Monday, January 16, 2017

Hyundai Elantra Eco: Good mileage and an upscale feel

WASHINGTON — Hyundai’s compact sedan, the Elantra, has been redone for 2017.

I was impressed last year after I spent a week with the top-of-the-line Limited trim level, which carried a more luxurious list of features and options than many compact sedans. The Eco trim level is all about better fuel economy at a reasonable price.
The way Hyundai approaches better fuel economy is to go with a smaller turbocharged engine. Usually, going to a smaller engine means a big loss in power. Luckily, that isn’t the case here.
There might be fewer ponies under the hood, but the Elantra Eco seems faster and more refined than the larger, coarser engine in other Elantras. The Eco is more alive; it’s a little peppy around town and has no problem keeping up with traffic.
The transmission is also different when you choose the Eco trim level. The regular automatic is changed to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. It usually behaves like an automatic, but feels like a manual when starting from a stop sometimes; it takes a few minutes to get used to it.

The ride is pretty quiet for a compact sedan, and the small 15-inch wheels and tires with large side walls provide a very nice cushioned ride. After a week of driving, I managed 34.4 mpg with a healthy dose of city driving and, in mixed-driving conditions, just a bit under the sticker’s 35 mpg.
When you choose the Elantra Eco, it means you lose the leather seats from the Limited model I drove last year, but the cloth seats are still pretty solid and a step up from the previous generations’ materials. You still get a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and the front seats are also heated. The other materials seem to be an upgrade for 2017. There still is a good amount of hard plastic, but with a better finished look.
Rear seat space is good for the class as well, with space for adults. Trunk space is a bit smaller than some of the competition.
Rest assured that with its lower price — around $21,500 — it’s not a stripped economy-minded compact. A large seven-inch touch screen and six-speaker sound system are nice touches. There’s no built-in NAV, but both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are supported, so you can use your phone for NAV when needed. There is even a rear-vision camera and blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert — a pleasant surprise at this price.
The exterior has changed for 2017; it now looks like a smaller Sonata sedan, with the same sort of front-end styling. That large grill lives boldly up front, and it’s really rather large. There are interesting LED running lights for daytime driving under the regular headlights; it seems to be a signature feature for the new Hyundai models.
Those wheels are pretty small, and they look a bit odd on a modern car, but that’s the sacrifice for better fuel economy, I guess. The side view is rather sleek-looking, with a higher trunk line meeting a sloping roofline. I also like the blacked-out trim around the windows. It’s a nice touch with the scarlet red paint.
After a week with the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco, I came away impressed with the value for the money on this compact sedan. It comes off as a more expensive-looking car than the sub-$22,000 price tag.
With handsome looks and a lot of features, road warriors can have a value-packed machine with a long 10-year powertrain warranty for extra peace of mind.

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