Hyundai Elantra tries to be something to everyone

One says sedan, the other says hatchback. Both say Hyundai Elantra. Let’s jump right into this week’s review from former Wheels editors Jimmy Dinsmore and Dave Mikesell.

DAVE: My vision of a Hyundai Elantra is the one my father-in-law has driven for years. Plain in style, underpowered in performance. The keynotes are fuel economy and, in his car’s case, reliability. He does not have a 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport. My tester was a redesigned hatch with a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that turns out 201 horsepower and 195 lbs.-ft. of torque. Paired with a 6-speed manual transmission and a sport-tuned suspension, this model is, dare we say, fun to drive with the looks to match. But that’s just my initial impression.

JIMMY: Hyundai has done a tremendous job of mimicking what Honda has done with the Civic, a car the Elantra goes head to head against. The Civic, as you said, Dave, about the Elantra, can be many different things. The Elantra, as we saw with our tester, can be quite sporty, just as the Civic SI can be quite a sleeper car. So, I guess there’s the sleepy Elantra and the sleeper Elantra. That’s it in a nutshell, Dave. So go ahead and talk about the version you drove.

DAVE: Let’s look at just a few of the pleasantries that come on the GT Sport. There is leather upholstery with heat and additional padding in the front seats. There is an 8-inch touchscreen, steering wheel audio controls, 8-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and blind-spot detection warning, to name just a few items. I guess that’s my second impression. The Elantra has its virtues.

JIMMY: Virtuous indeed. It’s no longer fair to call the Elantra a cheap car. It still has an affordable price point (in the base sedan version), but from a quality stand point, Hyundai has surpassed much of its competition on interior quality. For example, the dashboard has a soft feel and also helps mask road noise. Even the more affordably priced Elantra SE sedan offers a surprisingly nice interior with quality materials. The cabin is quiet, for such a small vehicle. The back seat is comfortable for two adults; the Elantra is rated as a five-passenger vehicle. Head room is ample, but leg room could be slightly better when compared to something like the Civic. But on quality and technology, the Elantra surpasses its competition and makes it a tremendous value. Dave, that GT comes with a higher price tag than the SE, for sure, but come on, it’s worth that extra cash for all the extra fun it offers.

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DAVE: Yes, the GT Sport that I drove comes with an elevated price tag — a base of $23,250, to be precise, a far cry from the entry-level $16,950 for the SE sedan. Still, that’s not outlandish for the hatch’s flexibility (55.1 cubic feet of space with the rear seat folded) and the equipment involved, including the turbo engine and the tighter handling thanks to the multi-link rear suspension. You get what you pay for and in the hatchback’s case, you get good value.

JIMMY: It’s important to note that the Elantra GT is a niche vehicle. It’s aimed at a more youthful buyer, although old guys like Dave and I can appreciate how enjoyable it is to drive. Otherwise, the Elantra SE sedan is more suited to a wider consumer base.

Whether as the GT or the SE, the Hyundai Elantra challenges the rest of the compact segment with the value it offers while offering a modern-feeling, aesthetically pleasing sedan or a hot hatchback.

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