The 2018 Hyundai Elantra, redesigned just last year, has shed much of the previous model's swoopy lines for a more restrained, mature look. The redesign also came with more passenger space and a trio of new engines – two that offer better fuel economy and a third that, paired with a firmer, more sophisticated suspension, nudges it closer to sport compact territory.

Best Value

Prices for the 2018 Hyundai Elantra start at $17,835 for the base SE equipped with a six-speed manual transmission and top out at $27,335 for the Limited trim equipped with the Ultimate Package. In between, the SEL and Value Edition represent volume examples, the Eco is a perfectly happy fuel sipper, and the Sport does a good impression of a hot small car.

But it's the Limited model – minus the Ultimate Package – that offers the best value. Owners can enjoy HID headlights, leather seats, a seven-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, blind-spot monitoring, a rearview camera, and push-button start as standard equipment.

  • Model: 2018 Hyundai Elantra Limited
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder
  • Output: 147 hp / 137 lb-ft
  • Transmission:Six-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • MPG: 28 City / 37 Highway
  • Options: Carpeted floor mats ($125)
  • Base Price: $22,985 (including an $885 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $23,110

Performance

Hyundai Elantra

The Elantra sedan is offered with three engines, while the Elantra GT makes do with two. Base versions of both body styles feature a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 147 horsepower and 137 pound-feet of torque in the sedan, and 162 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque in the GT mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.

In Sport trim, both models share a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that generates 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, bringing some much-needed performance to the lineup. It can be matched to either a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic or – our pick – a six-speed manual.

Our tester was the Eco model, which is equipped with the third engine: a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder that develops 128 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque. Paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, the Eco is even fun to drive once things get going – in this case, merging into traffic and passing at highway speeds is no problem.

Most Elantra sedans score an EPA-estimated 28 miles per gallon in the city, 37 mpg on the highway, and 32 combined. The Eco model stretches those numbers out to an EPA-estimated 32 mpg in the city, 40 on the highway, and 35 combined. Our own observed fuel economy was a vehicle-measured 32 mpg in spirited driving that, for the most part, was spent in around-town driving.

The good news here is that a smooth, controlled ride and composed handling are the name of the game across the lineup with either suspension – most models use a MacPherson front, torsion beam rear, while Sport models feature an independent rear suspension. Around town, the ride is quiet and the suspension does a nice job of isolating most road imperfections, while the brakes offer a decent amount of feedback.

But all is not perfect as there's not much of initial bite to the brake pads, there's very little feedback through the steering wheel, and those who have driven the Elantra Sport note that there's a wooden feel to the brake pedal with little feedback, and noticeable fade during hard stops.

At the same time, both the six-speed automatic and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic are calibrated for fuel efficiency rather than performance. The seven-speed, in particular, features wide gaps between the first three gears, underlining the Eco model's lack of power especially at the low end, while the base 2.0-liter engine in the sedan is only adequate when compared to the competition.

Style

Not as daring as it once was, the latest Elantra's shapely design is still a standout in its class. The sedan's grille is lower and wider than before, giving it a more substantial presence, while a more chiseled upper character line and more deeply sculpted lower swage line blend nicely with the fenders and roofline.

The smart exterior is wrapped around a cabin that can boast of 95.8 cubic feet of passenger space, and a trunk that measures 14.4 cubic feet, pushing the Elantra into the EPA's mid-size class. Although more sedately styled, the more versatile hatchback one-ups the sedan with 96.5 cubic feet of passenger space, and a cargo area measuring 24.9 cubes.

Like the larger Sonata, the controls and touchscreen are canted slightly toward the driver for better ergonomics. The front seats are comfortable and nicely bolstered, with Sport models getting deeper buckets covered in grippier cloth (or optional leather). There's ample head and knee room in back with the sedan's lower rear seats and additional inch of leg room accommodating six-footers in comfort, and the optional gesture-controlled automatic trunk makes loading easier when your hands are full.

At the same time, not all trim levels are equally quiet. You have to opt for the most expensive Limited model to get the best sound insulation tweaks. In addition, the Elantra sedan's interior seems to have taken a step backward from a design standpoint and also lacks the same fit and finish and material quality as the hatchback GT model, while rear seat occupants don't share the same comfortable seat cushions found up front.

The Best and Worst Things

The still small-on-the-outside Elantra now boasts a total interior volume of 111 cubic feet, moving it up to the EPA's mid-size class.

At the same time, the Elantra sedan's interior – once an image leader in the compact class – is more restrained and suffers from a number of cheap-looking material choices.

Right For? Wrong For?

Hyundai Elantra

A smooth ride, slick-looking exterior, plenty of interior room, and a model for nearly every pocketbook make the latest Elantra a good choice for singles.

The Elantra's best effort, the Sport model, is a step in the right direction, but it still can't touch class leaders like the Volkswagen GTI, Focus ST, or even the Mazda3. Enthusiasts should look elsewhere.

The Bottom Line

Despite only middling performance from the base engine, the 2018 Hyundai Elantra is a solid offering in the compact class thanks to a smooth ride and quiet interior.