We spend a week in Hyundai's most fuel efficient compact sedan.
Interior quality, fit and finish
Road and tire noise
2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco
Even though Hyundai's compact sedan isn't as dirt cheap as it once was, it remains a very affordable option for car buyers on a budget. The Elantra is also a very important model in the lineup as, even in a down year for small sedans, through October of this year it continues to be Hyundai's best-selling model.
The Eco is a new addition for 2017 and, like the rest of the Elantra lineup, comes with a completely redesigned exterior. Unlike the Sonata, which is now a little too conservative for our tastes, the latest Elantra manages to incorporate some of the best features of both the original "Fluidic Sculpture" and newer "Fluidic Sculpture 2" design languages.
So while the latest Elantra now receives the brand’s signature trapezoidal grille, it still retains much the previous model's sculpted body panels, although both the headlamp and taillamp housings are toned down a bit.
Inside, the outgoing model's twin cockpit theme has been toned down, although, again, it's not nearly as starkly horizontal as the Sonata's. If anything, the faux metallic trim is now richer-looking and the controls, themselves, are much more intuitive.
One of the biggest improvements lies with the new 7-inch infotainment screen. Not only is it larger, it's set into the dash at a more upright angle, which reduces glare, making it much easier to read in direct sunlight.
The front seats are very supportive and both the driver and front passenger will find plenty of head, leg, shoulder and hip room. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes, there’s a nicely-placed dead pedal for the driver and the turn signal lever has a handy flash to pass feature.
The Elantra is roomy enough to fit 4 adults and even 5 for short rides. There's 14.8 cubic feet of storage space in the trunk and the rear seat folds on a 60/40 split for added cargo versatility. Think of it this way: with a total volume of 110.4 cubic feet, the EPA classifies the Elantra as a midsize vehicle. Meanwhile, an overall length of 179.1 inches makes it easy to park as well as find a usable parking space - even in congested cities.
For buyers with two or fewer small children, the Elantra should also work. But if your family expands and as your children grow older, the Elantra's cargo space limitations will crop up, while the separation between siblings might not be enough to quell territorial arguments. A minivan it's not, but if it's parked next to one in your garage, it would make a nice second car.
Under the hood
There may be a turbo under the hood, but it and the 7-speed dual clutch transmission have been tuned for fuel economy, not performance. The engine pumps out 128 horsepower, but its maximum156 lb.-ft. of torque is only available between 1,400 and 3,700 rpm. However, that also means it's good for both initial acceleration and merging and passing on freeways.
That being said, any vehicle with an "Eco" badge should be environmentally friendly, and this Elantra delivers. The Eco has EPA estimates of 32 mpg city, 40 mpg highway and 35 mpg combined and our own observed fuel economy was 33.1 mpg in around town driving – much of it in "Sport" mode. While these numbers are hardly Prius-like, the Elantra is much roomier than a comparably-priced Prius c and costs thousands less than the comparably-sized Prius 2. With 3 driving modes – normal, eco and sport – you can easily tailor the Eco to your driving preferences.
The new Elantra Eco may not be as affordable as Elantras once were, but you can place part of the blame on a list of standard equipment that, a few years ago, could only be found on a handful of premium vehicles. The list includes a 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, power windows, locks and mirrors and LED daytime running lights as well as welcoming lights under the door handles that activate as you approach the vehicle.
Inside, the 7-inch touchscreen is backed up by an infotainment system with satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio capability and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. A proximity key with push-button start is also standard as are heated front seats, dual automatic climate control and a leather-wrapped shift knob and a steering wheel that contains audio, cruise and information screen controls.
All 2017 Elantras feature a rear view camera as standard equipment. In addition, all Eco models also come with blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist. However, advanced safety features like HID headlights, automatic high-beam assist, smart cruise control with start/stop technology, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking aren't available at all.
On the road
The Elantra's ride is much more controlled than it used to be. So while it's on the soft side with noticeable body lean when cornering, the suspension doesn't wallow over bumps and other road imperfection. On the other hand, steering feel, while improved, could be better and while the brakes are easy to modulate, there isn't much initial bite to the pads and feedback through the pedal could also be better.
On the performance side, the 7-speed dual clutch transmission matches up nicely with the diminutive turbo, although, especially when the engine was cold, we noticed some lag on acceleration that seemed to go away once things warmed up.
The only other issue has to do with the Elantra's size. Since it's a compact sedan, you won't get the same commanding view in traffic as you would in a crossover and while Hyundai has done a commendable job of reducing engine and wind noise, we did notice that both tire and road are apparent – especially at freeway speeds.
On the expressway the Elantra felt composed with no need to constantly make corrections to the steering. It also was not affected either by crosswinds or, at least in Michigan, the ever-present grooved pavement.
2017 Elantra Eco prices
2017 Elantra sedan prices start at $17,985 for the base SE trim with a 6-speed manual transmission and can top out at a fairly lofty $28,195 for one in Limited trim with all the fixings.
Our Electric Blue Eco tester had a more modest base price of $20,650. $125 for floor mats and $835 for inland freight and handling brought its as-tested price to $21,610.
The Bottom Line
There’s a lot to like about the Hyundai Elantra Eco. It’s an affordably-priced, nicely-styled compact with a great-looking interior and plenty of room for up to 5 adults. It also has a forgiving ride and really good fuel economy. On the other hand, that supple ride is far from sporty, while the 1.4-liter engine, although turbocharged, hardly lends itself to spirited driving.
But especially if you're single, on a budget, and looking for an eco-friendly sedan, the new Hyundai Elantra Eco could very well be the answer to your transportation needs.