Perceptions can shift and auto writers often perceive differences in similar models they drive. This happened on a couple fronts with my latest drive of Hyundai’s attractive Elantra Limited, its near top-level compact.
I still like the car, its looks, its features, its gas mileage, its value. But compared with a 2016 drive of a quite similar model, well, I noticed differences.
First, the acceleration from Elantra’s somewhat new 2.0-liter I4 seems milder than in the previous test car although it’s the same engine. In the earlier car I pressed the Drive Mode button on the console and when Sport mode kicked in I felt decidedly different acceleration, more aggressive. This time there was a difference, but whether the algorithms were changed or what, acceleration was not as aggressive.
Second, there’s still modest road noise, although that seemed somewhat better on the tested bright Electric Blue Metallic test car this time. Funny, this time I test drove between Milwaukee and Indianapolis, so mostly highway driving where you’d think road noise would be more noticed.
Third, I’d found the earlier model’s seats supportive enough, but this time (possibly because I spent longer periods sitting) the black leather seats seemed harder and featured only modest hip support.
All that said, the Elantra remains an exceptional value. Consider this, the base SE model starts at $18,000, while the Sport model with more horsepower goes for $22,485 and the tested Limited lists at $22,350. All have an $835 delivery fee.
A few cars list for less, but seriously, the Limited is even better equipped than some cars costing more than $30 grand. This one primarily added two major packages, Tech and Ultimate. The $2,500 Tech package adds navigation, an 8-inch touchscreen (bigger than the Volvo S60 I had recently), Android Auto & Apple CarPlay, an Infinity premium audio with eight speakers and subwoofer, a color instrument panel display, a sunroof, heated seats front and rear seats, plus auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink and a compass.
The $1,900 Ultimate package includes HID headlights with dynamic bending light for seeing better around corners, smart cruise control, lane keep assist, a driver’s seat memory system and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Volvo and a few others have that on much pricier vehicles.
All in, the Limited priced out at $27,880, about $5,000 below today’s average car price. That, my friend, is value.
And while I had a few more reservations this time around, the basics remain the same. The 6-speed automatic with Shiftronic shifts smoothly through the gears. Yes, Sport mode holds the lower gears a bit longer, but not much.
Handling is good with a little wheel play, but generally a light, easy feeling to the wheel. The car is light too, at 2,811 lbs., which contributes to its easy handling and good gas mileage.
Inside, the test car had a black interior with textured dash and leather seat surfaces. Trim was matte silver on the dash, stack’s face and around the shifter and steering wheel hub. Buttons look and feel metallic too and the layout is simple and logical. Hyundai and Kia dash designs excel.
In addition to the leather, the front and rear outboard seats are heated (3 levels) and the driver’s seat is powered, including a lumbar adjustment. Other standard features include dual automatic climate controls, Blue Link Connected Car System that will get you emergency help and even lighted exterior door handles.
Elantra also has a rear-view camera with cross-traffic alert standard.
Its interior is roomy, nearly that of a mid-size car with good head and legroom. As I mentioned earlier the seats were not as comfortable as I recalled in my previous drive, but still I wasn’t overly tired on the 300-mile drive to and from Indy. The rear seats split and fold down to extend cargo room too, but even with them in place the Hyundai offers 14.4 cubic feet of trunk space. Plus the Limited has an automatic trunk release. With the key fob in your hand or pocket, stand by the trunk for about five seconds and the trunk automatically unlatches.
There’s a sunroof overhead too, visors that extend, inside fuel and trunk releases, two 12-volt outlets plus auxiliary and USB hookups and a manual tilt/telescope steering wheel with oodles of radio, computer and phone controls on its hub, including four easy-to-use toggles.
Gas mileage is impressive too. I got 35 mpg in about 80% highway driving and up to 39.2 mpg in straight highway driving. The EPA rates Elantra at 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway.
One more thing. I like the Elantra’s lines, but to be honest I really preferred the previous generation’s lines. This is more conservative styling and I hope Hyundai doesn’t start dulling down its cars looks now that sales have ballooned.
Final thought? Well, in addition to attractive lines, price, gas mileage, interior design, etc., the Elantra comes with Hyundai’s standard 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. That’s pretty impressive too.
FAST STATS: 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited
Hits: Attractive high-value, comfortable compact that gets great gas mileage. Well equipped with heated front and rear seats, sunroof, excellent dash layout, rear-view camera and blind-spot warning, plus nice ride, handling and big trunk.
Misses: More conservative styling that previous models. Mild acceleration in Normal mode, modest road noise and hard seats with modest hip support.
Made in: Ulsan, South Korea
Engine: 2.0-liter, I4, 147 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic w/Shiftronic
Weight: 2,811 lbs.
Length: 179.9 in.
Cargo: 14.4 cu.ft.
MPG: 28/37 (EPA)
MPG: 35.0-39.2 (tested)
Base Price: $22,350
Invoice: $22,146 (includes delivery)
Tech package (navigation, 8-inch touchscreen, Android Auto & Apple CarPlay, Infinity premium audio w/8 speakers/center channel/subwoofer, 4.2-inch color instrument display, sunroof, heated front/rear seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror w/Homelink/compass), $2,500
Ultimate package (HID headlights w/dynamic bending light, automatic emergency braking w/pedestrian detection, smart cruise control, lane keep assist, driver’s seat memory), $1,900
Carpeted floor mats, $125
Cargo tray, $100
Rear bumper protection, $70
Test Vehicle: $27,880
Sources: Hyundai, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage