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2017 Hyundai Elantra First Drive

Victoria, BC -- When you know where you’re from, you have a much better idea of where you want to go. Understanding your past is as important to your future as it can be detrimental. There are times, more often than not, that we get hung up on our pasts and what they’ve meant for us, and in turn they stunt out growth, our evolution. However, there are times we use our past experiences (good or bad), to move forward in a bright and new direction full of positivity.

Carmakers have no choice but to consider their pasts (good or bad) when they redesign a vehicle. Whether it’s about accepting something they’ve done terribly wrong in the past and must now correct or it’s more about changing a stereotype that’s lingered over the years.

Hyundai’s all about the latter. That’s the past they have to contend with when looking towards the future. Their cars have, unfortunately, never really been associated with high-end, “luxury” or quality. Instead, they’re seen as affordable, run-of-the-mill runarounds, built to get from point A to point B without doing much more.

Well, this time around, Hyundai’s stepped it up a notch. And with a vehicle in such a hotly debated segment (compact sedan), the 2017 Hyundai Elantra was the perfect vehicle to raise that bar. Hyundai’s targeted competitors like the giant Civic and dominating Mazda3, and is taking them head-on with some serious force.  

We all want refinement
Gone are the days when dash rattles and road noise are acceptable, even in lower price brackets. We, the consumers, want it all and we want it for little money. We seek 7 Series quiet on a MICRA budget. You get the idea. So, what Hyundai’s done, is just that: they’ve stepped up the luxury in the Hyundai Elantra while simultaneously keeping the price in the sweet spot.

How’d they do it? Well, Hyundai’s outfitted the 2017 Elantra with something they call a SUPERSTRUCTURE. Basically, the frame is now composed of 53% advanced high-strength steel (which is a 21% increase over the outgoing model). This results in a ride that’s stable, quiet, appropriately stiff, and is also confidence inspiring for the driver and passengers.

All that might sound like PR jargon, but I promise you it’s not. It’s the truth. After spending a day traversing winding, sloping, Vancouver Island roads in both the blazing sun and torrential rain, I can tell you that his brand new Hyundai Elantra is quieter, more stable, and is indeed confidence-inspiring.
Steering felt as if it were attached to a much more aggressively tuned vehicle, with sharp turn-in. And while there is a “sport” drive mode, the 2017 Hyundai Elantra is dynamic enough if left in regular mode.

I found the gears were held a bit too long in said “sport” mode, and a lack of paddle shifters made it a bit unpleasant at times. So, leave it in regular mode and enjoy the drive.

New engine, first for Hyundai
Of course, a dynamic drive is about more than drive modes and stronger body frames. Hyundai’s upped the ante with a brand new mill, as well. For the first time in a Hyundai product you’ll find a 2.0L Atkinson Cycle engine. Now, most will recognize the Atkinson name from manufacturers like Toyota who utilize the technology for fuel saving purposes. Hyundai’s essentially done the same thing, however, fuel numbers are not yet available as testing has not been completed. We were told though, that a good guesstimate would be roughly 7L/100km combined.

Performance numbers aren’t yet solidified either, but Hyundai estimates the 2017 Elantra’s 2.0L Atkinson puts out 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. Now, typically, Hyundai offers two engines per model, so this 2.0L Atkinson won’t be the only one available, however, at the moment it is. Hyundai wouldn’t say much more on the subject, but keep your fingers crossed for something sportier with a bit more gusto.

Blissfully, Hyundai slapped a brand new next-generation 6-speed automatic transmission in the 2017 Elantra instead of following the CVT trend. There’s even a 6-speed manual available in the base L trim (the only model that offers it).

The transmission is fluid and smooth, regardless of elevation changes and twisty forest-lined roads. As mentioned above, I only felt the 6-speed was a bit “off” when it was in “sport” mode, if only because the shifts really weren’t timed well.

Upscale look and interior space
How your car looks is almost as important as the outfit you choose for the day. Hyundai is well aware how important curb appeal is, and so the subtle yet necessary changes made to the Elantra are just what this compact (Hyundai and EPA rate it as a midsize) needed to elevate its on-road status.

For the first time, Hyundai’s offering features like LED daytime running lights, HID headlights with adaptive cornering system, hands-free proximity trunk, and door handle approach lights on their volume trim, something that might seem insignificant when written on paper, but when seen on the street it makes all the difference. Round the back, you’ll notice a family resemblance with the brand new Genesis in the LED taillights.

The front grille’s been opened up and made much sportier, as have the fog-light casings. And Hyundai’s kept its tradition in offering stylish wheels with available 17” models for the Elantra.

Bodylines and shape remain largely unchanged in the 2017 Hyundai Elantra, but that’s OK because the outgoing model had a great modern look. While it is wider and longer than the outgoing model, it’s only made the Elantra look more muscular. Even inside you’ll recognize a familiar layout and design. However, Hyundai’s stepped up the quality of materials as well as integrated a much more fluid and flowing dash design that harmonizes the dash with the door frames and makes for a much more encompassing interior space.

In terms of onboard tech, the 2017 Elantra now features Android Auto (no CarPlay just yet) as well as either a 7” or available 9” colour display that’s super easy to use and still one of my favourite HMIs on the market today.

As far as standard features are concerned, the Hyundai Elantra’s got some segment firsts in its standard heated front seats (and available rear heated seats), as well as a heated leather steering wheel and available integrated memory system for the driver seat and exterior mirrors.

New segment leader?
That’s a bold statement to make, I know, especially in such a competitive segment. But, could Hyundai have a winner here? Well, on paper: yes. And once you take it out on the road, those on-paper winning features come to life and prove their worth.

Hyundai’s properly updated the Elantra in just the right way to keep it both relevant and attractive to today’s car-buyer in that particular segment. With a starting price on par with the new Civic sedan at $15,999, the 2017 Hyundai Elantra comes out swinging, and swinging hard.

 

 

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2017 Hyundai Elantra