The verdict: As SUV sales soar, sedans seem about as uncool as my Hotmail email address, but for those still interested there are a lot of great options in the compact class, including the pleasant and poised 2019 Elantra.
Versus the competition: The Elantra excels with its strong value and easy-peasy multimedia system but falls short in standard safety features.
For 2019, the Hyundai Elantra gets a significant refresh. Its powertrains carry over, but its exterior styling has gone from mild to wild. The new model also gets a revised multimedia screen as well as some new safety features; compare it with the 2018 version.
The Elantra competes in the bustling and busy compact sedan class against many vehicles that have been revised recently, including the Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla; see them compared.
Not So Fast
If you’re expecting pep based on the Elantra’s slick new styling, lower your expectations. It’s just … fine — far from thrillingly fast, but miles away from annoyingly slow.
The uplevel Limited trim I drove uses the base engine — a 147-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder carried over from 2018, again mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The lowest trim level, SE, comes standard with a six-speed manual. With the automatic, response from a stop is prompt, and shifts are well-timed and smooth. Eco and Sport models are also available and again use different powertrains for 2019: a 128-hp, turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder and a 201-hp, turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder, respectively.
On the highway, the Elantra feels planted and well-controlled. Its ride is firm and bumps are obvious, but neither of those is a big problem. What is a big problem is how loud it is; road and wind noise combine in an obnoxiously raucous symphony. Even the engine chimes in occasionally with a loud, overtaxed-sounding note.
By the numbers, the Elantra’s fuel economy is mid-pack. With the base engine and automatic transmission, the Elantra is EPA-rated 29/38/33 mpg city/highway/combined — similar to base, automatic sedan versions of the Chevrolet Cruze (28/38/32 mpg), Honda Civic (30/38/33 mpg) and Toyota Corolla (30/38/33 mpg). The Elantra Eco adds 2 mpg combined, while the Sport loses 4 mpg combined with the automatic transmission; it’s rated as low as 25 mpg combined with the six-speed manual.
Handsome Cabin, Modern Tech
This is a value-minded compact car, so the cabin is nothing special to look at, but it’s well-made — materials quality is decent and the design is sharp. There are also some extra goodies on the Limited trim I tested, such as leather seats, wireless device charging and a premium audio system.
Not only does it all look good, but the controls are also fuss-free. The Elantra has had a refreshingly easy-to-use multimedia system for longer than many class rivals like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, and the new model’s setup doesn’t disappoint. The screen is large enough and placed high on the dash for good visibility, and the touchscreen is responsive with a logical menu structure.
A 5-inch screen is standard on the base trim; all others get a larger 7-inch screen standard, with a newly available 8-inch screen option that includes navigation. I prefer to connect my smartphone and use Android Auto for maps; both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard with the 7- and 8-inch screens, and they’re easy to use.
The backseat doesn’t stand out in terms of headroom and legroom, but at 5-foot-6, I fit fine. Two child-safety seats had ample room in the backseat, and even with a space-hogging rear-facing car seat installed behind me, I had enough legroom in the front passenger seat. Check out our full Car Seat Check.
In terms of trunk space, the Elantra is again mid-pack. With 14.4 cubic feet of space, it trails the Civic and Cruze but offers a smidge more room than the Corolla.
Safety and Value
The 2019 Elantra starts at $18,120, up $285 over the outgoing model but still lower than the Civic, Cruze and Corolla. Prices can escalate quickly, however: My Limited model stickered for $26,960 with extras like navigation.
The added cost includes some safety features on most models. The 2018 Elantra was well behind the pack on safety equipment; forward automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control were available only on the Limited trim level. That’s improved for 2019, when all Elantras except the base model get standard forward automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind spot warning and a driver attention monitor. Adaptive cruise control and forward pedestrian detection, however, are still optional, offered only on the Limited.
This is a big step forward for the Elantra, but it still has some work to do to catch the class leaders in the safety department. All 2019 Honda Civics, for example, get the Honda Sensing suite of safety features standard, and Toyota has equipped every Corolla with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking since the 2017 model year. However, other vehicles, like the 2019 Chevrolet Cruze, continue to make many such safety features optional — and only on top trim levels.
Although the Elantra will likely never find itself on the right side of cool, there’s a lot to like about it. Compact sedan shoppers face a large selection of comfortable and affordable options, and with the new Elantra, the list just got a bit longer.
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