Second Place: 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited

The Elantra’s undergone a very subtle redesign, one that’s more evolutionary than revolutionary. Where the previous model boasted exaggerated swoops and lines, the new Elantra is a more refined interpretation of Hyundai’s “fluidic” design language. There’s a wider, more upright fascia, flanked by boomerang LED daytime running lights, and the arched roofline finishes in a tidy, rather European rear end.

The dramatically sculpted lines have been smoothed out, and if the result is a softening of character, it’s also an increase in aerodynamic efficiency.

While it’s undoubtedly prettier and more refined than the car it replaces, the Elantra’s lost the head-turning edginess that marked its ascension to the top of the segment. Hyundai sold nearly 48,000 Elantras in Canada last year, 242,000 in the U.S., and no doubt hope that its newfound maturity and larger dimension will broaden its customer base even more.

The trendy, youth-oriented cabin gives way to one that’s obviously inspired by the mid-size Sonata. Instead of swoops, curves, digital gauges and gimmicky sliders, there are now clean lines and simple switches. All Elantras are generously equipped with standard 7.0-inch touchscreen, heated front seats and – from mid-range GL upwards – have heated rear seats and steering wheel as well.

Our Limited model tester has leather upholstery, heated front seats and steering wheel, and eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat. At this trim level there’s an 8.0-inch touchscreen display with navigation and Android Auto – but no Apple CarPlay. There’s a lot of handy storage cubbies, and the 407 L trunk is about mid-pack for the segment – but less than the Civic’s.

Underhood is a new 2.0L four-cylinder engine that uses Atkinson cycle technology for better fuel efficiency. But its 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque fall far short of the 2.0L previously found in upper trim levels, which put out 173 hp and 154 lb-ft. Fuel consumption ratings are 8.3 L/100 km city and 6.4 L highway – which isn’t as good as the Civic, which also offers more power.

Mated to a six-speed automatic, the powertrain’s enough to satisfy most of the demands of a daily driver, but ask for any more and it groans in protest – particularly when in Sport mode. Drop it down to Eco, and it putts along nicely – if a bit lethargic in response.

Variable-assist steering is on the light side, with little feedback, but it does make for easy parking-lot manoeuvres.

But overall, the Elantra Limited’s extra sound absorption does an admirable job, and the result is a nice, quiet ride over even the roughest of pavement.

The basic platform is the same, but the chassis has been stiffened by 30 percent thanks to more structural adhesives and high-strength steel. The rear suspension has been repositioned, with re-tuned springs and dampers.

The previous model tended to get a little “busy” over rough pavement – the revised rear setup delivers more composed handling. Still, it’s not a car that compels the driver to drive “energetically” – the numb steering combined with the modest powertrain are better suited to relaxed cruising.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are plenty of drivers who prefer value and comfort over performance, and the new Elantra fulfills that role admirably Overall, it’s a nicely balanced little sedan that offers a lot of refinement for its segment.

Warranty:
5 years/100,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 5 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Pricing: 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited
Base Price: $26,249
Options: None
Destination: $1,695
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $28,044

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