The compact car class is about as competitive a segment as any that is not called SUV. The 2023 Hyundai Elantra is one of the best options in the class if your first priority is value. At a base price just north of $20,000 and offering a 10-year/100k powertrain warranty, the value story begins here.
The Elantra comes in several trims ranging from the top-end sporty N to the base SE. My week-long tester was the middle-of-the-bunch Limited version. On the outside, the Elantra is a good-looking sedan that resembles a lot of compacts out there, while managing to do a few small things that give it some personality and distinction.
Hyundai has worthy competitors from Toyota, Honda, and possibly the most distinct challenger in Mazda, I think the South Korean manufacturer does deliver an amazing combination of reliability and drivability for the price with the Elantra.
The 2023 Hyundai Elantra is offered with three engine options: a 147-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder (SE, SEL, and Limited), a 201-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder (N Line) and a 276-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder (Elantra N).
My Limited featured the base 2.0-L engine, delivering 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, which I found to be quite adept at getting me around town with ease and plenty of capability to manage highway speeds if needed. A front-wheel-drive sedan, my biggest issue with the whole Elantra setup is being mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). These are great for fuel economy and not great if you’re looking for any kind of thrill.
Of course, the upside to the CVT is the 30 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, and 34 mpg combined ratings. For a car this size that’s not a hybrid, these are great numbers. I don’t want to ding the CVT too much, there are much less responsive pairings out there, which adds to Elantra’s value proposition.
Probably the first thing that jumps out when you get behind the wheel of the Elantra Limited is the big LCD digital gauge cluster and 10.25-inch touchscreen navigation system with satellite radio, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. It’s all integrated into the dashboard and center stack to make easy operation ideal for the driver and front-row passenger.
The entire cabin feels bigger than it really is and that helps offset some of the impact of lower-quality materials used throughout. This is a sedan that’s around $20k, so there has to be some give somewhere and for Elantra it’s the cabin.
Look for features like dual automatic climate control, heated, power-adjustable front seats with comfortable leather and decent support. Rear seating is a little less comfortable but easily accommodates three in back.
I was surprised by the standard eight-speaker Bose premium audio system offered in my Limited edition Elantra. The sound was dynamic and very impressive. Overall, this is a roomy cabin that offers value to the owner from front to rear. Maybe the other shocker is just how big the trunk feels. It easily handled two sets of golf clubs and overnight bags.
Safety features include emergency braking, lane keeping, lane centering, high beam assist, blind-spot avoidance, and rear-cross traffic alert. It also has a safe exit warning that alerts you when a vehicle approaches from behind so passengers are aware it may not be safe to open the door.
In addition to Smart Cruise Control, Highway Driving Assist is also available, which Hyundai says assists drivers in maintaining the center of the lane and at an appropriate speed while keeping a safe distance from the car in front.
I mentioned the 10-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty, which is a superior insurance policy that your Elantra won’t crap out anytime soon after leaving the showroom. Today, that’s enough for many to make it a first choice in the compact segment.
My Limited tester landed at $27,655, which is an extraordinary value when you consider the attractive exterior, roomy cabin, and great handling offered by this sedan. For me, there are few better compact sedans when it comes to a value comparison.
John Stein is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. He has more than 25 years of experience driving, testing, and writing about the automotive industry, its latest innovations, and vehicles.