- Good: Straightforward interior design, smooth transmission, long warranty.
- Bad: Unflattering design, under powered, Hyundai dealer network.
- DM Verdict: It doesn’t stand out enough to be our first, second, or third choice.
What you need to know: The 2020 Hyundai Elantra is a compact sedan. It’s closely related to the Elantra GT (its hatchback sister) and the Kia Forte. In base SE trim, it starts at $20,105 and gets 35 mpg combined with a 147-hp 2.0-liter inline-four engine and continuously variable automatic transmission. The top Limited trim (excluding the 201-hp Sport model) features eight-way power adjustable heated leather front seats, wireless charging, and premium audio. All models are covered by a 5-year or 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.
The Hyundai Elantra is the high-school student who had to work hard to earn her 3.7 GPA. She played two sports, was in national honor society, and always respected her teachers. However, despite her determination, she faded into the background. While the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic were competing for prom queen, the Elantra cheered from the bleachers and then went home to study. Sometimes, you just need that extra spark to stick out, and the Elantra has just never had it.
Hyundai tried to inject some pizzazz into the Elantra in 2019. Last year brought an updated exterior, LED headlights, new interior design, and extra features. The pre-update exterior was a bit bland, but it was unassuming and honest. The new model looks like it is getting desperate for attention with its sharp angles.
2018 Elantra vs. 2019 Elantra (Photos from Hyundai)
The Elantra does redeem itself on the inside. The layout is clean and straightforward: exactly how it should be in this class. If you want something more fun and esoteric, something more expensive like the Mini Cooper S Clubman might interest you. Upon plopping into the driver’s seat, all controls are intuitive. The center stack actually resembles the design language of Hyundai’s premium brand, Genesis. The gauge cluster is simple and bland, as is the infotainment. This isn’t to say bad, however, as the Civic and Corolla are overly styled and consequently overly complicated.
Piloting the Elantra is actually more entertaining than you might expect. The steering is satisfying, the 147-hp engine is responsive (despite being down on power compared to competitors), and the continuously variable transmission emulates a conventional automatic. The ride isn’t as refined as a Golf, and it doesn’t feel as spunky as a Civic, but you can have a little fun behind the wheel of the Elantra and still get decent fuel economy. Its 2844-pound curb weight helps with that.
Most shoppers in the market for an Elantra are diligently considering all of their options. Compared to its competitors, it’s hard to recommend the 2020 Elantra. The Volkswagen Golf is more practical, looks better, and has a more isolated cabin. The Honda Civic is faster, more interesting, and feels nicer inside. The Toyota Corolla is the smartest choice for reliability and resale value, and the new model is slightly less dreary to drive than before. Besides its stellar warranty (5 years or 60,000 miles bumper-to-bumper and 10 years or 100,000 powertrain), the Elantra doesn’t stand out in any way.
And so it goes for the Elantra. In order to win over entry-level shoppers, you have to stand out. Instead, the 2020 Hyundai Elantra continues to sit on the sidelines, watching the other compacts get swept off their feet. Maybe someday the Elantra will be the star of the show. But for 2020, its still the perennial bridesmaid.