The 2017 Elantra is the 6th iteration of Hyundai’s big seller. This sedan currently counts for over 30% of the marque’s showroom traffic, so any sort of changes – especially a redesign – is big news. The last generation Elantra employed the Korean automaker’s ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ design language and was one of the few cars in its class that actually looked like anything at all.
For 2017, the new nose gets Hyundai’s hexagonal grille and vertically stacked LED fog lights in upper trims. With taillights resembling triple afterburners and a trunk lid shaped to form a kinda-sorta-spoiler, it’s a grown up look. Hyundai’s Elantra has taken off its hoodie and put on a suit.
Expanding beyond the trim levels offered last year, the 2017 Elantra is offered in no less than six levels for Canadian car shoppers to consider. The base L trim starts under $16,000, offering a stick shift but no air conditioning (it is pre-wired for a dealer install, though). Customers shelling out $2500 will net the LE trim which includes a 6-speed auto and A/C along with Bluetooth and a steering wheel peppered with redundant buttons.
Hyundai’s traditional trims, GL and GLS, are now midrange. A large 7” touchscreen with a backup camera shows up on the $1850 walk to the GL, along with blind-spot monitoring and alloy wheels. The $22,699 GLS piles on a sunroof, 17” alloys, and keyless entry. Power leather seats show up on our $26,249 Limited tester, along with an 8” touchscreen with nav and a 315W Infinity 8-speaker stereo. The final rung, labelled Ultimate, includes semi-autonomous driving tools like lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control.
This huge range in price and features will allow Hyundai to simultaneously advertise a $15999 price point and high-end features like lane keeping and adaptive cruise control. LED fog lights in the Limited double as daytime running lights in the Canadian market and add nice styling touch.
Speaking of styling, why do some manufacturers, including Hyundai with this Elantra, mar the front of their vehicles with an unsightly crease for the leading edge of the bonnet? I first took real notice of it on the new 3-series and since then I’ve seen it on a lot of vehicles, probably because I’m looking for it now. Undoubtedly, there’s some engineering reason such as the hood latch wouldn’t work or the latching points would fail in a crash test. I hope the reason is not dictated by bean counters, seeking to save 0.001c per vehicle. Moving the cut line down to the grille would clean up the front end and perhaps even hide sloppy panel alignment, not that there’s any on this car.
When you’re at a Hyundai dealer test driving the Elantra, tell the salesperson to buzz off for a few minutes while you get comfortable in the car. When I initially sat in the driver’s seat, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the windshield was too close and too low, cutting off my view ahead and scuppering any chance of easily viewing overhead traffic lights. A good five minutes of fiddling with the 8-way heated power seats rewarded me with a comfortable driving position and enough headroom for my 6’6” frame, even with the Limited’s sunroof. A memory feature at this trim level allows two drivers to recall their hard earned comfort, lest someone else move the seat a couple of microns forward.
Fair warning, though: with the driver’s seat positioned to my liking, there was little chance of anyone over 6’0” sitting in the rear seat behind me. The available space suited elementary aged kiddos quite well but families raising junior NBA players should look across the showroom to the Sonata. At the upper end of its trim levels, the Elantra overlaps the starting price of its big brother, so folks with pre-pubescent children may find they – quite literally – grow out of the Elantra when their offspring hit the dark and brooding teenage years. Plan your purchase accordingly.
Compared to the flamboyant Transformer-with-wings centre stack and vents in the last-gen Elantra, the 2017 model has a more upscale and buttoned-down look. This is in keeping with its exterior. The eight-inch navigation screen on our tester had a nicely angled screen which reduced glare and was unaffected by direct sunlight. Other manufacturers could learn from Hyundai’s example here. The system’s responses were reasonably speedy and featured good graphics. Android Auto makes an appearance but Apple CarPlay is absent.
Legroom was vast, although I did find my right knee frequently resting against uncomfortably hard trim framing the centre console, causing my leg to flail about in search of comfort like a freshly caught codfish. A soft touch surface here would be welcome. Speaking of soft surfaces, in a world where most headrests poke into the back of driver’s heads like Klingon pain sticks (here’s lookin’ at you, most Fords), the Elantra’s headrests were oddly comfortable, like resting your head on a fat puppy. The heated rear seats are a treat in this price range and drew admirable comments from the peanut gallery, as did the fold down centre armrest.
In terms of storage, the centre console has a well shaped bin ahead of the shifter, large enough to hold an iPhone 6+ while charging it up with either the USB port or one of the twin 12V outlets. The trunk is also large and well shaped but the lid’s hinges are of the old-fashioned variety, swinging through their motion like a Louisville Slugger and intruding on the trunk space. A set of gas struts would go a long way to maximizing the Elantra’s trunk volume.
After spending 337km behind the wheel with mostly rural driving, the Elantra’s 147hp 2.0L DOHC 4-cylinder returned 7.3L/100km in fuel consumption, placing it squarely between its government rating of 8.3L/100km city and 6.4L/100km highway. The engine itself is typical inline-4 fare in terms of NVH but does run an Atkinson cycle so it, um, does Atkinson-type stuff.
Actually, Atkinson cycle engines simply keep their intake valves open a bit longer, reducing compression a bit and sacrificing a shred of power for greater fuel efficiency. The automatic transmission is agreeable, shifting 500rpm shy of the redline even in the Shiftronic manual mode.
With these updates, there’s no reason why the 2017 Elantra won’t continue to draw plenty of showroom traffic. Hyundai has the market covered from $15,999 bargain seekers all the way up to buyers who are looking for a leather lined compact sedan. Sometimes, growing up means leaving your hoodie in the closet before going to work.
Selling Points: attractive price, loads of features, grown up good looks
Deal Breakers: grocery trashing trunk hinges, takes a while to get comfy
The Bottom Line: Hyundai knows how to play the compact car game