Hyundai Elantra Adds Style, Precision
When first seeing the redesigned 2017 Hyundai Elantra, I didn’t really care for it. Sure, it was bound to be a technical advancement over the previous generation, but it seemed less special. Swoopy bodywork had given way to a more upright grille. Same for the interior. Good, but nothing special.
I was wrong.
Look beyond the handsome grille on our Limited-grade sedan and you start to notice how much style the car really has. Where the front of the old car looked cute, the new one seems angrier with its grille, vertical turn signals, LED running lamps, and HID headlamps. The roofline still arches, but the bodysides and hood are more chiseled. An integrated spoiler and LED taillamps leave a clean finish. Place it all over 17-inch alloy wheels.
First glance inside is also deceiving. The previous-generation’s twin-cockpit dash design is replaced by a strong center stack, focused towards the driver, with touchscreen above dual-zone automatic climate controls. Navigation, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Infinity premium audio are all controlled via touch. Stepping up the luxury are heated leather front and rear seats, power sunroof, and push button starting.
There’s a precision to how knobs rotate and buttons depress. Everything feels thoroughly considered, right down to the shade of blue lighting used for buttons and gauges. Adding to the luxury car feel is a full array of safety tech that includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and rearview camera.
Press the starter button to fire up the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. With just 147 horsepower on tap, it’s more about smooth power than a gusher of oomph. I don’t hate continuously-variable transmissions that many of the Elantra’s competitors employ, but it’s nice to feel the smooth progression of a 6-speed automatic transmission. Normal, Sport, and Eco modes alter the throttle and transmission response from spirited to economical. Fuel economy of 28/37-MPG city/hwy comes as a pleasant surprise.
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra may be less swoopy, but it’s considerably more suave. A more aggressive grille, sculpted body, luxurious interior, and smooth powertrain give it street cred. It’s a perfectly-timed redesign to counter the also-impressive Honda Civic, Chevy Cruze, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Mazda3, and Ford Focus. Elantra starts at $17,150, but came to $27,710 absolutely stoked.
Know The Way To Santa Fe
Hyundai knows the way to Santa Fe. When it launched the first-generation of its Southwest-inspired mid-size crossover, it catapulted itself to the top ranks of automakers. The Santa Fe was sporty, roomy, and incredibly affordable. Back for its third generation, the 2017 Santa Fe Sport proves at least two out of three of those attributes have advanced.
Especially from behind the wheel, I loved the flared front fenders on the original Santa Fe. Bigger and more substantial-looking, the latest version looks more aggressive with its large trapezoidal grille, LED running lights, gray lower body inserts, and 19-inch alloy wheels. I like our vehicle’s color combination of Frost White Pearl paint over black wheels. It all looks expensive. Tint the windows and rule your ‘hood!
Getting in is mostly a hands-free affair. Doors automatically unlock and the liftgate opens via key fob proximity. Just stand near the rear and watch the gate rise. Once inside, front passengers sit in firmly supportive heated and ventilated leather seats. A leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated rear seats, and panoramic sunroof add to the upscale ambience – as do dual zone automatic climate control, navigation, Infinity Premium Audio, and Android Auto compatibility. Manual rear side sunshades keep babies sleeping.
But, it’s the details you start to notice as miles pile on. Buttons have a smooth finish and depress with a soft thunk that makes you want to keep pressing them. Small patches of woodgrain on the dash edges complement the grainy texture of the padded dash. Satin silver trim dresses the doorhandles and curvy sides of the center control stack. Blue lighting gives a sense of calm. Looking at the front buckets from the sides reveals artistry in the shapes and curves. Nothing looks or feels cheap.
Hyundai has really stepped up in safety over the last several years, too. Our loaded wagon came with a multi-view camera system, smart cruise control with auto stop, emergency automatic braking with pedestrian detection, and bumper parking sensors. It’s a full suite of technology to keep you and yours unscathed.
Behind the chrome grille is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine generating a stout 240 horsepower -- routed to the all-wheel-drive system through a six-speed automatic transmission. Active Cornering Control sharpens handling. The turbo provides just the right amount of torque to slip through traffic or storm Interstates. Unfortunately, that engine has a penchant for the fossils as evidenced by fuel economy ratings of 19/24-MPG city/hwy.
You can buy a Santa Fe Sport (short wheelbase, five seats) starting at $25,350, but our Limited test model came to $40,820. If that seems expensive, Hyundai offers the also sporty and roomy Tucson crossover starting at $22,700. Compare against the Ford Edge, GMC Terrain, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Murano, and Honda Pilot.
2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited
- Five-passenger, FWD sedan
- Powertrain: 147 hp 2.0-liter I4, 6-spd auto trans
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Torsion beam
- Wheels f/r: 17”/17” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Style, Comfort
- Fuel economy: 28/37 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Montgomery, AL
- Base/as-tested price: $17,150/27,710
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
- Five-passenger, AWD crossover
- Powertrain: 240 hp 2.0-liter Turbo-4, 6-spd auto trans
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 19”/19” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Space, Finesse
- Fuel economy: 19/24 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: West Point, GA
- Base/as-tested price: $25,350/40,820