When first seeing the redesigned 2017 Hyundai Elantra, I didn't really care for it. Sure, it was bound to be a technical advancement over the previous generation, but it seemed less special. Swoopy bodywork had given way to a more upright grille that seemed lifted straight from the mid-size Sonata. Same for the interior. Good, but nothing special. Maybe I was wrong.
Look beyond the handsome grille on our limited-grade sedan and you start to notice how much style the car really has. Where the front of the old car looked cute, the new one seems ready to eat small children with its grille and shred them with vertical turn signals, LED running lamps, and HID headlamps. The roofline still arches, but the bodysides and hood are more chiseled. Around back, an integrated spoiler and LED taillamps leave a clean finish. Place it all over 17" alloy wheels.
The first glance inside is also deceiving. The previous-generation's twin-cockpit dash design is replaced by a strong center stack, focused towards the driver, with touchscreen above dual-zone automatic climate controls. Navigation, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Infinity premium audio are all controlled via touch. Stepping up the luxury are heated leather front and rear seats, power sunroof, and push button starting.
There's a precision to how knobs rotate and buttons depress. Everything feels thoroughly considered, right down to the shade of blue lighting used for buttons and gauges. Adding to the luxury car feel is a full array of safety tech that includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and rearview camera.
Press the starter button to fire up the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. With just 147 horsepower and 132 lb.-ft. of torque on tap, it's more about smooth power than a gusher of oomph. I don't hate continuously-variable transmissions that many of the Elantra's competitors employ, but it's so nice to feel the smooth progression of a six-speed automatic transmission. Normal, Sport, and Eco modes alter the throttle and transmission response from sporty and spirited to economically friendly. Fuel economy of 28/37-MPG city/hwy comes as a pleasant surprise.
Hyundais have evolved from basic transportation to enjoyable drivers. The Elantra is no sports car, but tight steering and firm suspension systemindependent in front, torsion beam in rearis eager to play and lets you plant it without regret. Engineers dialed in a good balance of road isolation and feel, making the car a very nice daily commuter. Push it too hard and it will squeal like, well, a car pushed too hard. But, even over rough pavement, the body structure feels tight and the wheels just rumble over with nary a peep.
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra may be less swoopy, but it's considerably more suave. A more aggressive grille, sculpted body, luxurious interior, and smooth powertrain give it street cred. It's a perfectly-timed redesign to counter the also-impressive Honda Civic, Chevy Cruze, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Mazda3, and Ford Focus. Elantra starts at $17,150, but came to $27,710 absolutely stoked.
2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited
Five-passenger, FWD sedan
Powertrain: 147 hp 2.0-liter I4, 6-spd auto trans Suspension f/r: Ind/Torsion beam
Wheels f/r: 17"/17" alloy
Brakes f/r: disc/disc
Must-have features: Style, Comfort
Fuel economy: 28/37 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Montgomery, Alabama
Base/as-tested price: $17,150/27,710
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