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“Are my headlights on?” I thought as I turned on the 2022 Hyundai Elantra. It was nighttime and I was running a short errand in this week’s press car. I quickly realized that this particular N Line trim level didn’t come with LED headlights. “Hmm, I’m guessing this car didn’t win a ‘Top Safety Pick +’ award,” was my next thought. Admittedly, it was a weird thought, but I was right.

The 2022 Hyundai Elantra didn’t win the coveted “Top Safety Pick +” award

a shot of the headlight on the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N line
2022 Hyundai Elantra | Hyundai

The 2022 Hyundai Elantra was redesigned last year with an origami-style exterior that came with sharper-looking headlights. Unfortunately, those aggressive headlights do not come standard with LED headlights and you have to step all the way up to the top Limited trim to get them. Of course, I can’t expect much, considering the Elantra is a compact commuter car after all. However, my main realization is how much dimmer “projector beam” halogen headlights are compared to LED units, which is a bit of a safety risk.

My other realization was how important a car’s headlights are when the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates it. If you’re unfamiliar with the IIHS, it’s an “independent non-profit scientific and educational organization that’s dedicated to reducing death and injuries,” according to its website. As such, this organization rates a variety of cars every year based on its own criteria that include six tests for crashworthiness, an assessment for child safety equipment, and an assessment for headlights.

If a car receives at least a “good” rating in all of the tests, then it gets awarded with a “Top Safety Pick +” award. But if it gets a “poor” rating in any one of the tests then it will get a “Top Safety Pick” rating. As you can imagine, having that “plus” added at the end is like getting straight A’s on your report card, so it means a lot.

What did the Elantra get on its report card?

a front driving shot of the 2022 Hyundai Elantra
2022 Hyundai Elantra | Hyundai

When it comes to the 2022 Elantra’s safety ratings, the Elantra received “good” marks in nearly every category, so you know it’s safe in the event of a collision. It even received a “good” rating in the headlight portion because the Limited trim level comes with LED headlights. However, it also received a “poor” rating in that category for its halogen projector beams in the lower trim levels – SE, SEL, and N Line.

Taking a closer look at the report, the IIHS noted that the Elantra’s low beams offered “good visibility on the right side of the road and inadequate on the left side.” And when it came to visibility when turning: “On curves, visibility was inadequate on all four tests.” The same remarks were echoed for the car’s high beams.

a screenshot of the report from the IIHS about the 2022 Hyundai Elantra headlights
2022 Hyundai Elantra IIHS headlight test details | IIHS

How do the headlights look at nighttime?

2022 Hyundai Elantra side shot in blue
2022 Hyundai Elantra N Line | Hyundai

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In real life, the projector headlights are pretty dim, but they’re good enough to adequately see the road ahead at nighttime. I haven’t tested out the difference in the left and right sides like the IIHS did, but I’ll take their word for it. Otherwise, I can still recommend the Elantra as a safe and funky-looking commuter car. But if you want the best visibility at nighttime, then you may want to opt for the Limited trim level.