Korean automaker Hyundai on Wednesday revealed a redesigned version of its Elantra compact sedan at the Los Angeles Auto Show, removing some of the previous generation's distinctive edging as designers transition Hyundai deeper into mainstream styling.
The new Elantra gets Hyundai's hexagonal grille and front-wheel air curtains borrowed from the Sonata Hybrid to improve air flow and thus increase fuel efficiency.
The vehicle's reveal comes as the brand is gradually overhauling its design ethos, moving away from the edgy thematic that characterized past models and maneuvering squarely into the mainstream market. For example, designers ditched the lumpy headlights that defined the previous-generation Elantra in favor of something more mainstream.
The 2017 Elantra, which hits dealerships in January, will face an immediate challenge: gaining attention from consumers who are abandoning cramped cars for roomy crossovers.
In a 3,000-word press release trumpeting the Elantra's introduction, Hyundai spilled plenty of ink on the interior space and cargo volume of the Elantra, bragging that it has more of each than the luxury Audi A4 and Acura ILX.
To get some additional wiggle room, Hyundai engineers lengthened the vehicle by 0.8 inches and widened it by 1 inch — a not-insignificant play in the auto business. Still, the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Mazda3 — three compact sedans that buyers are more likely to cross-shop — all have more space for passengers.
But Hyundai is hoping to capitalize on significant gains in quality in recent years. The brand ranked fourth overall in the 2015 J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study, behind only Porsche, sister brand Kia and Jaguar.
"The new Elantra projects confidence with sculpted body forms complimented by smoothly contoured lines that reveal the underlying inspiration of Hyundai designers," Hyundai said in a statement. "Inspired by the concept of dynamic precision, Elantra’s architecture was a perfect platform for collaboration between Hyundai designers and engineers to blend advanced styling with functional aerodynamics."
The new Elantra's arrival comes as small cars are struggling despite a flourishing U.S. market for auto sales.
Although the vehicle's sales are up 10.9% through the first 10 months of 2015, compared to the same period in 2014, sales are flat compared to the same period in 2013.
Bolstered by more high-strength steel, the 2017 Elantra is stiffer and quieter, Hyundai said.
The standard powertrain is a 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine with up to 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque, mated with a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic. That model gets 38 miles per gallon on the highway and 28 mpg in the city for a combined rating of 33 mpg.
An optional 1.4-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine dubbed Elantra Eco is also available, paired with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission that collective delivers 128 horsepower, 156 pound-feet of torque and a fuel economy rating of 35 mpg.
The car will be assembled in Hyundai plants in Montgomery, Ala., and Ulsan, South Korea.