If you expect to drive something that is faster than everyone else, you get yourself a Corvette, or Porsche.
If you expect you will be carrying a bunch of stuff, you get a mini-van or pickup truck.
If you are looking to save money on gas, you get a hybrid or econobox …
But if you expect to be driving a sensible shoes, straightforward people-carrier, with luggage room and an affordable price tag, you gravitate towards the likes of the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, or Hyundai Elantra; vehicles that won’t break the bank, features decent creature comforts, and provides adequate if not scintillating performance. In other words, the family four-door sedan.
While not as popular as it once was and vying for popularity with compact sport utes, the sedan still represents a sizeable portion of the marketplace, with still plenty to choose from.
Take the 2020 Hyundai Elantra, for example. Competitively priced, very driveable, reasonably thrifty, comfortable, and surprisingly easy to get along with.
Offered in six different trim levels, the Elantra sedan is powered by a 2.0 litre four cylinder that develops 147 horsepower. This engine has the Atkinson valve design, which basically keeps the intake valve open a titch longer to get maximum combustion, and, in the process, optimum fuel economy. The downside is a loss of power and snap. Transmission is a CVT or, if you choose the base model, a six-speed manual gearbox.
Before I go any further, let me say that that is one of the most docile and well-behaved drivetrains I’ve encountered in quite a while. The engine, while not exactly a powerhouse, is unbelievably quiet and about as unobtrusive as one of these things can be. Absolutely top marks here.
While the transmission would not be my first choice, as far as CVTs go it’s remarkably useable and behaves itself under virtually all conditions. I may have to withdraw former criticisms about Hyundai’s CVT technology if this keeps up. Again, well done.
In fact, the whole car is a surprisingly well engineered piece of kit.
Let me be clear, though. This is not a hot rod or pavement scorching tearabout by any stretch. It is a sensibly designed, practical five passenger sedan … the Toyota Corolla of Korean automobiles.
This extends to the driving experience. Slip behind the wheel and you’re greeted with sensible switchgear and ergonomics and, in the case of my Ultimate model, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, and the full array of Bluetooth, Sirius radio, back-up camera, side warning sensors, etc. Very driveable.
And quiet. During highway driving, NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness) is virtually nonexistent. This caught me by surprise. Normally in this corner of the market, where manufacturers pump these things out as fast as they can, you encounter road racket and tire howl shortcomings – Honda products come to mind – but not here. This car is as silent in operation as anything costing three times as much. I’ve been in louder Mercedes.
Trunk room, kind of important for typical economy sedan buyers, is adequate: 407 litre. By way of comparison, a VW Jetta has 444 litres, and a Corolla, 369 litres. I also noticed how spacious the back seat area is. Numbers are kind of misleading here … either you fit comfortably back there or you don’t … it’s all about configuration, and the Elantra is well thought out in terms of passenger capacity.
Fuel economy is set by Hyundai at 6.8 L/100 km, combined rating, for the CVT model. This is actually thriftier than the manual gearbox version, which is interesting.
In short, this is the best Elantra yet. Don’t expect anything that’s going to get the blood pumping or have you doing cartwheels in the parking lot, but Hyundai has smoothed out the rough edges and obviously put some thought into this one. Were I in the market for a car like this, I’d have to give it serious consideration when put up against the Civic or Corolla.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 2.0 litre four cylinder
Horsepower: 147 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 132 ft. lb. @ 4500 rpm
Base Price: $27,549
Fuel Economy: 7.8 L /100 km (city) & 5.6 L/100 km (hwy.) Regular gas
Some Alternatives: Mazda3, VW Jetta, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Kia Forte, Nissan Sentra, Chev Cruze.
Ted Laturnus writes for Troy Media’s Driver Seat Associate website. An automotive journalist since 1976, he has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist of the Year twice and is past-president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).