Base Price: $20,650
Price as Tested: $21,610
EPA City/HWY: 32/40 mpg
Engine: 1.4L Turbo GDI 4-cylinder
Power: 128hp, 156lb-ft
Drivetrain: FWD


WRITTEN/PHOTOGRAPHED BY: ANTHONY HERTA

College is arguably one of best times in life. You’re likely away from parental guidance. You meet some awesome people. You make some wild fashion choices. Live in a crappy apartment. Make some questionable decisions, but wouldn’t change a thing.

Once you graduate, that same lifestyle doesn’t translate into the “real world” and workforce. You have to act your age, dress nice, be more financially aware and take on additional responsibilities.

The new 2017 Hyundai Elantra is similar to that college-graduated self.

Gone are the fun, funky curves of the last-gen Elantra. The 17’ Elantra is an adult now. Subdued and mature lines take charge. It’s dressed for its next job interview. More upscale looking. In my eyes, this is the best looking car wearing the Hyundai badge.

The “Electric Blue” paint on this press vehicle ups its Eco game and should be really easy to spot in a parking lot.

With the Eco trim, you are stuck with 15-inch wheels that look like they belong on a golf cart. From a distance, they look pretty ridiculous — even on the Elantra’s compact sedan body.

Also on the Eco trim, there is standard “Proximity Key” entry with light up front door handles and Hyundai’s “Smart Trunk,” which opens automatically if you stand by the trunk long enough with the key fob on you.

Once inside, the mature theme continues with a conservative design. Everything looks solid and nicely put together. Although there are hard plastics all over — minus the soft-touch dashboard — the interior doesn’t feel or look extremely cheap.

With the grey cloth seats, the interior feels and looks airy.  

Behind the nicely contoured leather-wrapped steering wheel, there are four straightforward analog gauges with a 3.5-inch “multi-information” in the middle.

Overall, the interior is a nice place to be and should age better than the alien-esque design of the previous-gen Elantra.

Apple Maps being displayed on the 7-inch touchscreen via Apple CarPlay

The Elantra is a very approachable car. Everything is strategically placed and well thought out for the driver. You won’t have to spend five hours at the dealership learning how to operate your new vehicle. A brand new or 80-year-old+ driver should have little trouble figuring out how to use the Elantra’s features.

The 7-inch touchscreen is easy to figure out, has crisp graphics and is quick to respond to inputs. Apple Car play and Android Auto functionality also comes standard. Plugging my phone in to the USB drive throws my iPhone’s application icons right on the screen. If you’re a teenager, what else do you need in the car?

Another thing that makes this car very approachable is how easy it is to drive. The standard Blind-Spot-Monitoring system (on the Eco trim) should ease Mom’s worries about her new driver’s ability to change lanes.

Steering feel is slightly numb and light, which won’t inspire the typical car enthusiast, but won’t upset the point-A-to-B driver. It has a great turning radius and is really easy to park — especially with the standard rear-view camera.

Three drive modes — Eco, Normal and Sport — attempt to spice things up. In Sport mode, the transmission holds gears longer and the steering effort hefts up a bit, but still doesn’t encourage you to take the country roads home like a Mazda 3 would (link to review of the Mazda 3 here).

What surprised me the most about the Elantra Eco is how quiet the 1.4-liter turbo four banger is. Idling, the engine almost doesn’t sound like it’s running. Unless the throttle is mashed to the floor, the engine operates smoothly with little audible obtrusion in the cabin. The engine is Lexus quiet.

Although 128 horsepower and 156lb-ft of torque wont get you any street cred, it moves the Elantra decently with nice low-end torque needed in common daily-driving conditions.

But, the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission paired to the tiny engine reduces overall smoothness. At low speeds, the transmission is plagued by jerkiness common in dual-clutch automatics. Lifting off of the brake pedal, the Elantra sometimes lurches forward. At times, such as in heavy stop-and-go traffic, this jerkiness can be headache inducing. But, once you’re moving, the transmission delivers quick and seamless shifts.

Although, it does help the Elantra Eco reach the coveted 40-mpg on the highway and 32-mpg in the city. During my week stint with the Elantra, I averaged an impressive 40-mpg with a good mix of city and highway driving. 

Considering its small dimensions, the Elantra has a large trunk measuring three North Face backpacks deep and five wide — one backpack larger in both ways than the Mazda 3.

In front of the trunk resides a decently sized backseat with an iPhone 6’s worth of knee room behind my 5’9” frame. The floor is also predominantly flat — making it easier to pack one more friend in the middle seat. But, rear passengers might not want to stay there too long with the relatively hard rear cushion and no center armrest.

“Standard” is the theme of the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco. Everything you see on this test vehicle — minus the $125 carpeted floor mats — comes standard on the Eco trim.

The Elantra is the ideal and sensible first car.  

It’s very approachable, eats up highway miles, gets great fuel economy, comes packed with standard equipment and has an overall pleasant driving experience. Although the Elantra isn’t the most engaging or most stylish car in its class, it differentiates itself with value and subtleness. At $21,000 dollars, you can’t really go wrong with the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco. Welcome to adulthood Elantra.