2014 Hyundai Elantra Limited Sedan (1.8L 4-cyl. 6-speed Automatic)
Driven On 4/8/2014
Hyundai's Elantra is classified as a midsize, yet it competes against compacts. The Elantra is great in terms of trunk and interior volume, but it lacks the performance and refinement of the class-leading Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Mazda 3. On the plus side, the Elantra remains a strong value and the warranty is impressive.
PerformanceNo speed demon, this Elantra, with a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder that makes only 145 horsepower. The lack of power forces the "over-thinking" 6-speed automatic transmission to change gears a lot. Handling is pretty decent, but there are some driveability annoyances.
The Elantra's 4-cylinder engine becomes thrashy when accelerating hard. Power is weak at low revs, and its 0-60 mph time of 9.7 sec. is slow for the class. The 6-speed automatic is ultra-smooth but can be overly shifty.
The Elantra exhibits some initial brake jumpiness when hitting the pedal at higher speeds, but the action is linear around town. More nosedive than we'd like, and its panic-stop distance of 126 feet from 60 mph is longer than average.
The Sport mode of the driver-selectable steering has a nice heft that enthusiasts will enjoy. Regardless of mode, there isn't a lot of feel, but it's precise enough that you can hustle it down a twisty road with confidence.
It steers nicely through turns and is totally controllable, although there's limited grip and power available. The rear suspension isn't great with mid-corner bumps. The Elantra gets the job done, but it's not as fluid as some others.
Annoyances like an overly abrupt gas pedal, the transmission's seeming inability to find and hold a gear and a cruise control that massively overshoots the set speed hurt the Elantra's driveability score.
ComfortDespite the Elantra's size, there are more comfortable cars that it competes against. We found the front seats rather hard and the busy ride doesn't help matters. On the other hand, the Elantra is impressively quiet at highway speeds.
Front seats have firm foam and hard leather. Driver's seat has power lumbar; front passenger seat is manual with no lumbar. Rear seat cushions are more plush, but seatbacks are too upright. Does have fold-down center armrest.
No car in this class has a truly cushy ride, but the Elantra can be surprisingly harsh over bumps and potholes, feeling unrefined compared to several key rivals. The lack of compliance means the car skitters over sharp road imperfections.
Our testing showed the Elantra is quieter at 70 mph and full throttle versus the Honda Civic and Mazda 3. There's still a good amount of road noise, but the engine is barely perceptible at highway speeds thanks to tall gearing.
InteriorFor a car with considerably more EPA interior volume than its key rivals, the Elantra has limited front and rear head room. Blame that stylish roofline. The ergonomics are quite good and storage, both in the cabin and in the gigantic trunk, are superb.
Driver's seat is power-adjustable but most of our editors couldn't get the seat low enough. Large knobs and buttons work well and feel nice, center stack is stylish. Temp controls easy to deciper quickly. Large, easy-to-read tach and speedo.
Front doors are large for a small car and open super-wide, making entry/exit a snap. Despite wide-opening doors, it takes some contortioning to get into the rear due to the low roof, small entry space and forward-positioned seatbacks.
Front head room will be tight for anyone close to average size. But good elbow room, and slim center console doesn't interfere with driver's right knee. Sloping roof means rear head room will be tight for nearly everybody.
Windshield pillars are slim but long, problematic for looking through turns. The rest of the pillars are narrow, creating minimal blind spots. Rear window is wide. Large screen for the backup camera has parking lines.
Small but useful front bin with closeable lid. Generous armrest bin. Door pockets have a forward slant but can fit CD cases. Rear seats fold; trunk has super-wide opening. Load floor is low and 14.8 cu-ft is huge for the segment.
ValueThe Elantra SE sedan starts at $18,010 with a 6-speed manual. Since most folks will opt for the 6-speed automatic transmission, real Elantra pricing begins at $19,010. That's more than the Focus and Mazda 3, less than the Civic. But the Elantra comes packed with standard features.
Build Quality (vs. $)
The Elantra looks the part, until you touch the trim pieces, which are mostly cheap plastic. But, the parts you come in contact with, like audio, temp and window controls, and the steering wheel and shifter, all feel solid.
Hyundai is famous for including lots of "stuff." The Limited starts at $22,460 with leather seats (heated front and rear), power driver's seat, 3-mode driver-selectable steering, rearview camera and Hyundai's BlueLink telematics.
The Limited with the $2,750 Technology package brings navigation with a 7-inch screen, dual-zone temp control, a 360-watt premium audio system, a power sunroof and push-button start. With optional floormats, as-tested price was $25,335.
The EPA rates the Elantra with the 6-speed automatic transmission at 31 mpg Combined (27 City/37 Highway). We averaged 30.7 mpg overall, including 31.6 mpg on the 116-mile Edmunds evaluation loop. The Mazda 3 and Civic are more efficient.
With a 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage, no car other than the Kia Forte comes close. It also has a 7-year/unlimited miles rust warranty.
Roadside assistance is covered for 5 years/unlimited miles. The Focus also has it for five years, but the miles aren't unlimited. The Elantra does not have a free maintenance program.
Fun To DriveThere's nothing particularly fun about driving the Elantra, although it's a decent companion on twistier bits of road. The suspension's lack of bump compliance hurts it, though. The ability to change the steering effort between three modes is a nice standard feature.
Once you figure out how to "drive around" the touchy gas pedal and keep the transmission from downshifting two gears when you need more power, the Elantra drives decently. It's just a bit unrefined compared to some rivals.
In terms of the actual driving of the Elantra, it doesn't offer much personality. But its styling, inside and out, brings a little something extra to the equation. Possibly only the Mazda 3 has more head-turning looks in this segment.