Used 1997 Hyundai Elantra Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

Elantra rolls into 1997 with zero changes, save for a slight price increase.

Vehicle overview

The Excel is long dead, and it's time to stop thinking of Hyundai as a second-rate automobile manufacturer. Last year, the Accent and Sonata provided a strong hint that this South Korean automaker was finally learning how to build a good car. This Elantra provides the proof. Larger and more powerful than the first-generation Elantra, this car offers quite a bit of bang-for-your-buck in either sedan or wagon bodystyles.

Under the hood is a 130-horsepower 1.8-liter Hyundai-designed "Beta" engine, which produces 90 percent of its torque at 2,300 rpm, resulting in snappy around-town performance. Riding on a four-wheel independent suspension, the Elantra features a longer wheelbase and wider track than the original model, which contributes to smoother, more stable handling. A speed-sensitive rack and pinion steering system communicates improved road feel to the driver. GLS models can be ordered with four-channel antilock brakes, which read each wheel separately.

Dual airbags are standard on the Elantra, housed in a two-piece dashboard designed to reduce the development of squeaks and rattles. Adjustable headrests and seatbelt anchors are standard, and all models come with driver's side lumbar support and seat height adjustments. GLS models get a 60/40 split folding rear seat. Extensive use of sound deadening materials helps quiet this compact car.

Base price for a 5-speed sedan is $11,100. This price includes five-mph bumpers, rear window defroster, dual remote control mirrors, rear seat heat ducts, remote fuel and trunk releases, tilt steering, and speed-sensitive steering. Another $2,250 nets buyers a GLS model with an automatic transmission, cassette stereo, power door locks, power outside mirrors, six-way adjustable driver's seat, split fold rear seat, power windows, four-wheel disc brakes, and performance-oriented tires. Option Packages can add air conditioning, cruise control, and anti-lock brakes for less than $1,600 more.

Good value? Let's take a look. A Civic LX sedan equipped with air conditioning, automatic, and antilock brakes runs about $16,500. A similarly equipped Dodge Neon Highline comes in around $15,000, including ABS. A sporty Pontiac Sunfire SE sedan with a powerful 2.4-liter engine stickers near $16,000 and includes traction control. A fully loaded Kia Sephia GS will cost $13,500.

The Hyundai Elantra is much-improved over its predecessor. But like other Hyundai products, once a few options are added, the value disappears. The Pontiac offers superior content, the Dodge superior performance, the Honda a better reputation, and the Kia better value. If Hyundai had priced the Elantra a bit more down market, it would make a compelling choice. We like this Hyundai, but as it stands, the Elantra is likely to be passed over by most consumers, simply because of the nomenclature affixed to the decklid.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.