2023 Hyundai Elantra Review

2023 Hyundai Elantra - Elantra perks up sedan body style


Hyundai’s popular Elantra combines an attractive entry price point with solid fuel economy numbers and sharp exterior looks while still boasting a four-door structure.  This still-standing sedan remains a go-to option in a compact segment smitten with five-door crossovers. While the largest domestic automakers have somewhat shamelessly retired the once-proud sedan be it compact, mid-size or full-sized, European and Asian counterparts carry forward their elegance and appeal during the foreseeable future. 

South Korea’s largest automaker sold a hefty 117,177 Elantras throughout the U.S. in the 2022 calendar year down slightly from the previous 12 months, but still ranking as the company’s third-best-selling vehicle behind only the compact Tucson and mid-size Santa Fe, both five-door crossovers.  All vehicles factored, Hyundai generated U.S. sales of 724,265 units, down about two percent from the 2021 calendar year.  

Elantra 2023 updates remain minimal from 2022 save for option group tweaks within the mid-grade SEL trim. Our 2023 tester is part of a well-executed seventh-generation effort debuting in 2021.  The first-generation Elantra jumped aboard back in the 1991 model year with an overall length of 175 inches.  This Gen-Seven now measures in with a generous 184 inches.

The front-wheel drive Elantra makes its case for a smart pick among young families or singles looking for a price-sensitive transport. Even base trims come nicely packed with a decent array of standard fare and safety technology.  Plus, Hyundai’s best-in-the-business powertrain warranty adds peace of mind; a feat competitors choose not to match. 

The naturally aspirated (non-turbocharged) inline, 2.4-liter four-cylinder’s 147 horses is serviceable for an entry-type compact (and up from the first generation’s 113 ponies). This mates to a “Smartstream Intelligent Variable Transmission.” Never heard of a Smartstream transmission?  It’s Hyundai’s tweaked CVT (continuously variable transmission), a transmission supplanting six or seven forward planetary gears, with gear ratios.

Smartstream (or CVT) prioritizes smooth over sporty while working to extend fuel economy.  Highway miles per gallon estimates impressively touch 40 and the 12.4-gallon fuel tank happily accepts regular, 87-octane fuel. This combo is not designed for high-tempo street rod burnouts, but it gets folks competently to and from the neighborhood Jewel food store while adequate during merges onto Interstate 355.  Those needing more thrills willing to depart with a few extra bucks have an opportunity to do so. 

Returning conventional trims include SE, SEL and Limited. For those seeking distinctions within the Elantra family, the Elantra N Line supports a 1.6-liter, turbocharged, inline four engine spitting out 201 horses and joined by other high-octane additives although the six-speed manual transmission gets dropped in 2023 but the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic remains.  Think of N line as a special-order or top trim of the lineup. 

The ‘N’ in N Line references Namyang, a South Korean research center where extreme testing happens. N-Line upgrades are also found within the mid-size Sonata sedan and in the 2023 model year, the compact Tuscan crossover. 

Adding more intrigue (and confusion), Elantra also offers a ‘N’ model.  Not to be confused with the ‘N line,’ the Elantra ‘N’ is a racetrack ready version with unique factory-installed items such as durable tires, six-speed manual transmission, two addition drive modes, 14-inch brake rotors and a turbo-charged four-cylinder cranking out 275 horses. It’s one of two Hyundai N models in 2023, the other being the Kona N.

The compact Elantra began offering its first gas-electric hybrid (also known as a hybrid electric vehicle, or HEV, the self-charging type never in need of a nightly plug-in) in 2021 reaching 50 miles per gallon in combined city/highway estimates offering two trim levels: Blue and Limited.

A relatively well-equipped SE trim starts at an enticing $20,650 with scant few factory options offered and a smattering of available dealer add-ons.  The mid-level SEL includes an available option package (a $1,900 convenience package) while our Limited tester included the SEL’s convenience package while adding a sunroof, dark chrome exterior accents, Bose premium 8-speaker stereo and leather-trimmed seats. It’s the click to pick when ordering a conventional Elantra with all the trimmings. Our milky grey exterior Limited tester started at $26,500 and with $1,115 destination charge, ended at $27,615.

Inside, Elantra shines with comfortable interior layout that welcomes rather than overwhelms.  One handy item of note is a molded tri-angular grab handle/bar connecting up with the dashboard and sloping down at a 45-degree angle to the diminutive center arm rest/storage bin; its visually pleasing while serving a practical function and parallels dual inline cup holders and the Smartstream mechanical shifter between front bucket seats which slides predictably within a vertical groove with prnd selections.

The electronic start/stop push button resides on a lip of the dashboard with minimal interference from the steering wheel/column. To the right, a push-button/dial controlling the audio-system’s on/off function and volume (no tuner dial is available).  Four push pads flank the volume dial on each side interacting with the center touch screen.  Trunk and gas door release levers continue locating on the floor left of the driver’s bucket.

The all-digital instrument panel includes two prominent round orbs at each end (tachometer left, speedometer right).  The screen invites ‘angry red’ nuances when selecting sport mode via a button right of the transmission shifter. It’s one of three choices along with Normal and Smart.  The IP black screen morphs effortless into the multi-function flat touch screen to its right that gentle skewed towards the driver. Screen size reaches 10.3-inches with Limited trims, eight-inch in lower trims. 

Below the screens narrow air vents blend into the dashboard in horizontal fashion within two-inch-high molding stretching from side door to side door and through the multi-spoke steering wheel. A thin blue pen-light accent along the bottom adds a warm glow at night.

Below the molding reside HVAC controls.  Two large dials controlling dual front temperature settings flank a digital screen.  Two rows of buttons below summon fan speed, defrosters and fan direction. A cove under these rows house USB ports for supporting/charging Apple Car Plan and Android Smartphone interplay within the multi-function touch screen. Up-level Limited’s include a wireless charging pad.

The Limited’s dash included Ecru and black contrasts along with brushed aluminum vent highlights while the doors added patches of denim texture. It’s attractive while working within the confines of sub-luxury materials.

The second row can handle three adult riders thanks to a couple of inches of extra leg room added into the seventh-generation redesign and relatively low vertical floor hump. Seatbacks within Limited trims fold flat onto seat cushions with a 70/30 split, helping increase cargo-carrying options with remote release latches found in the trunk, as has been the case with several previous generations.  At 14.2 cubic feet of space, trunk volume measures in at or slightly above segment expectations. 

Crisp exterior styling continues forward.  Hyundai’s circular logo rests above the grille near the hood, allowing for a prominent black waterfall center grille design.  The long rear window joins up with diminutive trunk lid, which tucks back under at the end.  Rear side windows feature black molding tucked into corners towards the C-pillar.  This contributes to Elantra’s coupe-like stance, while adorning four gently creased side doors with strap-like door openers and lowish side character line.

Thin red horizontal LED neon tail lighting cinches across the trunk with T-bar ends readily visible at night.

Hyundai generates miles of positive press from its 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty coverage, the industries longest. As an added perk, Hyundai offers basic maintenance coverage that once was privy to high-end automakers. Hyundai’s three-year/36,000-mile ‘Complimentary Maintenance’ covers periodic oil/filter changes and tire rotation (among other basic nuances).

Price as tested:  $27,615
Engine: 2.0-liter, inline four-cylinder
Horsepower: 147
Wheelbase: 107.1 inches
Overall Length: 184.1 inches
Overall Height: 55.7 inches
Overall Width: 71.9 inches
Curb weight: 2,868 pounds
Powertrain warranty: 10 years/100,000 miles
Fuel economy: 30 mpg City/40 mpg Highway
Assembly: Ulsan, South Korea

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.