2016 Hyundai Elantra Sedan Limited Review
Hyundai delivers a crowd-pleasing compact with Elantra. It’s as stylish as compacts get with details usually reserved for more expensive cars. It’s a great looking four-door that follows up its innovative style with strong performance in all trims, while delivering impressive roominess, loads of standard and optional features and over-the-top luxury in the top-line Limited version.
While a number of key elements make the Elantra a standout entry in the compact segment, it’s the sum of its parts that cause it to rise above the majority of its competitors. Hyundai once stood for a good car at a great price, but these days the South Korean brand is selling some of the best cars in their respective classes at superb value. Buyers are impressed. 200,000 new Elantra’s hit the road in 2015 and ’16 should be even stronger. Sometimes it’s good to follow the crowd.
As of October 2015 Hyundai had sold 209,830 Elantra units across the nation, a number only eclipsed by two rivals, and this despite the 2016 model year being the last of the current body style. I’d say Hyundai has figured out exactly what compact buyers want and executed it perfectly. Elantra is a prime example.
The Elantra is as stylish as a four-door compacts get, its curvaceous front fascia and even swoopier rear design are both bejeweled with beautifully detailed lighting elements normally found on much more expensive cars. My top-line Limited tester takes everything up a notch, with a dark chrome grille, more brightwork within its upgraded projection headlights, upscale LED side mirror turn signals, more chrome trimming the door handles and stylish taillights that hover over a chromed tailpipe poking through a cool matte-black diffuser-style bumper cap. Those headlights and taillights also get unique LED detailing, some of my favorite in the entire industry, while the stylized twinned five-spoke 17-inch alloys with metallic gray painted pockets add just the right amount of sport without taking away from this car’s elegance. The Elantra looks classy from head to toe.
Hyundai offers four trim levels this year including the SE, Value Edition, Sport and Limited. Even the $17,250 base model is very nicely equipped with features like a chromed grille, powered body-color side mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, keyless entry, a tilt steering column, powered windows, air conditioning, satellite radio, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/satellite audio with auxiliary, USB and smartphone connectivity, a six-way driver’s seat with height adjustment, premium fabric upholstery with cloth door inserts, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, four-wheel disc brakes. The $19,700 Value Edition adds the six-speed automatic with Shiftronic manual mode and Active Eco System , plus auto on/off headlights, fog lamps, 16-inch alloys, solar glass, heated side mirrors, proximity access with pushbutton start, a leather-wrapped telescopic multifunction steering, a leather-wrapped shift knob, Bluetooth hands-free, cruise control, illuminated vanity mirrors, heated front seats, a powered moonroof and a multifunction trip computer, 4.3-inch color touchscreen infotainment with a rearview camera.
It almost leaves a person wondering what’s left to add to the $21,700 Limited. Take all the features mentioned above and add Hyundai’s Driver Selectable Steering Mode (DSSM) system with Comfort, Normal and Sport settings, dual-zone auto HVAC with a CleanAir Ionizer, Blue Link telematics system, an eight-way powered driver’s seat with powered lumbar support, leather upholstery, matching leatherette door inserts, and heated rear seats. The Limited trim level also makes it possible to add on some of my favorite Elantra features such as a larger, seven-inch high-resolution touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, a 360-watt premium audio system with an external amplifier, and the same powered tilt-and-slide sunroof that comes standard with the Value Edition.
Elantra’s cabin exudes quality. The soft-to-the-touch dash top soft to the touch and leatherette on the doors gives a high quality feel that rivals the real leather on the seat bolsters and inserts, the latter finished in even nicer perforated hides for better breathability. They’re wonderfully comfortable and fully adjustable and when combined with telescopic tilt steering wheel make Elantra suitable for drivers of all sizes. The steering wheel boasts an array of control buttons and dark metallic surfaces on each spoke. The same metallic trim decorates the sporty primary instrument panel andeach vent and along the large swooping door pulls to create a truly upscale environment.
All of the switchgear is excellent too. Hyundai’s plastics aren’t as premium feeling as, say a BMW, but they’re every bit as good as those used in other premium brands. They feel a tad hollow but are tightly fitted and well-damped for a quality user experience. Switches alongside the big touchscreen connect to a fully-featured infotainment system with crystal-clear resolution and bright, colorful graphics that should please ardent iPad and Android tablet users. The navigation system benefits from being fully integrated within the car’s stereo system so prompts come audibly as well as visually.
The audio sound quality is quite excellent for the class, my tester included a CD player for those, like me, who enjoy hearing deeper base tones and sharper detail. For variety’s sake the playlists on my phone were easily accessible via Bluetooth audio streaming, as were podcasts from my favorite market analysts.
The Elantra’s auto climate control interface sits lower down the center stack is a real feast for the eyes. The red and blue on glossy black display looks positively rich and the surrounding buttons large enough to be used while wearing winter gloves, a bonus for those in colder climates. On that note the two-way front seat heaters warm up quickly and stay hot, the rear seats offer one temperature, but it should be warm enough for most passengers.
There’s no shortage of passenger room in any of the three positions, the rear quarters of the Elantra feeling more midsize than compact. Elantra delivers greater passenger volume than any compact competitor, the result being an airy cabin that lets you really stretch out. Ditto for the trunk, although I don’t recommending stretching out back there. It measures a sizable 14.8 cubic feet just the same, while 60/40-split rear seatbacks expand its usability when needed.
You may be wondering what happened to the Elantra’s fourth trim level mentioned earlier in this review. I decided to leave the Sport model alone because it’s kind of an entity unto itself with unique 17-inch rims, sport-tuned steering and suspension, a standard six-speed manual, aluminum pedals, a more powerful 2.0-liter engine with dual continuously variable valve timing and direct-injection resulting in 173 horsepower and 154 lb-ft of torque, plus some of the upscale styling and luxury gear my Limited tester offered, so instead we’ll leave that one for a future review.
My Limited tester’s 1.8-liter four delivers 145 horsepower and 130 lb-ft of torque and is coupled with the six-speed auto with manual mode. It’s decent off the line and handles highway passing maneuvers without undue stress. The automatic performs well with nice crisp shifts at full throttle and nearly seamless cog swaps when cruising.
Fuel economy is good with the 4, the EPA giving it a rating of 28 mpg in the city, 38 on the highway and 32 combined with the as-tested automatic.
All Elantra trim levels ride on a very smooth, independent MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension setup, while rack and pinion powered steering provides reasonable feedback for the class and fairly good response resulting in competent handling. Limited comes standard with DSSM featuring Comfort, Normal and Sport settings, allowing driver-selectable steering. I kept mine in its stiffest Sport setting most of the time, although I could appreciate why someone might want to leave it in Normal or even opt for Comfort mode, depending on driving styles or the terrain being covered. Even in Sport mode I wouldn’t go so far as to say that slicing and dicing across back country roads is the Elantra’s forte. Hyundai makes a number of better suited models for such tasks, but the Elantra more than holds its own when called upon, the 17″ tires on my tester no doubt helping.
Four-wheel disc brakes also set the Elantra apart from some peers. Elantra ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist can be critical when needing to stop quickly, in the same way that standard traction control, electronic stability control and vehicle stability management keep the car aligned within its lane in slippery conditions. The Elantra also gets hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring, front seatbelt pretensioners to lock you in place during a crash, and the segment’s usual six airbags.
Last year’s Elantra sedan was a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS, which bodes well for this 2016 model, while this latest Elantra sedan earned a best possible 5-star safety rating from the NHTSA. Moreover, Elantra tied for second place among compact cars in J.D. Power and Associate’s latest 2015 Initial Quality Study (IQS), while the Hyundai brand ranked fourth best out of 33 total auto brands available in North America.
While there are a number of key elements that make the Elantra a standout entry in the compact segment, it’s the sum of its parts that causes it to rise above the majority of its competitors. It’s a great looking four-door that follows up its style leadership with strong performance in all trims, while delivering impressive roominess, loads of standard and optional features and over-the-top luxury in top-line Limited guise. On top of it all Hyundai endows the Elantra with a longer than average comprehensive warranty that lasts five years or 60,000 miles plus an even more impressive 10-year or 100,000 mile powertrain warranty, making it an even better deal.
Hyundai once stood for a good car at a great price, but I have to say that these days the South Korean brand is selling some of the best cars in their respective classes at superb value. And I’m betting more than 200,000 Elantra owners a year will agree. Sometimes it’s good to follow the crowd.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press