I have driven each of the six generations of Hyundai’s compact Elantra over the years and can honestly state that each revision has remarkable improvements over the previous generation. The 2018 Elantra is no exception and proves that 2.9 million American owners were not wrong in choosing this four and five-door car.
The 2.0 liter-inline 4-cylinder engine is a carryover from 2017 and continues to use 147 hp when RPM is up to 6200. However, Hyundai uses their version of a DOHC 16-valve train with a variable D-CVVT system, giving even power from idle up to higher speeds. The Elantra pulls reasonably well away from a stop through the mid-range acceleration with 132 lb.-ft @ 4500 RPM.
This engine works well with the optional 6-speed manual transmission. Unfortunately, you cannot buy the manual in the upper trim levels and have to settle for the 6-speed automatic and the manual override shifters on this SHIFTRONIC™ transmission. Sometimes I do miss a stick!
This powertrain is the smoothest and quietest yet. However, this is not the quietest compact on the road. There is a fair amount of road and wind noise on the highway. The Elantra tracks well enough at higher speeds but still feels unsettled on uneven pavement. The Hyundai Elantra would not be my choice for long trips across the country, and yet, I drove it 650 miles over a weekend with enough comfort for a middle-aged person.
As for fuel efficiency, the heavier Limited model is rated at 28/37/32 mpg (city/highway/combined). I beat these numbers without really trying. There are not many cars with this much passenger and luggage room that can beat 40.7 mpg on the open road. Impressive!
I drove in “Normal” mode most of the time but switched to “ECO” on the straight highways. The economy driver mode reduces acceleration response and reduces the air conditioner compressor run times, both of which are desired for Southern California summer road trips with temperatures over 100 degrees. The “Sport” mode does not give enough change in power or steering feel to excite the driver, and again, a manual would nice in the Elantra Limited model.
New for 2018 is an SEL trim level (replacing SE) which includes the most popular equipment and Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross-traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist. Additional standard amenities include a 7-inch display with AM/FM/HD Radio/SiriusXM and six speakers; a rearview camera with guidelines, and the desired Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connectivity software. The SEL also keeps the 16-inch alloy wheels with 205/55 R16 tires which are plenty of rubber for this 5-door sedan. Heated outside mirrors, auto headlamps, and more make this model the most bang for the buck.
Hyundai has also moved away from rear drum brakes to discs on all four corners. Braking is very responsive on the Elantra and includes the standard automatic braking (Limited) and stability controls. The electronic steering has also been recalibrated for better feedback and on-center response when leaving a turn. Although not sporty, the newest Elantra does remind me of the early generation Honda Civic’s agility and fun-to-drive characteristics. I guess I am showing my age.
Unlike economy cars of the past, our Elantra Limited came with supportive leather seats, leather steering wheel, and soft touch leather pads for armrests, and some other soft-touch materials throughout the cabin. Limited trim now gets more glossy black trim accents that look more polished but leave fingerprints. 2018 Limited models also get an auto-dimming rearview mirror with Blue Link and HomeLink™ remote controls. Blue Link is Hyundai’s version of GM’s On-Star™ with telecommunications with human beings for emergency and concierge services.
As every manufacturer has rushed to engineer new advanced safety technology, Hyundai has been working on their radar and camera systems for a decade. Some of the most reliable automatic cruise controls and steering assist computer programs are developed for the Genesis and Equus sedans, and I have driven these vehicles with confidence for years. During a recent trip to South Korea, I noticed how advanced Hyundai’s engineering developments have expanded across all forms of transportation, including commercial vehicles all the way up to supertankers.
Our 2018 Elantra Limited came with Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist; Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection; Lane Keep Assist and Smart Cruise Control; and seven standard airbags including a driver’s knee airbag. Along with a stronger platform, the Elantra received the Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
There is a new 2018 Elantra GT (revealed at the 2017 Chicago Auto Show) which adds a hatch to the back. Although the styling is similar to the sedan, the GT is lower, wider, and longer with a much more aggressive flare. The Elantra GT is based on the next-generation i30 model designed for the European market. Not to be confused, there is a current 4-door Elantra Sport with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivering 201 horsepower and matched to a six-speed manual or seven-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) with paddle shifters. Here is a manual for older folks like me.
Shoppers can also opt for the 2018 Elantra Eco model with a 1.4-liter turbocharged GDI four-cylinder engine and seven-speed DCT. The engine gets an EPA estimated 35 miles per gallon combined fuel economy rating, but I prefer the smoother power delivery of the 2.0-liter engine and real-world fuel economy which matches these numbers.
In my mature opinion, the current Elantra Limited is looked at as a fine sedan with plenty of performance, amenities, and value. Now that Hyundai offers Blue Link which includes remote door lock/unlock, remote start, stolen vehicle recovery GPS, stolen vehicle slowdown/immobilization, they have added a few new features including Amazon Alexa, smartphone apps or smartwatches.
Best of all, Hyundai has finally challenged the Japanese compact sedans in naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter engine fuel efficiency. This has been Hyundai and Kia’s biggest challenge, and they have stepped up to the plate with some winning mileage figures, all without significantly raising their prices. I guess even old-school drivers can step into the future with safer vehicles and better mileage.