The once cheap and cheerful Hyundai Elantra has evolved from a "head (choice) to (a) heart choice of a compact car," the company says.
The 2017 redesign made three key fixes: design, technology, and body structure and safety. The styling is an immediate observation. Inside and out, it is an attractive small car. But the second observation occurs on the test drive while seeing how tight and solid the car feels.
Hyundai seemed determined to be the benchmark in crash strength. The new body structure uses 53 percent high-strength steel (versus 21 percent in 2016), and the sections are welded and bonded with aircraft-grade glue (390 feet of adhesive compared to about 10 feet in the previous model). The result is a snug cabin, reduced vibration and a stronger foundation to hang the suspension for a more planted ride.
The advanced technologies and safety extras were once luxury-only offerings. Among the options are:
—Smart trunk opener: Stand at the rear of the vehicle and a sensor recognizes the smart key, which gives an audible alert that trunk opening is imminent unless the driver steps away.
—High-intensity headlights with Dynamic Bending Light: The lights turn a few degrees with the steering wheel. The value of this system becomes very apparent on the first drive at night or in fog.
There are two new engines, and a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Available now is the 147 horsepower, 2.0-liter four cylinder with132 foot-pounds of torque at 4,500 rotations per minute. It has good power and still sips fuel at the rate of 28 mpg city, 37 highway and 32 combined, on the recommended 87-octane fuel. With the 14-gallon tank, it's possible to eke out a cruising range of almost 500 miles.
Available soon will be an Eco model with a 128 horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Hyundai expects an Environmental Protection Agency mileage rating of 35 mpg combined.
Plus, the Elantra is a little bigger now — less than 1 inch longer, but 1 inch wider — and it's technically in the midsize sedan segment for interior room, though it's still in the compact sedan group overall, along with the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Mazda3, Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla.
Sold in SE and Limited trim levels, pricing ranges from about $18,000 to $23,185. Today's Limited tester was almost $28,000 with the Tech ($2,500) and Ultimate ($1,900) packages and the $125 for floor mats. Commuters will want the Ultimate package for its safety aids for stop-and-go traffic, which include automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist.
The Tech elements will sweeten the daily grind with such extras as a navigation system with an 8-inch touch screen, Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, an eight-speaker Infinity audio system, heated front and rear seats and a power sunroof.
Even the base SE with manual transmission is no stripper with such standard gear as power windows and side mirrors with driver's-side blind-spot warning, remote locking, six-way adjustable driver's seat/height adjustment for both front seats, seven air bags, and all the expected traction and braking controls.
And then there are the Hyundai warranties: five years/60,000 miles bumper-to-bumper with roadside assistance for five years, and unlimited mileage and powertrain protection of 10 years/100,000 miles.
The driver area is simple and direct. Sightlines are unobstructed over the shoulder or the fenders. There are buttons and dials for the frequently-used controls, such as radio, air conditioning and vents. There is also a large driver's footrest. I liked the simple hand-pull emergency brake lever in the center console.
The Limited's front seats are full-bodied and supportive with perforated leather-trimmed upholstery, which is an asset for cooling in hot weather. The e-bin has two 12-volt plugs, a USB port and an auxiliary-audio port. The visors have extenders and lighted mirrors, the doors have storage and bottle holders, and there is a large, non-locking glove compartment.
The back seat (with a 60/40 fold) is more accommodating than some midsize cars. The doors open wide with an overhead grab-handle for leverage. The seat bottom is long enough and fully padded for adult comfort, with a generous 35.7 inches of legroom and good footroom. Even the center position is a fairly comfortable seat to strap in the neighbor kid for an ice cream run.
The trunk space, at 14.4 cubic feet, is bigger than most and is easily accessed with a wide and low liftover door.
There is a high-value quality feeling to the new Elantra because of its many seemingly over-budget details, including door-handle approach lights and felt-lined fender wells for more cabin calmness. Each car in this segment has its distinguishing features, but the long duration of the Hyundai warranties is one more detail that helps separate the Elantra.
2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited
—Body style: compact, 5-passenger, front-wheel drive sedan
—Engine: 147 horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder ULEV; 132 foot-pounds torque at 4,500 rotations per minute
—Transmission: 6-speed automatic
—Fuel economy: 28/37 mpg city/hwy; 87 octane
—Fuel tank: 14 gallons
—Trunk space: 14.4 cubic feet
—Front head/leg/shoulder room: 38.8/42.2/56.2 inches
—Rear head/leg/shoulder room: 37.3/35.7/55.3 inches
—Length/wheelbase: 179.9/106.3 inches
—Curb weight: 3,924 pounds
—Turning circle: 34.7 feet
—Standard equipment includes: smartkey entry and push-button ignition, rearview camera with guidance lines, 6-speaker audio system with 7-inch touch screen with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, USB charging ports, power driver's seat with lumbar support, leather-trimmed upholstery, heated front seats, rear center armrest with cup holders, 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights and taillights, side-mirror turn signals with door handle approach lights.
—Safety features include: 7 air bags, stability and traction controls, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, brake assist, brake-force distribution.
—Base price: $23,185, including $835 freight charge; price as tested $27,710
—Options on test vehicle: Tech package ($2,500); Ultimate package ($1,900); floor mats ($125)
—Assembled in Montgomery, Alabama.
—Warranty: 5-years/60,000 miles bumper-to-bumper, 5-years/unlimited mileage roadside assistance, 10-years/100,000 miles powertrain
Mark Maynard is online at [email protected] Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage. To find out more about Mark Maynard and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.