In a recent preview of Toyota’s all-new Corolla, I was reminded how good it is to get behind the wheel of a simple, comfortable car and just go about your business, without muss or fuss, with few – or no – distractions initiated by the car itself. And if I had doubts as to the wisdom of that mantra (actually Frank Costanza’s mantra: SERENITY NOW), it was strengthened by a week behind the wheel of Hyundai’s freshened Elantra. There’s nothing here to attack the senses, and the only stress would be in deciding exactly which Elantra best meets your needs.
Because, Dear Readers, there’s a bunch of them. An entry-level 4-door SE offers all you need in a reliable piece of transportation with – and this is even more notable among those working their way into a new car – a 10-year/100,000 miles warranty for under $18K. Load it up, and the Elantra Limited will run about $9,000 north of that, but that figure is still competitive with the Corollas and Civics it runs with.
Between the $18K SE and $27K Limited you can opt for the Value content, at $20,400 plus destination. Or buy into the Sport, with a base price of $22,600, Hyundai’s turbocharged 1.6 liters of goodness, and either a standard 6-speed or available 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. In our test of the Elantra Sport roughly two years ago, we likened it to a 4-door Miata, something Mazda should itself concoct; regrettably, in the absence of the MazdaSpeed guys, it doesn’t. The Elantra Sport is huge fun, and if you can skip roughly $3,500 of optional tech, it’s a great deal.
Our test Limited had the optional Ultimate package, adding a power sunroof and a lot of tech, including navigation, Blue Link Multimedia/Map, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection (or, of course, you could simply start paying attention…) and a Smart Cruise Control. And while I find a cost approximating that of a used motorcycle to be off-putting, as the U.S. population ages (you know, you guys) I’m beginning to understand checking that box.
Under the hood of the Limited is Hyundai’s 2.0 liter, normally aspirated four. What you give up here relative to the turbocharged 1.6 is both the torque of the blown engine, along with the immediacy of the (optional) dual-clutch tranny. In short, this is a softer, gentler interpretation of what a small sedan should be, and we have no argument with the resulting performance. A ‘Drive Mode’ selector helps, but if you want entertainment when behind the wheel, opt for the Sport or spend the money on Sirius/XM.
Inside, and not unlike the new Corolla, this is a small sedan that, from an accommodation standpoint, is grown up. You won’t, to be sure, find the space for your NBA team, but if your perspective was formed in the ‘90s by Honda’s Accord or Toyota’s Camry, you won’t be disappointed by the room offered here. That middle passenger in back won’t hang long (for him or her, there’s Uber), but everyone else – and everyone else’s luggage – should be fine.
Also, know there’s nothing cheap about the appointments. The Limited boasts leather seating surfaces, heated front seats and dual automatic temperature control. And again, the intent is not to make you think about the car; instead, the design team would hope you regard the Elantra as a tool to your greater ends; you know, while driving think about your doctoral dissertation. (And once you get your Ph.D., get a Genesis.)
Beyond the Elantra sedan lineup is the Elantra GT hatch and its sport derivative, called – you’ve already guessed it! – the GT Sport. Fitting it with a tech package stretches the budget to almost $30K, but with its 201 horsepower connected to a manual or DCT, you can effectively get Volkswagen’s GTI with a hefty serving of additional room. We think it’s a sweet spot in Hyundai’s American lineup.
But then, they’re all sweet. And the closer you get to a transaction price of $20K, they get even sweeter.