Value & efficiency make this the Elantra to have

The Elantra has been around for a while, but it started garnering major attention when the fifth generation debuted in 2010. Now in its sixth generation, the Elantra is grabbing more headlines. New for the 2017 model year, Hyundai is adding the Eco trim to the Elantra’s repertoire. This isn’t some hybrid with expensive batteries or electric motors – no, this is simply an honest gas-powered sedan that achieves 40 mpg on the highway.

Let’s back up a bit. Hyundai’s last Elantra, the fifth generation, came to market with swoopy lines, a futuristic interior, and an overestimated fuel efficiency sticker hanging in the window. Owners started complaining and the EPA caught on. The Korean automaker ended up reimbursing thousands of owners and got slapped with a $100-million fine from the U.S. Government. Of course, Hyundai’s engineers want to avoid that at all costs, so the development of Eco trim in both the Elantra and Sonata were put into motion.

Unlike some “eco” trims on competing cars that merely bolt up low rolling resistance tires and a couple aerodynamic features, Hyundai dove head first with an entirely new powertrain. Replacing the 2.0-liter four-cylinder and six-speed auto in the standard Elantra, the Eco gets a unique 1.4-liter turbo mated to a seven-speed dual clutch programmed for the utmost efficiency. It also has low rolling resistance tires, too.

I recently got to spend a week with the 2017 Elantra Eco, using it in everyday driving situations between date night and pre-K pick-up lines. Happily my time in the car closely followed a previous week I spent with a non-Eco version, the 2017 Elantra Limited. The two cars are, of course, very similar, though the differences are hard to miss. Let’s take a look.

Continue reading for the full review.

  • 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco – Driven
  • Year:
    2017
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    Seven-speed dual clutch
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    128 @ 5500
  • MPG(Cty):
    32
  • MPG(Hwy):
    40
  • Torque @ RPM:
    156 @ 1400
  • Energy:
    Direct Injection, Turbo
  • Displacement:
    1.4 L
  • 0-60 time:
    7.9 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    119 mph
  • Layout:
    Front Engine, FWD
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:
  • Overall:
    8.3/10

Video Review


Exterior

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco – Driven
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2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco – Driven
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2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco – Driven
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The 2017 Elantra Eco shares the same exterior styling that debuted on the 2016 Elantra. In fact, selecting the Eco trim does nothing to the outside of the car besides add the Eco badge to the truck and opt for 15-inch, five-spoke wheels over the 17-inch rollers found on the standard car. This isn’t a bad thing though, as the Elantra Eco looks sharp with its crisp lines, rounded wheel wells, hexagonal grille, projector beam headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED rear taillights, and sloping roof.

The car’s slowing front clip integrates well the headlights into the sharp lines form the chrome grille. Even the L-shaped lower daytime running lights flow into the design rather smoothly. Hard crease from rearward from the grille, through the hood, and into the A-pillars, created a powerful stance, whether the 128-horsepower car warrants it or not.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco – Driven
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2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco – Driven
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The rear end has a very sculpted look thanks the integrated spoiler lip on the truck lid, matched with the swooping lines of the bumper.

As said before, Hyundai doesn’t pull any punches with added aerodynamic features – the Eco trim simply adds high-profile, low rolling resistance tires on 15-inch wheels. While they 15s are super popular these days, they aren’t wheel covers and they actually help soften the ride over rough roads thanks to the thicker sidewalls.

The Elantra Eco is fun to watch coming, but it’s also pleasant to watch leave. The rear end has a very sculpted look thanks the integrated spoiler lip on the truck lid, matched with the swooping lines of the bumper. Those LED taillights are also rather attractive, with their three-pod lighting elements that glow rather spectacularly at night. Clear lenses for the reverse and turn signals add a touch of brightness to the design during the day.

Body colored door handles, mirror caps, and the shark-fin antenna give the Elantra a more premium look despite its price point. Compared to the competition, the Elantra seems more grown up and mature. It’s that mid-sized sedan look without the heft or sticker shock. Much of that can be attributed to Hyundai’s designers widespread use of the same styling cues found on the Elantra’s big brother, the Sonata.

All told, the Elantra Eco looks sharp and well poised. Even with its 15-inch wheels, it still remains an attractive sedan in the larger-than-life times.

Interior

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco – Driven
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It’s worth noting the Elantra Eco comes well equipped, but with very little optional extras available. Things like first aid kits and wheel locks are on the list of dealer add-ons, but Hyundai isn’t offering things like leather seats or any of the advanced safety features like Lane Keep Assist Automatic Emergency Braking, or Smart Cruise Control.

Nevertheless, the Elantra Eco comes decked out with more standard features than found in a 10-year-old Cadillac. It has automatic dual zone climate controls, heated front seats, a 3.5-inch TFT driver information center, a seven-inch infotainment touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, USB connections, and SiriusXM radio. My tester did come with one option however, a $125 set of carpeted floor mats. Still, the interior is loaded with more features than it lets on.

The infotainment system’s touch screen measures seven inches across and performs all the same functions found in my Elantra Limited tester except for navigation, which is cured by Apple CarPlay. It has an intuitive home screen with a welcoming interface and easy-to-use controls. Hard-key buttons below the screen allow for quick access to things like the radio, personal media and phone connections, onboard applications, and system settings. What’s more, dedicated volume and tuning knobs make eyes-free adjustments possible. Perhaps my favorite feature of the infotainment system is the ability to rewind a live radio stream. The system automatically records a set length of time for each of your selected preset stations, allowing you to change channel and rewind the action like a DVR. It’s awesome.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco – Driven
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2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco – Driven
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The infotainment system’s touch screen measures seven inches across and performs all the same functions found in my Elantra Limited tester except for navigation, which is cured by Apple CarPlay.

Plugging your Apple or Android device into the USB port ahead of the gear shifter provides both a charge for your phone and access to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. As an iPhone user, CarPlay is no different here than on any other infotainment system from any other automaker. That’s part of the luxury. It also allows the use of Apple Maps’ turn-by-turn directions, making the missing navigation system, well, unmissed.

Aside from technology, the Elantra Eco’s interior is a no-nonsense environment. Cloth seating with manual controls offer decent support, rear seat have a respectable room for averaged sized adults, and the 60/40-split bench allows for longer items to be passed through the rear bulkhead from the trunk. There are a few downsides, however. The cloth seats seem rather prone to stains, there is no center folding armrest for the rear passengers, and a lack of air vents for rear passengers means they’ll be relying on the front occupants to share their air.

Those complaints not withstanding, the interior is rather quaint. Satin chrome trim runs along the door panels and matches up with the trim on the two-tone dashboard. Satin chrome-like plastic runs around the gear shifter and HVAC controls, adding a certain level of continuity. The leather-wrapped boot of the gear shifter and surrounding piano black accents also adds a mild level of class.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco – Driven
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The gauge cluster is rather usable, having a white-on-black color scheme. A digital speedometer supplements the analog gauge, making quick glances for speed mush faster. The TFT display also shows a number of vehicle settings and menu pages, allowing the driver to stay on top of fuel economy and trip data. All told, the interior is nice but certainly not luxurious. It does offer an unexpected level of convenience features at this price point, making feel much more inviting than an economy car normally would.

Drivetrain

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco – Driven
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Like I mentioned before, the Elantra Eco ditches the conventional Elantra’s 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated four-cylinder and six-speed automatic transmission for a completely different powertrain setup. The Eco comes powered by Hyundai’s 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with direct fuel injection and a seven-speed dual clutch automatic. The smaller four-cylinder loses 19 horsepower to the larger 2.0-liter, but kicks out an extra 24 pound-feet of torque for a total of 156 pound-feet at only 1,400 rpm.

Not surprisingly, Hyundai says the Eco is faster to 60 mph than the standard Elantra. Shifts from the dual clutch are smooth yet quick while keeping revs in the engine’s happy place. The dual clutch is not set up for rip-roaring shifts like some super car, however. Remember, the Eco is all about… economy.

The smaller four-cylinder loses 19 horsepower to the larger 2.0-liter, but kicks out an extra 24 pound-feet of torque for a total of 156 pound-feet at only 1,400 rpm.

Though the fact both the Elantra Eco and Sonata Eco swap powertrains to save fuel over their conventional counterparts, the two Eco cars do not share the same engine. The Sonata Eco utilizes a 1.6-liter four-cylinder. The Elantra Eco’s 1.4-liter uses an all-aluminum construction with dual overhead cam shafts that operate four valves per cylinder. The engine revs smoothly, reaching its peak 128 max horsepower at 5,500 rpm.

Efficiency wise, the Elantra Eco saves three mpg in the city, two mpg on the highway, and two mpg combined over the non-Eco Elantra. That means it achieves 32 mpg in the city, an impressive 40 mpg on the highway, and 35 mpg combined. Remember, that’s without any hybrid technology or fancy aerodynamic add-ons. It simply drinks regular-grade gas like a fine whiskey rather than cheap beer.

During my week, I averaged 36 mpg combined. That’s over several hundred miles of mixed driving over mostly flat ground with no cargo in the trunk. Setting the cruise control at 70 mpg on the interstate results in well over 40 mpg. At one point, I was averaging roughly 50 mpg till I hit traffic. That’s impressive.

Driving Impressions

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco – Driven
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Behind the wheel of the 2017 Elantra Eco, the car feels small and nimble, with enough power to make it not feel slow. In fact, the slight presence of turbo lag lends a feeling of sportiness. The light steering is somewhat numb, but still feels direct. Throttle and brake inputs are linear, meaning the pedals smoothly and progressively make braking and accelerating happen faster. Body roll is managed pretty well, too, keeping the car mostly flat through a corner until understeer from the skinny 195-series tires kicks in. Make no mistake – this isn’t a sports car.

Nevertheless, the driving experience is mostly fun. I did have a few gripes though. The transmission, while a smooth shifter when at speed, is rather hurkey-jerkey below 10 to 15 mph. Letting off the brake after a stop, the car lurches forward with a hesitancy not becoming of Hyundai’s traditionally smooth operation. First gear is also slow to engage, exacerbating the situation. Add to that the turbo lag, moving from a stop does produce a unique sensation. The issue isn’t enough for me not to like the car, especially considering its fuel efficiency and buy-in price. Speaking of which…

Safety

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco – Driven
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The Elantra Eco comes with a respectable list of active and passive safety systems. They include stability control, traction control ABS, electronic brake force distribution with brake assist, blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, front airbags, front side impact airbags, side curtain airbags, and a driver’s knee airbag. And like all modern cars, the Elantra comes with front and rear crumple zones that absorb impacts, diverting force away from the passenger compartment.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not yet tested the 2017 Elantra.

Pricing

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco – Driven
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Hyundai starts pricing for the 2017 Elantra at $17,985. That gets you the base Elantra SE with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder and six-speed manual transmission. Yep, the Elantra allows you to row your own. Opting for the six-speed automatic cost $1,000.

The Elantra Limited, the range-topping model, starts at just $22,350.

The Elantra Limited, the range-topping model, starts at just $22,350. Not a bad price considering it comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, and the option to get the Tech Package and Ultimate Package, both of which bring things like Navigation, an Infinity sound system, a sunroof, heated rear seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, HID headlights with Dynamic Bending Light, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Smart Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, memory seat settings, and automatic high beam control. Even with all that selected, the Elantra Limited stay under $28,000.

Perched between the SE and Limited is the Eco. Its starting price stickers at $20,650. For that, you get the Eco powertrain, the infotainment system, the safety equipment, the hands-free smart trunk, rearview camera, heated front seats, a proximity key with push-button starting, and automatic dual zone climate control. Electric Blue, my tester’s color, is a no-cost option, but the floor mats cost an extra $125. Add to that the $835 destination fee, and the final price comes to $21,610.

Competition

Mazda 3

2016 - 2018 Mazda3 High Resolution Exterior Interior
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Mazda has some sort of magic sauce it pumps into oil before the cars leave the assembly line. At least that’s how it seems. The 3 combines swanky styling with a comfortable and functional interior with two efficient powertrain options. Put together, the Mazda drives like a dream with handling reminding you Mazda also builds the MX-5.

The two engine options include the 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a 2.5-liter four-cylinder. A six-speed manual or six-speed automatic are available with either engine, as is either the sedan or hatchback body styles.

Pricing for the 3 starts at $17,845 for the sport trim in four-door form with the manual transmission. Opting for the automatic only pushes the price to $18,895. The Grand Touring trim tops the range and requires $25,795 to take home, before options and fees.

Read our full review on the Mazda 3 here.

Honda Civic

2016 Honda Civic High Resolution Exterior
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The Civic is the stalwart of the segment, having great success throughout its U.S. lifetime, though marred by an uninspiring ninth generation. But like before, the Civic can be had in coupe, hatchback, or sedan form, allowing folks to pick their poison. Honda also gives folks two choices in powertrain as well, with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder coming standard and a 1.5-liter turbo being optional. Both can be had with either the six-speed manual or CVT.

The 10th generation civic enjoys fresh new styling and better enjoyment behind the wheel. The manual transmission is smooth and fun to operate, so we’d skip the CVT and save the extra money. It’s hard to go wrong here, but the car’s styling is a bit more overstated than the Elantra or Mazda3’s, so if you’re looking for a mature-looking ride, those might be the better options. The opposite is also true, with the Civic offering more of a visual kick.

Prices start at $18,640 for the sedan, $19,050 for the coupe, and $20,535 for the Hatchback.

Read our full review of the 2016 Honda Civic here.

Conclusion

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco – Driven
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The 2017 Hyundai Elantra is much improved over the fifth-generation car thanks to a ground-up redesign and styling that matches the rest of Hyundai’s handsome lineup. Adding the Eco trim with its efficient yet more inspiring powertrain pushes the Elantra even further into greatness. Add to that the value proposition of getting a car this good for $21,000. That’s hard to ignore. It leaves me wondering why Hyundai even bothers with the 2.0-liter and six-speed auto combination.

In total, the Hyundai Elantra Eco represents an amazing bang for the buck with only a few nit-picky drawbacks that spoil an otherwise outstanding package.

  • Leave it
    • * Cloth seats seem easily stainable
    • * Dual clutch is unrefined at low speeds
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