by Roger Biermann
As Hyundai grows from strength to strength, the newly updated 2019 Hyundai Elantra continues the trend with appealing styling backed by decent performance, impressive economy, loads of features, and high levels of comfort. With updated styling inside and out and new tech to boot, the 2019 Elantra offers strong competition in the compact sedan segment that includes the Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla amongst others. Priced between $17,100 and $24,400 it has a cheaper entry point than most rivals in the segment as well. The Elantra offers three engine choices with outputs ranging from the 128-horsepower 1.4T in the Eco model to 201 hp in the 1.6T Elantra Sport, mated to a choice of three gearboxes, a six-speed manual, six-speed automatic, and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
2019 sees the front end of the Hyundai Elantra heavily remodeled, with new wedge-shaped headlights, a widened grille, and an all-new hood and front fenders. The redesign includes a new trunk lid and new taillight design and a lower housing for the license plate. The changes extend to the interior with a new instrument panel, new air vents, updated climate and audio controls and more. Along with the design revisions, several driver assistance systems have been made standard from the SEL model up, while the top Limited trim gets wireless device charging and a premium sound system is now optional.
The major changes for the 2019 model year Elantra are immediately noticeable with a heavily redesigned exterior. The Sport model gets a unique, aggressively styled version of the hexagon grille. The grille is flanked by a sculpted bumper housing triangular fog lights. Meanwhile, the hood has been substantially remodeled as well with clamshell styling and light sculpting. The base SE trim features 15-inch steel wheels while the Eco trims features 15-inch alloys shod in narrow low-drag tires. Higher trims get 16-inch alloys in varying designs with sporty 17-inch alloys limited to the Sport model.
Across the six-strong Elantra range, all boast a length of 181.9-inches and a wheelbase of 106.3-inches, placing the Elantra squarely in the middle of the compact sedan segment with the likes of the Honda Civic. The Elantra measures 70.9-inches wide and 56.5-inches tall, with 5.3-inches of ground clearance on all but the Sport trim, whose bespoke bodywork gives it an extra 0.2-inches in ride height. Curb weight varies depending on engine and trim specification, with the lighter variants at 2,822 lbs and the heavier derivatives weighing in at up to 3,086 lbs.
The 2019 Elantra is available in six standard colors across the range, White, Silver, Gray, Lakeside Blue, Red, and Black. The Sport model, in addition to getting larger wheels and a honeycomb grille, gets a unique paint color, dropping Lakeside Blue from the color palette in favor of Intense Blue. All colors are no-cost options, with the blue and red hues highlighting the revised 2019 bodywork the best.
With three available engines in the Elantra line-up, the most performance-focused of the lot is fittingly the Sport-badged derivative. With power from its 1.6-liter turbocharged engine claimed at 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, channeled to the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the Elantra Sport manages the 0-60 mph sprint in the mid-seven-second range, which is well off the pace of the quicker Honda Civic Sedan derivatives. Front-wheel drive is fairly standard in this segment, but rivals like the Subaru Impreza do offer all-wheel drive as an alternative that Hyundai doesn’t cater to.
Three engines are available in various trims across the range of the 2019 Hyundai Elantra. A base engine does duty across four of the six models available and is a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder developing 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. This lackluster engine is paired with a standard six-speed manual transmission in the base SE model, with a six-speed automatic optional on the SE and standard on the SEL, Value Edition, and Limited trims. The manual gearbox gets the most out of the engine, but it’s ultimately underpowered for the Elantra and doesn’t enjoy being worked to get peak performance, with a glacial 0-60 mph sprint of 10 seconds.
The Elantra Eco gets a low-displacement 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It’s less powerful than the base 2.0-liter with just 128 hp, but torque increases to 156 lb-ft which makes it punchier and more usable around town and when overtaking. The 1.4-liter turbocharged motor is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission which aids efficiency with its quick-shifting nature and additional gear ratio. It’s the only transmission choice and is largely impressive, but at low speeds, it becomes clunky and makes traffic tricky to navigate comfortably.
The final engine choice is exclusive to the Sport trim and is a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder developing 201 hp and 195 lb-ft. By default, a six-speed manual gearbox is equipped which is a joy to row, but an optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is also available. The 1.6 suffers from pronounced lag but offers spritely performance. It’s not exactly a performance motor - more of a quicker alternative to the dull base 2.0.
Compact cars are sometimes hit and miss in terms of comfort with concessions made to suspension components in an effort to meet budget constraints. The Elantra doesn’t suffer from a comfort perspective with a suspension setup on the softer side for the segment. Even sharper impacts like potholes are sufficiently softened without things getting too mushy or bouncy in the recovery phase after impact. It remains composed on bumpy road surfaces and little of the road imperfections permeate the ride comfort.
Noise insulation is decent within the cabin, with road noise particularly well isolated at city-speeds. At highway speeds, however, there is some wind noise, but the cabin is quieter than most compact cars.
Hyundai has equipped the Elantra with decent driving dynamics in spite of the outright comfort bias. The brakes are easy to modulate with a decent amount of feel and feedback, but they aren’t performance brakes and offer fairly middle of the road braking performance. With electric power-assisted steering, there’s good weighting to the wheel and steering inputs are met with quick responses and good turn in. But the electric power-assistance also means there’s not much feedback. It’s a well-tuned system with good, natural weighting, but in Sport mode, the steering becomes a little too heavy.
The Hyundai Elantra doesn’t try to be sporty though - with the exception of the Sport trim - and for the most part, handles in a comfortable manner with some body roll. It feels composed around corners and is unfazed by camber changes or mid-corner bumps, but you won’t be found pushing the limits of the chassis due to the low-grip tires equipped on most models.
The base 2.0-liter engine equipped to four trims may be dull to drive but provides decent economy claims. With the manual-equipped on the base SE model, it achieves estimates of 26/36/29 mpg city/highway/combined, while the automatic-equipped SE achieves 29/38/33 mpg on the same cycles. With differing equipment, the SEL, Value Edition, and Limited models achieve 28/37/32 mpg.
The economy-focused Elantra Eco, with the 1.4-liter turbo motor and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, achieves impressive economy figures of 32/40/35 mpg, aided by low drag wheels and narrow tires. The Eco offers better efficiency than most rivals, with easier drivability thanks to a punchy motor.
Meanwhile, the 1.6-liter turbo engine focuses less on fuel economy and more on performance. With the six-speed manual transmission economy figures are estimated at 22/30/25 mpg, while the seven-speed dual-clutch adjusts figures to 26/33/29 mpg.
Ingress and egress to the 2019 Elantra are a little tricky with short door openings, but once inside there’s a range of seat adjustment for the tallest and shortest of drivers, offering a commanding view with great visibility. Default cloth upholstered seats are comfortable, though don’t offer the best side bolstering - remedied by the Sport’s enhanced seats - with leather upholstery equipped on higher trim lines. The interior is relatively spacious, even for adults in the rear, though taller occupants may find headroom a little scant. Material quality is largely impressive, though some out of the way panels seem a little cheap. There are two full sets of LATCH anchors equipped in the rear seats.
The 2019 Hyundai Elantra will comfortably seat five occupants in relative comfort. The driver’s seat provides a range of adjustments including substantial height adjustment to give even the shortest drivers a commanding view of the road ahead, while a cleverly developed structure gives great visibility all-round. The standard seats are comfortable if a little lacking in the side bolstering department, but this is remedied on the Sport model with Sport-specific seats. Front occupants have loads of head and legroom, and for the most part, rear passengers won’t be complaining too much, with more than ample legroom for adult passengers. The only potential complaint will come from taller-than-average passengers who may find headroom tighter than some rivals like the Toyota Corolla.
Most materials in the Elantra’s cabin are plush and comfortable, with an overall premium feel but some out-of-the-way materials are a little cheap, albeit solidly screwed together. Standard upholstery on base models comprises cloth-upholstered seats in either beige or black, with matching door and lower dash trim. The cloth trim remains the only offering on all trims until the Limited model, which gets leather upholstery in either black or beige. The leather is comfortable and luxurious, but the standard cloth is comfortable enough to overlook upgrading merely for the leather. The Sport trim line gets sport-specific seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, and red contrast stitching on the seats, steering wheel, and gear shifter, along with a black headliner.
The Hyundai Elantra may not be the most spacious car by nature of being a compact sedan, but it ranks as one of the best in its class with its 14.4 cubic feet of space on offer, making it spacious enough for most family getaways and shopping excursions, while the relatively square shape means it’s practical too. The trunk aperture is wide and tall and the rear sill is low, which makes it easy to load, and the rear seatbacks fold in a 60/40 split to increase storage volume for longer items without completely removing rear seat practicality.
Throughout the cabin, there are numerous storage spaces available, like a large bin beneath the center armrest, and a cavernous front storage bin that can fit a smartphone and your wallet. The door pockets aren’t massive but will accommodate an average sized bottle, while four cupholders throughout the cabin are decently sized, but don’t feature anti-tip designs.
Trim dependant, the Elantra is a highly equipped sedan, with air conditioning offered on lower trims, upgraded to dual-zone climate control on higher trims. A power sunroof is available on Value Edition, Sport, and Limited trims, while the latter plays host to power driver’s seat adjustment. Heated front seats are equipped from the Value Edition, while items like a wireless charging pad are reserved for the Limited. A proximity key is standard from the Value Edition, while a reverse camera is standard across the line-up. A range of driver assistance features are also available, such as blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision avoidance assist, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, driver attention warning, and optionally on the Limited model, safe exit assist and smart cruise control.
A standard five-inch infotainment system on base SE Elantras has limited functionality, with AM/FM radio, MP3 functionality, and Bluetooth hands-free and audio streaming functionality. It also features 1 USB port and an auxiliary input. From SEL trims upwards a seven-inch touchscreen system comes as standard. This system features SiriusXM satellite radio and boasts Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Higher trims, specifically the Limited and Sport models, get an eight-inch touchscreen through an optional package that quips navigation and an eight-speaker Infinity premium audio system. Dual USB charging ports are standard on the Eco, Limited, and Sport models.
With a J.D. Power and Associates predicted reliability score of four out of five, the 2019 Hyundai Elantra is highly reliable and ranks among the best in class, with the Honda Civic scoring three out of five and the Corolla scoring four. Hyundai’s extensive warranties provide peace of mind, with the ten-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty a major highlight. There have been zero recalls for the Hyundai Elantra, and there haven’t been many reported problems from buyers, with most happy with their purchases.
The 2019 Elantra scores highly with government institutions. The IIHS recognizes the Elantra as a 2019 Top Safety Pick +, but the NHTSA only score the Elantra four stars out of five due to less than perfect rear passenger protection in the side-impact test.
The 2019 Elantra provides a wide array of advanced driver assistance systems and safety features to keep occupants safe with notable highlights being the available forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. On the Limited trim, the Safe Exit Assist is a massive bonus for those with children, detecting potential traffic and preventing doors being opened into the path of an approaching vehicle. Seven standard airbags include dual front, front side, side curtain, and driver knee airbags.
In many aspects, the Elantra is a fairly middle of the road compact sedan, doing little exceptionally well compared to rivals. But it is stylish, spacious, practical, and loaded with features provided you ignore the entry-level Elantra SE. What the Elantra does better than most is provide utmost comfort and relaxation for its occupants. In our experience, it’s best to avoid the 2.0-liter NA engine altogether, no matter how tempting some of the trims might seem. The Eco trim strikes a fine balance between equipment levels and a decent engine offering, which makes it our pick. While the Sport model offers a firmer suspension setup and the option of a decent manual gearbox, if you’re looking for a sporty offering in this segment, you’re better off heading to a Honda dealer to look at the Civic Si.
The cheapest model in the Elantra range is the SE, carrying a base MSRP of $17,200 in manual guise and $18,200 in automatic guise before the addition of tax, licensing, registration, dealer incentives, and a $920 destination charge. From there it only goes up, with the SEL priced at $19,500, the Value Edition at $20,500, and the Eco at $21,050. The Sport carries a base price of $22,600 with the manual gearbox and $23,700 with the dual-clutch automatic, while the fully-loaded Limited trim will set you back $22,700.
For 2019, the Hyundai Elantra is available in six trim levels: SE, SEL, Value Edition, Eco, Sport, and Limited.
The base SE model features the 147 horsepower 2.0-liter motor and comes equipped with a standard six-speed manual with an option to upgrade to a six-speed automatic. The SE features 15-inch steel wheels, rear drum brakes, a rearview camera, height-adjustable front seats, Bluetooth, and a six-speaker sound system with a five-inch touchscreen.
From the SEL onwards, the Elantra’s standard features include cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, automatic headlights, and an upgraded seven-inch infotainment system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality, and satellite radio. It also boasts a host of driver safety aids such as blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, auto emergency braking, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist.
The Value Edition adds LED daytime running lights, a power sunroof, keyless entry with push-button start, a hands-free trunk lid, heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and Blue Link Connected Car Services.
The Eco model gets the efficient turbocharged 1.4-liter motor with 128 hp, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It also gets aerodynamic 15-inch alloy wheels. It’s otherwise equipped similarly to the Value Edition, but with the addition of dual USB ports and with the exclusion of the sunroof.
The Limited trim line reverts back to the 2.0-liter motor and six-speed automatic drivetrain combination, but boasts upgrades like the 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, automatic high beams, leather upholstery, power adjustment for the driver’s seat, a sliding armrest, adjustable rear headrests, auto-dimming rearview mirror, a wireless charging pad and an eight-speaker premium Infinity sound system.
The Sport model gets a 1.6-liter turbo engine with 201 hp and a manual six-speed as standard, though a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is available. It features 18-inch wheels with grippier tires, bigger brakes, and chrome exterior accents, while beneath the sheet metal it gets revised rear suspension with a firmer state of tune. It’s equipped similarly to the Limited, but gets the sunroof as standard, and features sports seats with extra bolstering, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, unique gauge cluster, and a black headliner.
|SE||2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Manual, 6-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$16,668||$17,200|
|SEL||2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$18,842||$19,500|
|Value Edition||2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$19,787||$20,500|
|ECO||1.4-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||7-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$20,307||$21,050|
|Sport||1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Manual, 7-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$21,658||$22,600|
While the six trims come in various states of equipment, there are just two option packages available exclusively on the top two trim lines, Sport and Limited. The $2,250 Premium Package for the Sport model upgrades the infotainment system to an eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, adds an eight-speaker Infinity premium audio system, Clari-Fi music restoration technology, Blue Link Connected Car Services, remote start on the manual model, dual automatic climate control, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink and a compass.
Meanwhile, the Limited model can be optioned with its own Ultimate Package for $3,350. The Ultimate Package for Limited includes the same upgraded eight-inch infotainment system with navigation but also adds a power sunroof, smart cruise control, driver’s seat memory function, and a range of safety features like blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, safe exit assist, forward collision avoidance assist, and pedestrian detection.
As well equipped as some of the Elantra models are, we’d steer clear of the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter motor. Likewise, we’d avoid the Sport trim as it doesn’t quite justify the price in terms of what it offers. That leaves the Eco as the pick of the lot for a number of reasons, first of which is the turbocharged engine. It’s peppy and frugal and delivers all that it needs to with nothing that it doesn’t. Then there’s the specification, equipping the Elantra with valuable amenities like cruise control, automatic headlights, keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, a hands-free trunk lid, and a leather wrapped steering wheel. All it’s really missing is the sunroof and leather upholstery - small compromises on what is ultimately a comprehensive package.
The Civic is widely considered the compact sedan benchmark, making it one of the Elantra’s toughest rivals. The Civic offers a high-quality premium-feel interior with an abundance of safety and tech features, and it offers proper performance variants in the form of SI and Type R derivatives. The Elantra is just as well equipped, however, and boasts easier to use infotainment while representing excellent value for money. The Elantra is more comfort-biased and is a little less expensive than the Civic, but the Honda’s turbocharged engine is exceptional, and the chassis is more involving. Theore spacious, both in the cabin and in the trunk, and for similar money the Honda would get our attention.
While the Sonata may be the Elantra’s bigger brother, there’s a certain amount of price overlap between base Sonatas and high-end Elantras. The Sonata, being bigger, naturally has greater cargo volume and superior interior accommodation. It also boasts a more upscale interior befitting of its price. However, a fully-loaded Elantra offers a huge amount of features, both comfort and safety orientated, for a discount price compared to the Sonata. Furthermore, the Elantra with a turbocharged engine is far cheaper than the Sonata Limited 2.0T which is the only Sonata to receive a turbo. As such, an Elantra Sport or Eco feels livelier and more performance focused, without compromising on comfort. Ultimately, the Elantra represents great value for money, but if it’s space you need and you have the extra budget, a high-end Sonata just offers more in most aspects.