On November 18, Hyundai revealed its all-new 2017 Elantra at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The car wasn’t remarkable for its styling changes or cutting-edge angles, but because it looks weirdly similar to the outgoing version.
Online, Hyundai said that the Elantra remains one of its all time best-selling models, and that this sixth-generation is “building on the momentum and success of its proven award-winning formula,” even though its claim that it offers a “bold aerodynamic design,” is neither new or exciting. Nevertheless, what the new Elantra does manage to do is incorporate things like HID headlights with “Dynamic Bending Lights” and vertical LED daytime running lights, functional front wheel air curtains, and a series of underbody covers into the equation, all of which are fresh additions to the chassis and welcome ones at that.
Fortunately, buyers can spruce things up with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED door handle approach lights, side mirror LED turn signal indicators, and LED taillights with high tech graphics for a little added pizzazz, as five new paint colors attempt to make up for all of the Elantra’s recycled design cues. The car is also an inch wider and longer, thus giving it a slightly more masculine stance, though it’s not as athletic as the turbocharged Sonata Sport 2.0T I reviewed a few months back.
But for all of its uninspired external styling, the 2017 Elantra really stands out on the inside, where its driver-oriented design, increased roominess, high-quality materials, and premium tech blend harmoniously with premium soft-touch materials to create a cabin that looks and feels levels above its pedigree. With its 4.2-inch color TFT LCD instrument display, horizontal design cues with buttons and controls grouped together by function, and seven degree tilt toward the person behind the wheel, there is no doubting the ergonomics of the Elantra. Tack on a segment-first memory system for the power driver seat and side mirrors, dual automatic temperature controls with auto defogging and dimming rearview mirrors, and a multi-firmness seat pad that reduces driver fatigue over long distances, and you’ve got our undivided attention when it comes to the interior.
Speaking of seats, every single Elantra now utilizes “SoyFoam” for cushioning, which is an environmentally sound seating foam that swaps petroleum-based products with soybean oil and gives passengers the choice to enjoy the feeling of having heated posteriors both front and rear. Other noticeable improvements include the reduction in both interior cabin noise and road vibration, as hood insulators, thicker front door glass, and additional sound absorption materials wrap around pillars, inner fenders, and floorpan. Still not satisfied, engineers applied plastic and rubber bushings to the front sub-frame and increased the size of the bushings on the lower control arms for added comfort and quiet. Boosting its interior volume to the point where the EPA has re-categorized it as a “Midsize bracket,” the Elantra now resides in the class above Mazda3, Ford Focus, and multitudes of other automobiles.
While we are still on the topic of suspension, let’s discuss the significance of the 2017 Elantra being lighter and stronger than the outgoing model — and how its rigid chassis has been reinforced with 53% more advanced high-strength steel compared to 21% on the outgoing version. Boosting both ride quality and handling characteristics, this stiffer chassis presents a new level of serenity, durability, and driver enjoyability on many levels. Feeling like they had still not done enough, engineers added structural adhesive 40 different times at high stress points on the chassis in order to reinforce welding areas, a practice that is more commonly found in aerospace applications. Top that with some redesigned rear suspension geometry for better comfort and handling, and Hyundai now has us wanting to drive an Elantra to see if we can detect any major differences when it comes to driving characteristics.
Drivetrain-wise, the 2017 Elantra receives two all-new engines, both of which have been designed for fuel efficiency and everyday performance. The standard motor leads in with its 2.0-liter Nu MPI Atkinson four-cylinder engine, which produces around 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. While this may not sound impressive, note that this is the only Atkinson cycle motor in existence today that combines multi-port injection with the compact class, allowing more efficient fuel consumption with an anticipated 33-mile-per-gallon average being the ultimate goal. Sure, you could pair this engine to the automatic slushbox like everyone else, but manual transmissions are dying and we need to do our part to save them, so please opt for the six-speed gearbox if you are considering the SE — it will likely be far more forgiving than the clutch I did battle with in the track-oriented Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec.
But the motor we are most interested in is the all-new 1.4-liter Kappa turbocharged GDI four-cylinder engine, which comes on Eco trimmed models and produces 128 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque courtesy of an EcoShift seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. This is a clever little powerplant too, with integrated cylinder heads and exhaust manifolds improving fuel economy numbers by 5 to 7% at higher speeds, while scavenging strategies improve low-end torque and response thanks to a reduction in back pressure. Both engines now have the ability to be driven in Eco, Normal, or Sport Mode, and with a little luck each setting will make a noticeable difference in performance and efficiency.
I could go on for days about the sheer amount of safety equipment that will be offered on the new Elantra, as many expect it to receive an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and NHTSA 5-star safety rating due to features like automatic emergency braking, class-exclusive pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, blind spot detection, cross-traffic alerts, and lane change assistance. But we have already covered this kind of tech a thousand times this year, as everything from the Cadillac CTS4 3.6 we reviewed to the Infiniti Q50 S that I adored had all of these features, something that is exciting to see being outfitted on what has often been referred to as a “cheap economy car.”
Automatically opening trunk lids, Smart Cruise Control (SCC) systems that maintain safe cruising distances, iPhone/USB ports, auxiliary input jacks, SiriusXM satellite radio, an available 7.0-inch touchscreen display with rearview camera, and Hyundai’s next-level 8-inch navigation system all make the cut in the tech department in this iteration. Mix it all up with app-based navigation, streaming audio, voice-controlled search capabilities, Pandora capability, “Eyes Free” Siri integration, and an eight-speaker Infinity premium audio system, and you have one hell of a connected car. The icing on the cake is Hyundai’s first ever use of Harman Kardon’s “Clari-Fi” music restoration technology, which analyzes digital audio files during playback and automatically rebuilds much of what was lost in the compression process.
So the new Elantra can be turned into a sedan that is very well equipped in the tech department, has a stiffer/quieter chassis, driving dynamics have been improved in the rear suspension department, turbocharged engine applications are now available, the interior looks and feels like a luxury sedan, and the SE model can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox. These are all promising upgrades over the outgoing model, but the question still remains after all is said and done: You may tell your neighbors that you just got the newest Hyundai Elantra, but just by looking at it, will they believe you?