Every time I see the 2017 Hyundai Elantra, I’m reminded of an old advertising slogan: “You’ve come a long way baby!”
Let’s start with a stroll down memory lane. The original Elantra came out in 1991. Frankly, it was a rather forgettable car. Styling was somewhat bland and the mechanics were just average. It had a 113 horsepower engine that pushed it to 60 miles per hour in just a tick under ten seconds. I thought the styling for the next few generations was even less exciting.
Fast forward to 2011. That’s when the fifth generation arrived on our shores. Holy cow was it a different creature. Stodgy styling was gone and Hyundai actually jumped ahead of most carmakers with its fluid sculpture design. It didn’t have a whole lot of performance but the Elantra just looked fast. It took years for other car designs to catch up.
Now that 2017 has arrived, Hyundai decided it was time to freshen things up. The most obvious visual change is the big grille up front. Tiny grilles are out, so Hyundai has joined the club with what it calls its signature hexagonal grille. Once you get past the front end, the new styling is actually a little more subtle than the previous version. It’s still attractive, just not quite as bold. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. You’ll have to decide for yourself.
Behind the grill is a 2.0 liter, 147 hp four-cylinder engine with a six speed automatic transmission. Your other option is a 1.4 liter, turbocharged four-cylinder. It’s good for 128 horsepower and you can only get it on the Eco edition Elantra. My test car had the bigger engine and performance is about what you’d expect. It will get you up to freeway speeds, but you won’t brag about it. On the other hand, you will tell folks how you get 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. The combined number is 32 mpg, and I managed 31 mpg during my test week.
Interestingly, the 2017 Elantra is lighter than the old one. Hyundai brags that its chassis is now reinforced with 53 percent advanced high-strength steel compared with 21 percent from the previous model, providing improved stiffness at a lower body weight. Maybe so, but you’ll never confuse the Elantra for a sporty car. Take a turn slightly too fast the tires will be telling you to slow down.
Moving inside, the dashboard has been completely redesigned. Funny how last year’s look suddenly feels outdated. There’s less Darth Vader mask and more subtle sweep going on. While there was nothing wrong with the old version, this one is more focused on the driver. It’s tilted ever so slightly in that direction. It’s flatter with fewer dials and knobs sticking out. The cabin was relatively quiet and very comfortable.
Even better is all the safety goodies. A seven airbag system is standard. You also get Electronic Stability Control, Vehicle Stability Management, Traction Control, ABS and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System. But wait, there’s more! You can get Automatic Emergency Braking that will detect pedestrians. There’s also Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist System, Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross-traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist, and a rearview camera, now with dynamic guidance. According to Hyundai, the Elantra is the only car in its class with all of these safety extras. Frankly, I don’t consider them extras anymore. In a world of distracted drivers, this technology can and will save lives.
All in all, it’s a massive leap forward from that original Elantra that started things 25 years ago. Throw in Hyundai’s 10 year powertrain and five years/60,000 miles bumper to bumper warranty, and you’re buying a great car at a great price.
Speaking of price, the base Elantra SE starts at $17,150. Mine tipped the scales at $27,710 as a Limited model with plenty of options that included the safety technology. Not quite the dirt cheap car that original Elantra was 25 years ago, but it’s a massive leap forward that won’t disappoint anyone.
Like I said, you’ve come a long way baby!