Reviews

2014 Hyundai Elantra Driving Impressions



All Elantra models are fun to drive, though the Sport sedan, Coupe and GT versions, powered by the new 2.0-liter engine, are by far the peppiest. With the base sedan's 1.8-liter engine, there isn't much oomph right off the line. This engine must be revved to get the most out of it, and it's fairly happy and unobtrusive doing so.

With our Elantra Sport test car, the 2.0-liter inline-4 had plenty of power and pull, even up the steep hills of the Southern California Grapevine, where many cars struggle to keep up. We did have to keep the pedal mashed firmly to the floor, though.

The Elantra's 6-speed manual is easy to shift, yet isn't too slushy. The 6-speed automatic is just as good, holding gears as needed in most driving applications. However, we found that on demanding uphill roads, the transmission often settled on a higher gear than we'd like, prompting us to slide the shifter over to manual mode to find sufficient thrust. For the GT and Coupe models equipped with the larger wheels and sport-tuned suspension, we'd like to see the addition of steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Electric-assist steering points the car where you want to go with minimal effort, reasonable feedback and U-turns in less than 35 feet. On GT models, a selectable steering feature allows drivers to choose between Normal, Comfort and Sport. In Comfort mode, the steering feels lighter at higher speeds but doesn't feel much different otherwise. In Sport mode, steering becomes more weighty, and almost too heavy when logging miles on twisty roads. We found it odd that the Sport mode modified steering feel only; we longed for a true sport mode that combined steering adjustments with enhanced throttle response and shift patterns. Also, the Elantra Sport sedan does not have the adjustable steering feature; it's tuned on the heavier side and feels about equivalent to the GT's Sport setting.

Disc brakes all the way around come standard on all models and are more than capable. Electronic stability control and antilock brakes are standard across the board, as is steering assist. The latter won't steer for you in case of a slide, but will help you steer in the correct direction.

The Elantra's structure is very stiff so the car feels solid, tight and squeak free. Suspension on the base and Limited sedans is tuned more for ride comfort than outright speed. We found there was some body lean in hard cornering, but it remains controlled and makes the driver aware the car is working near its limits.

Elantra Sport models come with a firmer, sport-tuned suspension. On smooth pavement, it feels good, but on rough roads, especially high speeds and for long drives, it can be teeth-chatteringly numbing, especially after hours on California's poorly paved portions of Interstate 5.

The Elantra Coupe and GT also use a sport-tuned suspension, which makes for a stiffer chassis and reduces body roll around corners compared to the four-door base and Limited models. Two-and five-door models equipped with the larger, 17-inch wheels are tuned for an even sportier feel. Those who like a cushy ride might wish to stick with the traditional four-door. On the other end of the spectrum, enthusiasts looking for a two-door sports car might be more titillated by the Genesis Coupe.

For 2014, engineers improved sound insulation in the Elantra cabin. Though the ride in our test car was relatively quiet, we did notice some road noise from our Elantra Sport, especially at higher speeds, which presumably were also in part from the 17-inch wheels and tires. And the new 2.0-liter engine's direct injection system is noisy at idle and slow speeds; one could almost mistake the clatter for one of the newer clean diesels.

Fuel economy figures for the 2014 Hyundai Elantra are an EPA-estimated 27/37 mpg City/Highway for the base sedan with 6-speed manual, and 28/38 mpg with the 6-speed automatic. Elantra Sport sedans are rated at 24/34 mpg with the manual and 24/35 with the automatic, though, after one week of primarily freeway driving, ours averaged 27 to 29 mpg, according to the on-board computer. Limited sedans are rated at 27/37 mpg City/Highway, and only come with the automatic transmission.

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