The Elantra sedan is offered with three engines, based on trim level. SE, SEL, Value Edition, and the Limited models come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 147 horsepower and 137 pound-feet of torque. On SE models, a six-speed manual transmission is standard; a six-speed automatic is optional on the SE, and standard on the other trims. Stepping up to the Eco brings with it a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 128 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque matched with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Rounding out the lineup is the Sport trim that matches a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine generating 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque with either a model-specific seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, or – our pick – a six-speed manual.
Elantra sedans with the 2.0-liter engine and six-speed manual score an EPA-estimated 26 miles per gallon in the city, 36 mpg on the highway, and 29 combined, while those with an automatic do a bit better at 28/37/32 mpg (city/highway/combined). The Eco model ups those numbers to 32/40/35 mpg, while the Sport trim manages 22/30/25 mpg with the manual or 26/33/29 mpg with the automatic.
Most models use a MacPherson front, torsion beam rear, suspension, while the Sport substitutes an independent setup in back. Both offer a smooth, controlled ride and composed handling. Around town, the ride is serene, with the suspension doing a nice job of isolating most road imperfections, and the brakes offering a decent amount of feedback through the pedal.
At the same time, despite their solid feel, there's not much of initial bite to the brake pads, and, in particular, a wooden pedal feel and noticeable fade during hard stops on Sport models. And although it's weighted nicely, there's very little communication between what's going on under the chassis, and the steering wheel.
Finally, while the six-speed manual is enjoyable, both automatics – the conventional six-speed and dual-clutch seven-speed – have been calibrated for fuel efficiency over performance. The seven-speed, in particular, features wide gaps between the first three gears, which only serves to emphasize the Eco model's lack of power, especially at the low end, while the base 2.0-liter engine is only adequate compared to rivals.