, they are the best values in this lineup.