With a plethora of segment-first features and all-new looks, the redesigned Hyundai Elantra hit the road four years ago – and already an all-new generation for model year 2021 is set to hit showrooms at the end of the year.
With key competitors including the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Ford Focus, and Chevrolet Cruze, the Elantra was focused on giving shoppers more of what they expected: an easy-driving package with approachable tech, and no shortage of feature content for the dollar.
Depending on the model and trim selected, shoppers can look for blind-spot monitoring, a heated steering wheel, keyless entry with push-button start, Hyundai’s hands-free trunk release system, and an upgraded audio system. Elsewhere, it’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, an upgraded lighting system, and automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning.
Look for a 2.0L four-cylinder engine with 147 hp. All units were front-wheel drive, and both manual and automatic transmissions were available.
What Owners Like
Owners report a comfortable and durable driving feel, solid ride quality on even rougher roads, good feature content for the dollar, and an upscale look and feel to the interior and driving environment. The touchscreen infotainment system is highly rated for effectiveness and ease of use.
What Owners Dislike
Some owners wish for a quieter drive in some situations, and others wish for a smoother and more refined sensation from the powertrain when working it hard.
Pro Tip: Small Segment, Colourful Characters
Cross-shopping this segment? Your writer’s test drive notes suggest that you might find a comparable Mazda3 to offer a more premium-looking cabin, the Civic to offer a sportier drive, and the Corolla to offer among the best lighting systems in the segment.
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The Test Drive
Cooling System and Thermostat
A healthy cooling system helps keep your new-to-you Elantra’s engine running properly while ensuring adequate performance from the heater and defroster in colder months. Some owners have reported cooling system problems, and in particular, issues with bad thermostats. If the thermostat on your used Elantra is acting up, it may take the engine a long time to get warm, or you may notice erratic engine temperature readouts on the gauge. Some owners have had thermostats replaced under warranty or recall.
Climate Control Check
On your test drive, confirm that you’re able to get the heater pumping warm air into the cabin, and that the engine temperature gauge isn’t behaving erratically. If you notice any problems, have a professional check it out. A bad thermostat may prevent the heater from working properly, though other causes are possible. Confirm proper operation of the air conditioner as well, blasting it to full cold at maximum fan speed while the vehicle is running but parked, and ensuring that a consistent supply of cold air arrives quickly. If not, have the vehicle checked out professionally before you buy. Note that a clogged cabin air filter is a common cause of performance issues from vehicle climate control systems. Here’s some more reading on slow-to-warm Hyundai Elantra heaters.
Some owners have reported a groaning or creaking sound in certain driving conditions – particularly when driving over uneven surfaces or making tighter, low-speed turns. Some owners describe a “crunching” sound as well, and many figure it’s indicative of a problem with the Elantra’s suspension. The sounds may be more prevalent during right turns. Bad motor mounts might be to blame. On your test drive, be sure to listen carefully while making a series of slow and tight turns, ideally over uneven surfaces. If you hear any unwelcome sounds, plan to have the vehicle checked by a professional before you buy. Here’s some more reading.
Some owners have reported problems with condensation building up within their headlights, which may negatively affect the performance of the lighting system, damage electrical components, and lead to other problems including discoloration of the headlight housings. Check the headlight housings of the Elantra you’re considering carefully for signs of discoloration, water droplets, standing water, or a haze or steam built up within. Generally, a small amount of moisture is considered normal if it burns away after a few minutes of headlight operation. For maximum peace of mind, avoid purchasing a used Elantra that shows signs of excessive condensation within the headlight housings.
Approach any used Elantra you’re considering assuming that it needs new brake pads and rotors, tires, engine air filter, an alignment, and a new battery until you have proof to the contrary. Making assumptions like these can save you money and headaches, and prevent you from buying a used Elantra that’s in need of potentially pricey repairs or replacement parts. Seek professional assistance in determining the health of the vehicle before you buy if you’re not sure how.
The Elantra was loved by many owners for its feature content and upscale driving feel – and so far, most commonly reported issues seem far from dire, and should be easy to detect by an attentive test-driver or professional, during a pre-purchase inspection (PPI).
NHTSA: 4/5 stars (2018)
IIHS: Top Safety Pick +
Here’s a list of recalls.