Car of the Year Car Reviews

Hyundai Elantra: 2019 Motor Trend Car of the Year Contender

Equal parts ordinary and good enough

Equal parts ordinary and good enough

WE LIKE Precise steering, excellent lane centering

WE DON’T LIKE Jack-o-lantern face, powertrain vibes

The Hyundai Group has made astonishing progress in the past decade-plus. Once backhandedly dubbed “cheap and cheerful,” its economy cars like this Elantra are cross-shopped against benchmarks such as the Civic and Corolla on their essential merits—not because they offer more stuff and crazy warranty coverage for way less money.

Hyundai is also differentiating its platform-sharing products better, as Christian Seabaugh noted when comparing the Elantra to its Kia cousin: “The Forte’s steering felt heavy and vague, but I found the Elantra’s light and fairly accurate.” Hyundai also wins on the transmission front for sticking with a six-speed while Kia awkwardly learns to program its first CVT.

Of course, just as better differentiation gives, it also taketh away, and many judges agreed the Forte looks better inside and out. The Elantra’s interior, though well laid out, uses materials that are shiny and hard. But the roomy rear seat drew praise.

When considering the Elantra against the benchmarks, its performance and powertrain refinement come up short. At 9.0 seconds to 60 mph, our Elantra is 0.4 to 1.2 seconds slower than the price-competitive 2.0-liter Civic and Mazda3 sedans we’ve tested while roughly matching the Mazda’s fuel economy and surrendering an mpg or two to Honda. Hyundai’s Atkinson-cycle Nu engine also spins with a coarser grain than the Honda and Mazda engines. Then again, Hyundai has the confidence to let you set the cruise control up to 110 mph.

During the group critique, Jonny Lieberman summed it up: “What’s Korean for ‘average?’ Because this car is middle-of-the-road in every way. Equal parts ordinary and good enough. Not a bad car but one I doubt I’ll ever think about again.”


2019 Hyundai Elantra Limited
Base Price/As tested $23,485/$26,960
Power (SAE net) 147 hp @ 6,200 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 132 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Accel, 0-60 mph 9.0 sec
Quarter-mile 16.8 sec @ 84.5 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 125 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.83 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 27.7 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb 28/37/32 mpg
Vehicle Layout Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
Engine/Transmission 2.0L Atkinson-cycle DOHC 16-valve I-4/6-speed automatic
Curb Weight (F/R Dist) 2,969 lb (61/39%)
Wheelbase 106.3 in
Length x Width x Height 181.9 x 70.9 x 56.5 in
Energy Cons, City/Hwy 120/91 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 Emissions, Comb 0.62 lb/mile