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#16

in Affordable Small Cars

MSRP: $17,200 - $21,650
Invoice: $16,687 - $20,719
MPG: 27 City / 37 Hwy
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Hyundai Elantra Performance

Reviewers say the 2014 Hyundai Elantra’s base engine has enough power to suit most drivers. They prefer the new engine that’s standard on the GT, coupe and Sport sedan, saying it makes the Elantra competitive with rivals known for their sharp performance, like the Mazda Mazda3 and Ford Focus. Most reviewers say the Elantra handles athletically while offering a quiet, smooth ride. However, some test drivers think its ride is not as composed as rivals’ on rough pavement.  

  • "In previous years, we found that the Elantra sedan wasn't as sporty to drive as some of its competitors. For 2014, however, there's a new Sport trim to remedy that. Fortunately, this trim doesn't amount to just a few extra body trim pieces and red interior stitching. No, the new Elantra Sport receives a more powerful engine and a sport-tuned suspension that may give it a level of driver engagement comparable to rivals." -- Edmunds
  • "The 2014 Hyundai Elantra comfortably resides in a territory between the performance-oriented Mazda3 and Ford Focus, and the softer-sprung Chevrolet Cruze and Nissan Sentra. A standard 6-speed manual and available 6-speed automatic do their best to make the most of the 1.8-liter's 148 horsepower, but with a new 173-horsepower 2.0-liter now offered in some trims, the Elantra doesn't have to remain at the back of the performance pack any longer." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The 1.8-liter engine managed to find power enough to go up and down the rolling terrain of Hill Country. Tall gearing, for increased fuel economy, managed to let us know the engine room was running at full-bore when we were trying to get on the highways or to avoid becoming a hood ornament for a Texas-sized big-rig. Once at speed, all was right with the world." -- Left Lane News (2013)
  • “The only time we noticed a significant power deficit was while trying to pass on the freeway during a hill climb. Overall, there's more than enough oomph for daily driving duties, on highway or off." -- Motor Trend (2011 1.8-liter sedan)

Acceleration and Power

The Elantra comes standard with a 145-horsepower, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine. For 2014, a new 173-horsepower, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine is standard on the GT, coupe and Sport sedan. The base sedan comes with a six-speed manual transmission and a six-speed automatic is available. The base Elantra gets an EPA-estimated 28/38 mpg city/highway with an automatic transmission, which is good for the class.

Test drivers say the base Elantra has adequate power in most situations, but isn’t going to wow you with its speed. A few reviewers say the newly available 2.0-liter engine offers more power, but isn’t especially smooth. Both transmissions do a fine job of keeping the base engine in its powerband, they note, though several test drivers prefer the automatic transmission for its quick shifts.

  • "Under the hood, no one would call the 1.8-liter engine a powerhouse, but this motor does have personality, emitting a vaguely sporty growl above 5,000 rpm. We prefer the automatic transmission, as it serves up some of the most responsive downshifts you'll find at any price. The newly available 2.0-liter engine, familiar from Kia's compact cars, provides more punch, but it's not particularly refined." -- AutoTrader
  • "That said, the 1.8-liter engine on Elantra SE and Limited models provides adequate performance for the majority of drivers. The automatic transmission drives that point home with well-timed and smooth shifts." -- Edmunds
  • "… the experience of stomping on the gas of the 148 HP 1.8 L engine is underwhelming. The engine does get louder in response to your foot, but it feels more like a complaint, and while you do eventually get moving, speed isn't why you should consider buying this car." -- Jalopnik (2013)
  • "Hyundai's in-house transmissions - a 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual - both work well to wring the most out of the Elantra's 148-horsepower engine while also getting the most out of the regular unleaded gasoline it uses." -- Kelley Blue Book (2013)

Handling and Braking

Reviewers say the Elantra handles nimbly, attacking corners with confidence. The performance-tuned coupe and GT handle especially well around curves, they add. Most say the Elantra offers a smooth, quiet ride, though some test drivers point out that the Elantra doesn’t absorb bumps in the road as well as rivals like the Chevrolet Cruze. They particularly like the selectable steering mode on certain trims that allows you to dial in the steering effort.  

  • "On the one hand, the car feels nimble on the road, carving through corners with unexpected grace -- particularly atop the available sport-tuned suspension. But on the other hand, the Elantra's chassis quivers on rough pavement, falling short of the solidity standard set by stalwarts such as the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus. It's not a big deal, but it does take a bite out of the car's otherwise refined character. Overall, though, we find the Elantra's driving dynamics quite agreeable." -- AutoTrader
  • "For 2014, Hyundai has added more sound insulation to quell engine and tire noise, which was one of our previous gripes. Combine that with the car's relatively smooth ride, and you're likely to find the Elantra a comfortable and quiet place to log mile after mile." -- Edmunds
  • "The 3-mode driver-selectable steering, standard in the GT, SE and Limited, greatly improves feedback, while the GT and Elantra Coupe benefit from tighter suspension settings that allow the car to move aggressively over twisting roads." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Activated through a steering wheel-mounted button around the 4 o'clock position, your DSSM choices are Comfort, Normal, and Sport. Each alters on-center tension and effort weight (but not the steering ratio) when you pull the wheel off-center. It's no Focus or Mazda3 equivalent, but effort ramp-up and feel in any mode is more honest than in non-GT Elantras." -- Motor Trend (2013 GT)
Review Last Updated: 2/28/14

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