Review: 2017 Hyundai Elantra evolves in style

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The bold styling of the previous generation Elantra has been subdued into a more contemporary look that is a bit classier(Credit: Hyundai)

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The redesigned 2017 Elantra has taken a step forward in the compact sedan class. It's not revolutionary so much as it is evolutionary, but there's a lot to love about this new little car and what Hyundai has done to make it much more sophisticated and competitive.

The first hint o these changes is with the exterior. The bold styling of the previous generation Elantra has been subdued into a more contemporary look that is a bit more classy without being too boilerplate. The front grille is larger and more accentuated, matching the rest of the Hyundai lineup. This narrows the headlamps and pushes the LED fog lamps (optional) out to the edges, narrowing the front fascia. The accent lines along the hood to define the fenders are still there from the previous generation, but softened a bit.

The coupe-like roof continues as well, but the beltline defining cut and dimple along the doors is straight-edged and above the door handles, pushing the greenhouse upwards and making things less swooped than in the previous generation Elantra. It is, overall, a much more contemporary look and far less polarizing than was the previous Hyundai Elantra. This change may be hit-and-miss with shoppers, but most will probably like the more sophisticated and less in-your-face look of the new 2017 Elantra.

The body shape changes have altered the dimensions of the new Elantra, with the height being about the same, but width and length gaining about an inch. Oddly, this has translated into no measurable gain in interior space with the exception of shoulder room, which seems more available in this new Elantra. Instead, the size difference is spread throughout the cabin with the front seating seeing a slight loss is legroom – enough so that very tall people will notice, but still more than comfortable for my 6 foot frame. The rear seats see the greatest gain, putting the car on par with segment leaders in terms of comfort and legroom. This is still unusual for the compact sedan class, but is surely on its way towards becoming the norm.

A very measurable change inside the 2017 Elantra is with its equipment layout and overall refinement. Following Hyundai's new penchant to upscale things, the Elantra is now far more dignified inside with a nice spread of controls that are large and easy to read. No more cramping of buttons and switches along the dash in this new generation car.

There are three trim levels for the 2017 Hyundai Elantra: the base SE, an efficiency-minded Eco trim, and the upper Limited trim. Each have package options to upgrade technology and comfort/convenience options.

Upgraded options packages in each of the three trim levels for the 2017 Elantra add technology to the mix. The base model includes a 7-inch touchscreen, but the Limited model has a Tech package upgrade that makes that screen 8 inches with a few added apps. Safety technology is also added in the Limited trim through the Ultimate package, which brings on a smart array of useful daily driving helps such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and mitigation, lane departure warning and intervention, and more to go along with the upgrades seen for the trim level itself, which includes Hyundai's Blue Link telematics and rear-cross traffic alert with blind spot monitoring.

Powering the Hyundai Elantra is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that outputs 147 horsepower (110 kW) and 132 pound-feet of torque (179 Nm). A six-speed manual transmission is standard in the base model with a six-speed automatic being optional and becoming the standard in the Limited trim. The Eco model has its own powertrain consisting of a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine (126 hp, 156 lb-ft / 94 kW, 211 Nm) mated to a seven speed automated manual transmission.

The EPA has not yet published ratings for the Eco model in the 2017 Elantra, but Hyundai expects it to gain 3 or 4 mpg in its combined rating over the other models. The SE and Limited trims with their 2.0L powertrain are rated at 29 mpg combined (8.11 l/100km) for the manual transmission and at 33 mpg combined (7.12 l/100km) in the automatic. In our week with the automatic in a Limited trim, we saw close to that at 31 mpg (7.59 l/100km) as an average over 184 miles of mixed driving at high altitude.

The 2017 Hyundai Elantra is not sporty or even particularly fun to drive, but it certainly is grown up. It's very well-mannered on the road and maintains a quiet interior experience. Feedback from the floor and wheel are good enough for most, though more spirited drivers will want to consider a different ride. When compared to market leaders like the Honda Civic or go-to fun compacts like the Mazda3, the Elantra comes up short on those marks. Where it shines is in refinement and upscale appeal, despite its market average pricing (the SE starts at US$17,150). Those who don't need pep in their drive or overwhelming style at the curb will enjoy the 2017 Elantra.

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