Experienced by Kimatni Rawlins
The small car rivalry has heated up as competition for companies in the mix is stronger than ever. In one corner of the spectrum you have the timeless Honda Civic with its edgy bravado and in another there is the revamped Nissan Sentra, both of which are admirable in presentation and offerings. But not to be outdone or outwitted is the all-new, 6th generation and venerable 2017 Hyundai Elantra with a range of 37 highway mpg and 28 city mpg.
To get my hands on the wheel of the Elantra I hit Southern California’s most southernmost beach city known as Imperial Beach, a few miles from the Mexican border. For the next two days Hyundai hosted segments for test drives and product workshops highlighting the Elantra’s newfangled upgrades, technologies and innovation partnerships. For example, if owners upgrade to the $2,500 Tech Package with Navigation, Android Auto & Apple CarPlay and a sunroof, they will inherit HARMAN’s Clari-Fi music restoration technology as part of the 8-speaker Infinity Premium Audio System. Clari-Fi restores lost quality from digital compressions such as MP3s or streaming audio from your smart device or Satellite radio to enhance and deliver an impressive listening experience. Jamming to my reggae rhythms from SiriusXM Channel 42 “The Joint” made for a pleasant day’s drive through San Diego County.
This month — February 2016 — is rather special for the Korean automaker as it marks the 30-year anniversary of Hyundai here in the United States when they hit the ground running with the subcompact Excel. Although this vehicle filled a void for value consumers and sold 100,000 copies in 7-months, I wouldn’t say the project was totally successful. My stepdad purchased a Sky Blue Excel and it literally rattled apart on us in a few short years. Afterwards my family vowed to stay away from Korean-made cars. However, 2016 marks a new day and age for the transformative auto brand. February is also the all-important month for Super Bowl whereas Hyundai is now the official automotive sponsor and has set free a few hundred cars on the grounds of Santa Clara, California this weekend. Make sure to get a good laugh at their Super Bowl 50 commercial spot with Kevin Hart dubbed First Date. It’s hysterical.
Hyundai’s sales mix is 77% cars in comparison to their utilities; so of course the Elantra rollout is an important one. Though, the last generation model was already successful so how would engineers, designers and product planners improve upon a true victor without alienating their core supporters? Easy, modernize the design further, lengthen and widen the body, reduce the weight, increase stiffness and incorporate a multitude of both preventative safety systems and user-friendly multi-media features. The Elantra’s silhouette for example is a microcosm of the stellar Genesis and integrates the hexagonal “fish mouth” grille that is symbiotic to the rest of the family. Upgrade your ride with the 17” sporty alloy spins, LED taillights, HID headlights with Dynamic Bending Lights and unique vertical LED daytime running lights, LED door handle glow and side mirror LED turn signal indicators and you truly have a winner. Of course this will cost you!
With eight hues to choose from, my drive partner and I went with a Shale Gray Metallic exterior and Black on Black interior Elantra Limited. MSRP for this model is $22,350 but our selection climaxed to $27,710 after adding the $125 carpeted mats, $825 destination charge, the aforementioned Tech Package and the $1,900 Ultimate Package which requires the Tech Package and includes HID Headlights, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Smart Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist System and Memory Seats. As you see, the compact sedan similarly offers the security and safety of larger and pricier, premium autos. But inside it didn’t feel so petite, I had a good amount of head and legroom to work with (I’m 5’11”). Actually the EPA classifies the Elantra as a midsize automobile. Offered in three models – SE, Eco and Limited – the starting MSRP is actually $17,150 for a SE with the standard 6-speed manual transmission. Our Limited had the upgraded 6-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC. “As Hyundai’s best-selling vehicle, it is essential that the all-new Elantra delivers a compelling value in a particularly competitive and important segment,” said Scott Margason, director, Product Planning, Hyundai Motor America. “Not only is the 2017 Elantra priced $100 less than the outgoing model, we also enhanced the value on our most popular option package to provide consumers with access to premium features and technology on volume models.”
Along with a rigid chassis engineered from 53% advanced high-strength steel, the Elantra felt firm around the bending roads we took to our lunch destination at Mt. Woodson Castle in Ramona and back. Hyundai says Gen 6 is now 29.5% stiffer than the prior model. Gradual power emanates from the 2-liter 4-cylinder engine with 147-horsepower and 132 lbs.-ft. of torque. This engine is also found in the SE while the Eco model (coming later this year) will flow with a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder paired to an EcoShift 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Steering was a bit flaccid until you set Drive Mode Select into Sport where the wheel tensed up for more accurate turning. I didn’t see the point of an Eco mode since the standard drive already felt like Eco. Nevertheless, Normal is the true default.
The 2017 Elantra enhances your drive experience without sacrificing quality or watering down offerings. With Wi-Fi, an automatic opening trunk when the key is sensed, illuminating door handles, replication of your smart phone onto the 8” touchscreen LCD, a multitude of apps such as Pandora, heated seats and folding rear seats, the Elantra is much more than just another compact sedan, it’s your “small wonder.”