2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited — Comfortable and quiet, but boring

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(February 9, 2017) During lunch at a VW all-model drive event a few years ago, one of the VW  engineers remarked on the styling of the then-current Hyundai Elantra. “It’s too much. The basic shape is nice, but the detailing is too heavy handed and over-the-top, unlike the Jetta. This would never fly in Germany, and I think the car will look old and out-of-date very quickly.”

I prided myself on keeping steady eye contact and not laughing out loud or choking on my food when he praised the handsomely restrained styling of the rapidly aging VW Jetta, and took his words to heart. The Elantra was a bit cartoonish
in a way, though perky and nonetheless handsome.

A subtle toning down of the worst excesses might do it some good. And with Audi refugee and former Kia chief designer Peter Schreyer taking over control of all Hyundai and Kia design, the next-gen Elantra was certain to be more Germanic.

It is, and I want the old design back. The new shape is too sleek, too refined, too fluid. It loses some of the mischievousness of its predecessor, which — though ro
ugh around the edges — looked like it was up for a good time. The general look and theme is the same as before — there’s no doubt this is an Elantra — but Hyundai seems determined to drag itself into a more premium positioning, even if its buyers are not Rockefeller material.

Schreyer, who would have made the Audi lineup look like the Kia Optima had he stayed at Audi, has gone for visual refinement inside and out, but the car underneath doesn’t deliver. The 2017 Elantra has a light, stiff chassis, a strong four-cylinder (147 hp/132 lb.-ft.) mated to a six-speed automatic, four-wheel disc brakes (lower level models have a disc/drum combo), and it is totally innocuous.

To be fair, it’s possible that Hyundai saved the lively ride and handling for the Sport model with its fully independent rear suspension. However, it would have to go a long way to wake you out of the stupor the Elantra Limited can induce. It’s not a bad car, but it goes off in yet another direction in terms of vehicle dynamics for Hyundai, and does nothing to make you want to drive the car.

Yes, it’s perfectly comfortable and quiet, but it does nothing to excite. At least the old Elantra, for all its dynamic irregularity, felt like it wanted to be something. This car has so little personality on the road it’s not only anonymous, it should be autonomous.

The Virtual Driver