The Hyundai Elantra sedan has risen from the ho-hum ranks to become one of our more well-liked compacts, in part due to its grown-up styling and improved feature set. Its handsome, economical traits combined with a solid safety record help it outshine stalwarts like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla in some measures, all the while surpassing most of the field when it comes to value.
The Elantra is also offered in five-door GT hatchback guise, which is covered separately. For two model years in this generation, Hyundai also offered a two-door Elantra, but slow sales of that model prompted its end last year.
In a relatively mild rework to the Elantra sedan lineup in 2014, the accomplished styling of the current car received new front and rear end treatments, with LED fillips around the headlamps on Sport and Limited sedan models. The Elantra wears a complex set of curves that collect in a swoop toward the rear end, where the boomerang door cuts give the look a shove forward. It's an energetic exterior backed up with a daring cockpit, with an hourglass center console defining the space and doubling as a comfy knee rest.
Base Elantras are lean and efficient, with a 1.8-liter inline-4 standard. Rated at 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque, this powertrain is fairly smooth and accelerates respectably through a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual. There's also a 2.0-liter inline-4 in the Elantra Sport, with 173 hp and 154 lb-ft of torque. It is also available with either a manual or automatic.
Generally, the Elantra doesn't feel as energetic or engaging as the best drivers in the class—the Mazda 3, for example. Its powertrains are slow to respond to throttle inputs, and the steering could be quicker and more responsive, while it has been improved with better on-center feel, it's feedback is still not especially natural. Ride quality is fine, however, and the Elantra soaks up road noise as well as or better than its competitors, with sound levels about as low as in some mid-size sedans. That's an important metric for the Elantra, since its interior space spills over into mid-size territory.
The Elantra is an excellent value on many fronts. By its spec sheet, it's a mid-size vehicle, and it shows. The sedan's front seats could use a little more bolstering and lateral support, as in the coupe, but on either, they're surrounded by ample space in all directions. In back, the leg room is fine for adults, but head room can be tight, even for medium-height passengers. The Elantra's interior has lots of useful cubbies and storage bins, including a covered one that sits ahead of the shift lever: it also contains the aux jack, a power point, and the USB port in an easy to reach module, perfect for connecting smartphones.
All Elantra sedans are rated at five stars overall by the NHTSA. The IIHS called it a Top Safety Pick in prior years, with an "Acceptable" rating in the new small-overlap test and "Good" scores in all other categories.
The Elantra sedan lineup now includes the SE, Value Edition, Limited, and Sport models. All Elantras come with power windows, locks, and mirrors; keyless entry; and (on automatic models) air conditioning; cruise control; Bluetooth with audio streaming; and telescopic steering. All versions can stream audio via the Pandora app and a USB connection. A 4.3-inch touchscreen radio with a rearview camera is now standard on the Sport and Limited sedans, and an option on the SE.
For 2016, Hyundai has made several price-focused packaging changes. A new Elantra Value Edition does exactly what the name implies, saving buyers a cool grand with packaged content. For just $550 more than the price of an Elantra SE, the Value Edition includes different 16-inch alloy wheels, a power tilt-and-slide sunroof, leather coverings for the steering wheel and shift knob, proximity key with keyless ignition, heated front seats, chrome beltline molding, aluminum sill plates, turn signals integrated into the side mirrors, and a tilt-and-telescope steering wheel.
The Elantra Limited now comes with proximity key and dual-zone auto climate control as standard, which represents a $600 savings. And the Elantra Sport does away with its previously standard leather seats and power sunroof to get a lower starting price.
Elantra sedan fuel economy tops out at 28 mpg city, 38 highway, 32 combined for the automatic 1.8-liter; the least-efficient variant carries a 24/34/28 mpg rating.