First Drive: 2017 Hyundai Elantra

Vancouver Island can be a soulful, almost dreamy place at times. On this day, we are driving the all-new 2017 Hyundai Elantra near Brentwood Bay, a sleepy bedroom community offering exceptional ocean views and more than enough coastal foliage to make an Ontario kid green with envy. For now, fog blankets my view, but that is certain to change when the sun finally breaks through the haze. A similar fog will lift in the midsize sedan market when the new Elantra hits this spring. Long under the shadow of the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, the newest Korean creation steps into the light and takes its rightful place as a top contender.

Power comes in the form of a new 2.0-litre 4-cylinder Atkinson Cycle engine. Performance numbers indicate 147 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 132 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. Matched to a smooth and equally new 6-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC manual mode, the delivery of power is outstanding. A 6-speed manual transmission is also available, but for now it is limited to the base “L” model. Future plans indicate a sporty new Elantra with a manual transmission will be available in the near future.

Steering is motor driven power assist rack-and-pinion. MacPherson strut front suspension with coil springs and a rear torsion axle setup is more than capable of handling the sweeping turns and backroad dips and bumps the Island is famous for. The use of advanced high-strength steel (53% of the body) and 40 times the amount of structural adhesives compared to the previous Elantra helps to dramatically improve chassis dynamics.

Anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) feel solid and our test vehicles for the day run on either 16-inch or 17-inch alloy wheels that impress with their good looks and perform even better. Renowned for instantaneous weather changes; sun, fog or downpour, the new Elantra never seems flustered or out of sync.

Driving dynamics allow for 3 unique settings. My favourite is Sport, which nicely tightens steering wheel response and drops down roughly 400 rpm to remain in the power band. Comfort is the systems center with Eco taking the reigns every now and then to save fuel. The drive experience suffers a little in Eco, but the trade-off is certain to be felt farther down the road at the pump.

Hyundai states the exterior design takes inspiration from a jet fighter plane. It highlights sculpted lines and a smooth flowing shape that looks great and slips through the air with ease. LED lights in front and optional LED taillights in the rear offer an added level of elegance. On this particular day, I am not overly fond of the new grille even though it takes inspiration from the striking new Genesis G90 sedan, but perhaps it will grow on me over time.

Inside, the 2017 Hyundai Elantra offers a level of sophistication previously reserved for the larger and more expensive Sonata. During the press conference, it was revealed that instead of using 5, 6 or 7 different materials to construct the dash and doors, the design team stuck with just two as a way to simplify the look and feel. Whatever they did, it works extremely well. A single brushed metal accent line wraps around the entire interior, seamlessly blending the doors and dash into one continuous flow.

The comfortable 3-spoke leather steering wheel houses the necessary switches for the audio system and cruise control. Seats are comfortable, but could use a little more support for longer trips. Backseat passengers will feel equally special with excellent leg, hip, shoulder and headroom. The center console is well thought out, with easy-to-reach buttons throughout and a large infotainment screen, especially in the Limited and GLS models we drive. Cupholders are perfectly sized for the drive-through and the doors offer additional storage space that is more than just cosmetic.

The 2017 Hyundai Elantra is an excellent next step for this affordable midsize sedan. The previous generation Elantra out sold the Toyota Corolla in Canada during calendar year 2015 and although it still has a long way to go to catch the 18-year reigning champion Honda Civic, it has certainly improved enough to be a must see vehicle when shopping for your next new car.

2017 Hyundai Elantra

Base Price: $15,999.00
Price as tested: $26,249.00 (Limited)
Freight: $1,695.00
Configuration: front engine/front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 2.0L 4-cylinder/ 6-speed automatic
Power/torque: 147 horsepower/ 132 lb-ft
Fuel (capacity): regular (53 L)
Fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): N/A
Observed fuel economy (L/100 km): N/A
Warranties: 5-years/100,000 km (basic)
Competitors: Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Kia Forte, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla

Related links:
Hyundai Canada

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