Five First Impressions: 2017 Hyundai Elantra

Just when you think you’ve picked out the best compact sedan, another new contender rolls up.

This is the 2017 Hyundai Elantra, and I feel like I’ve already named my picks in this class, for people who want basic transportation that doesn’t feel basic. Hyundai has been good at that over the last decade or so, and this redesigned Elantra doesn’t seem to buck that trend. But it isn’t exactly inexpensive anymore. To succeed, it needs to out-Civic the Honda Civic.

Here are some of my first impressions of the Elantra as I spend a few days driving it.

Good, clean, fun?
Hyundais continue to get exterior styling refined to the point where tasteful and bland intersect. It’s fairly anonymous, but the Elantra is at least nicely detailed. Attractive 17-inch wheels don’t overstate the abilities of a car that’s extremely comfort-oriented. But it’s hardly memorable.

Timeless might be the nice way of putting that. The Elantra also ditches every possible curve and flourish from the old car for straight edges and a somewhat blocky design. Buttons are also unusually large, which initially gives the impression this car is designed for a more mature demographic.

So easy your pre-teen grandchild can use it
The most recent Hyundai products I’ve encountered have impressed me with the completeness of the technology. This loaded Limited model gets all of the tech, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, on a bright 8-inch touchscreen with reasonably quick responses. Yet there are a lot of hard keys that let you accomplish most tasks easily, again, as if it weren’t designed just for Millennials. It’s all well thought out.

Save for the hands-free trunk opener. It starts beeping furiously when you stand near the trunk and then takes way longer than opening the trunk with your hand would. And people wonder what the hell is wrong with your car.

Smacked with the efficiency stick
Until the hot-ish Elantra Sport arrives, the only engine in the 2017 Elantra is a 2.0-liter four with 147 horsepower and a six-speed automatic transmission. Nothing particularly impressive, but it all works well. I didn’t expect the Elantra to be fun to drive, so it’s fine that it isn’t. But it isn’t bad to drive in normal situations and it’s at least quiet at 55-ish mph.

So far, fuel economy has been well short of the 29 city, 38 highway estimate laid out by the EPA. Eighty-or-so miles of mostly city driving got me just 21.3 mpg. We’ll see if a highway run does anything to make a better efficiency case for the Elantra.

A $27,000 value 
This Elantra Limited with all of the options comes in at $27,585, on par with a similarly equipped Honda Civic Touring and a couple grand more than a Nissan Sentra with some of this gear. The $2,500 Tech Package added the navigation, sunroof and Infinity sound system, but you have to get it to get the $1,900 Ultimate Package that includes all of the safety gear. Still, it’s an awful lot of car for the money.

But it’s also a very grown-up car for the money, something that isn’t so readily apparent among its rivals. The Elantra is aiming to be a classier compact, so I’m trying to find out if it succeeds at that mission.

What are your questions about the 2017 Elantra? Sound off below.

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  • RunningLogan

    I’d be curious to see how it compares to the also brand new Chevy Cruze.

  • smartacus

    $27,5 for an Elantra is just indefensible.

    And it’s only got a 147 HP 2.0
    and only 6-speeds
    and only 21.3 MPG

    • dumblikeyou2

      Yeah but you can start it up with your smartphone!

      You forgot the biggest faux pas for $27.5: rear torsion beam axle: basically, a $27K oxcart suspension

      • Beau Hawkins

        Lol oxcart suspension! I didn’t know the dummy beam still held wheels on cars in 2016!

    • Six_Tymes

      I agree, my wife bought a Sentra instead and we really like it. less than 20 thousand buys a very nice car and good gas mileage.

    • Kenneth

      I like that Hyundai is continuing to offer a real 6-speed automatic, rather than a CVT. On the other hand, 21.3 mpg in actual driving makes the 29 mpg EPA city rating (w/testing possibly conducted by Hyundai, itself?) deserving of suspicion.

    • Beau Hawkins

      Poor man’s A3? Oh wait, the A3 is a mere $31k.

      Do the Koreans know that $27k gets you IRS, AWD, turbo, and 250+HP these days?

      • smartacus

        that’s true!
        it feels like marching upwards in price.

        First, they started out as cheaper than everyone, Even cheaper than Suzuki and Mitsubishi.
        Then they became equal with them.
        Then they became a cheaper alternative to Honduh and Toyoda.
        Then they became equal with them.
        Now they are expensive enough for people to cross-shop with AUDI, not even VW, but AUDI!

    • Kelly Winterton

      I rented a 2017 Elantra and drove from Salt Lake to Cheyenne, south to Denver, east to Grand Junction and back to SLC via Vernal Utah and it averaged 51.4 MPG. No lie. One heck of a nice car.

  • Zandit75

    Took one of these for a test run a couple of weeks ago. My wife ended up getting a Tucson to replace her iX35 because she liked the higher ride height.
    The new Elantra is, in my opinion, the best looking small car on the road today, and it has a great smooth ride, if a little noisy on rougher roads.
    I loved the steering, and the drivers seat was very comfortable.
    I still prefer the Tucson we bought, but it was a great car to drive.

    • Beau Hawkins

      It looks good because they stole Audi/VW body styling. Look at the S3/A3 if you want to see the best good looking small car out.

      • Nobody

        Stole? You do know who designs Kia’s cars right? Peter Schreyer, aka former designer for Audi/VW who contributed greatly towards the TT and A-series designs. He been working for Kia as chief design officer for 10 years now. It’s no surprise his signature style would find themselves being incorporated with Kia’s new cars. The only thing Kia stole from Audi/VW is their designer, not their design. Let’s be real, Audi hasn’t innovated on their design in over a decade.

        • Beau Hawkins

          He’s been gone since ’06. The MQB platform came out in ’12. His style was more “bubbly” and round. Audi and VW are sharper and with more square dimensions now. I’m honestly surprised it took 4 years for Hyundai too pick someone else’s sheet metal to copy. They should hire a suspension engineer from another company next…

          • DK

            they did.. his name is Albert Biermann…

          • Beau Hawkins

            Yeah but he and the team still haven’t figured out how to build a rear suspension with arms and links for $27k…

          • DK

            well.. we will see how the Elantra Sport turns out.

  • TheBelltower

    27k is absurd for this Hyundai. I don’t think I’d ever spend real money on any Hyundai. But I do think that this is one of the nicest looking cars in its class.

    • Beau Hawkins

      A3….and at this price point, it’s in the A3’s class!

  • derekson

    It seems solid, but I hope they bring a version with H/K’s 1.6T 4 cylinder to compete better with engines like the 1.5T in higher trim Civics, the 1.8T in higher trim Jettas, and the 1.4T in the Cruze, the 2.5 in the Mazda 3, etc. This base engine seems pretty good for an NA 4, and plenty competitive against the base engines in most of these cars in terms of power (other than Cruze which starts with the good engine in the new car, unlike the base 1.8L in the outgoing model). The Atkinson cycle should give it great real world efficiency, but it needs the turbo engine option to really compete at the $27k price point for the premium equipment level versions of these compact sedans.

    • Zandit75

      There is one coming in the next couple of months. There was a story on this site just a couple of days ago with some spy shots. They will be calling it an Elantra SR.

      • Six_Tymes

        yeah and it will be almost 30 grand. no thanks.

  • trentbg

    They need that 1.5T in it and it will be great.

  • Toronado_II

    UnfortunateIy, I think the Civic is better on every aspects, even the style.

  • BlackPegasus

    Looks like a baby Genesis.

  • bloggin

    OK, from the side profile, the rear quarter(starting at the rear door handle going back) is just awkward and ugly. Then add poor hp, poor mpg and more expensive, and we get the opposite of the Civic or Corolla. Even the aging Focus would be more fun to drive and offer better tech and better mpg, for less money.

  • John Dow

    I stopped taking auto journalists proclamations about gas mileage seriously when an honest one ended his review with the “Oh, by the way” tag that the car being reviewed had spent half its time over 3000 rpms…and it was an economy car. I saw another review of this Elantra where they got 32 combined over a weeks driving which I think would be closer to the truth for most.

    It’s a nice compact against other nice compacts. Honda has recovered from their debacle with the 2012 Civic and might be in the cat bird’s seat with the new model, but once all the engine options and sport model are available, the Elantra will be more fully competitive…albeit in a different way. I tend to agree that they get pricey with the packages but their tech is first rate.

  • Justin Spencer

    $27.5K is out of the question for an Elantra or even a Sonata….no way!!! Hyundai may build decent cars these days but for that kind of money, the last brand I’d consider is Hyundai……that’s me though. I’d stick to the lower end models if anything and get myself a jet ski.

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