When the redesigned fifth-generation Hyundai Elantra sedan arrived in 2011, its “fluidic sculpture” exterior styling and curvy interior design looked decidedly different from mainstream competitors like the Corolla, Civic, Sentra and Jetta. The Elantra’s short sculpted hood, bulging wraparound headlight covers, prominent front fender bulges, ascending side-panel creases and extra-long wraparound taillight covers were a fresh approach in a generally conservative class.

Canadians liked what they saw and Elantra sales skyrocketed. Last year, the Elantra was still the third-best-selling passenger car behind the Corolla and Civic.

Fast forward to the recently redesigned 2017 Elantra sedan and it’s obvious there’s been a U-turn in Hyundai’s design strategy. Instead of emphasizing bold styling and horsepower superiority, Hyundai switched its focus to more generic styling and better fuel economy along with increased cabin roominess, improved interior ergonomics, reduced cabin noise, and a more comfortable ride.

While still recognizable as an Elantra, the 2017 model has a horizontal profile with less-aggressive body creases and a fastback roofline that now extends all the way to the trunk lip (similar to the new Civic sedan) where there is a slightly upturned spoiler. A larger hexagonal grille opening with five slats is similar to other Hyundai models and echoes the big grille craze that started at Audi, Ford, Toyota, Mazda, etc.

Hyundai is probably betting that the Elantra sedan’s more conservative styling, like vanilla ice-cream, is going to appeal to a wider demographic. They might be right. So far this year, the Elantra is still number three in sales. However, that may include sales of the 2016 Elantra sedan and GT hatchback.

The 2017 Elantra sedan is slightly larger than the old one – externally, it’s about the same size as a Mazda3 sedan – and as before, it is classified as a “mid-size” car by the EPA (as are its key competitors, the Honda Civic sedan and Toyota Corolla.) Compared to the 2016 Elantra, the new model is 20 mm longer, 5 mm wider and 5 mm taller, but the wheelbase length hasn’t changed. Overall interior volume is actually down slightly (3,120 L vs 3,127 L), but the cabin is slightly larger (2,713 L vs 2,707 L) and the trunk is slightly smaller (407 L vs 420 L).

Trim levels have been simplified for the 2017 model year: L ($15,999), LE ($18,499), GL ($20,349), GLS ($22,699), Limited ($26,249) and a new Ultimate trim level ($28,799) at the top of the range. 2017 MSRPs are up by about $200 to $400, and Hyundai Canada is trying to get rid of remaining 2016 Elantra sedans by offering a generous $3,500 rebate on most trim levels.

All trim levels of the 2017 Elantra sedan receive a new 147 hp, 2.0L, Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine with multi-port injection that replaces both previously available engines – a 138 hp, 1.8L port-injection four-cylinder engine and a 173 hp, 2.0L, direct-injection engine. An Atkinson-cycle engine delays intake valve timing to improve fuel efficiency; in terms of horsepower, the 2017 Elantra runs behind the Honda Civic (158 hp) and Mazda3 (155 hp), but ahead of the Toyota Corolla (132). (The 128 hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine available in the U.S. is not offered in Canada.)

A second opinion: 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited Test Drive

As is the trend nowadays, a manual transmission is no longer available in most Elantra trim levels; only the base Elantra L is still available with a six-speed manual transmission and all the rest get a standard six-speed automatic transmission with manual sequential shift capability.

The 2017 Elantra’s new engine offers better fuel economy than the previous 2.0L engine but it’s not class-leading. According to the EPA, the new Elantra’s 2.0L Atkinson-cycle engine paired with the standard six-speed automatic transmission rates 7.4 L/100 km combined city/hwy while the old 2.0L engine provided 8.4 L/100 km combined (the 2016 Elantra’s 1.8L engine offered 7.4 L/100 km combined). Among its competitors, the Honda Civic sedan (2.0L, CVT) offers 6.7 L/100 km while the Mazda3 sedan (2.0L, six-speed auto) offers 6.9 L/100 km combined.

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