2017 Hyundai Elantra

SAN DIEGO — I want to be perfectly clear: As much as automakers want you to believe that their particular brand and models are special and years ahead of the competition, the truth is, most all of them have state-of-the-art design, tech centers that employ essentially the same functions, close to the same horsepower and same fuel economy at about the same price. Virtually, they are the same cars with different logos emblazoned on the grille and rear deck lid.

This is especially true in the mass marketed segment of cars like Hyundai, a Korean company that’s been in the U.S. 30 years and last year sold over 761,000 new vehicles here. Further, over half of those were built in Montgomery, Ala., not Korea.

Take, for example, the new 2017 Elantra tested here which, by the way, is the number-one selling Hyundai vehicle in the U.S., accounting for 30 percent of all Hyundai sales. It competes in the compact sedan market segment with such varsity brands as Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, and Mazda3. The point is, these are mass-marketed cars that can be classified as commodities without a significant difference in congenital value or function. Cars in this segment and price range are generally relegated to “first new car” status among shoppers.

All of these vehicles have prices starting below $20,000 and with all option boxes checked can reach levels into the upper $20s, like our top-of-the-line well-equipped Elantra Limited that lists at $27,710. That compares to the base SE trim level that starts at $17,985. Hyundai will likely sell most Elantras in the $20,000 range, rather than the more expensive Limited model I drove.

The new Elantra reflects the look of Hyundai’s midsized Sonata sedan, especially in the “corporate” look grille and signature styling elements shared across most of the brand’s product offerings. Overall, the look is pleasing and more aggressive than the outgoing model.

For 2017 Elantra will have two new engines: a 2.0-liter four cylinder that develops 147 horsepower and is paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission; and for those who opt for more fuel efficiency a new turbocharged 1.4-liter, 128-horsepower “Eco” engine with a seven-speed, dual-clutch automated manual transmission that will be available later this spring. Most shoppers, however, will choose the larger engine, which will be offered with a six-speed manual shifter in the SE model.

I’m a big guy, and the large Elantra interior was pleasingly accommodating to my 6-6 frame and long legs. Hyundai tells us interior space is identical to the mid-sized Cadillac CTS and larger than a BMW 3-Series or Audi A4. Seats are comfortable with plenty of travel; drivers of almost any size will find an agreeable position.

We thought the overall look of the interior, while functional, came off as joyless and a bit dated, but not at all unusual in the compact sedan segment.

Hyundai engineers went to great lengths to quell interior noise that plagued the previous generation Elantra. There’s new acoustic window glass, added foam insulation throughout the body construction and added firewall sealing.

Our Limited certainly has some gear, as one would expect from a newly launched edition. Of most consequence is the advanced safety equipment like the optional ultimate package ($1900) that includes HID headlights with dynamic bending light, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, smart cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and integrated memory systems for driver’s seat and exterior mirrors.

Our tester also came equipped with the $2500 tech package with navigation, Infiniti Premium audio with eight speakers, Clari-fi music restoration technology, 4.2-inch color instrument cluster display, power tilt-and-slide sunroof, heated rear seats, and auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink and compass.

Other optional features include blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, push button start and proximity key, door handle approach lights, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, leather seats, hands-free smart trunk and more.

Hyundai says the chassis is now reinforced with 53 percent high-strength steel, compared to 21 percent on the previous model. That leads to 29.5 percent stiffer torsion rigidity and 25.3 percent greater bending strength. Hyundai also added more structural adhesive, all in an effort to improve ride and handling and to get top safety ratings from the IIHS and NHTSA.

On the road, we found the drive to be compliant and well controlled; although 147 horsepower won’t afford excitement behind the wheel. Its certainly not a sports sedan, but owners don’t expect that in a sedan where price and value are two of the primary purchase considerations.

Overall, the new 2017 Elantra is a solid upgrade from the previous model and shoppers will certainly be attracted to its competitive price, impressive list of standard features, fuel economy ratings, and class leading 10-year powertrain warranty.

Vital Stats

Base Price: $17,150 - $22,350
Price as Tested: $27,710
Fuel Economy (city/highway): 29/38 mpg

Key Safety Features

Seven airbags including driver’s knee airbag
Automatic emergency braking
Available pedestrian detection technology
Blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert

The Good

Hi tech features galore
Excellent value for the money
Roomy, comfortable interior

The Bad

Engine needs a bit more horsepower

Competes With

Chevy Cruze
Ford Focus
Honda Civic
Nissan Sentra
Toyota Corolla
Volkswagen Golf

— Jim Prueter