Composed, comfortable Elantra is keeping the pace

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The Elantra is one of the pillars of Hyundai and is now in its sixth generation. I spent some time in a 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited, which cemented my view of this compact sedan as a consideration in the segment.

Visually, Elantra does not make a bold styling statement. Up front, Elantra features a trapezoidal grille, a Corolla-meets-Fusion look. The utility-knife look LED headlights frame the face, while along the sides, the body lines are less sculpted. Attractive alloy wheels finish off the design. It’s a clean look, but harder to pick out in a parking lot.

A plunging hood conceals a decent sized 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but it’s really down on the ponies and torque. My test car came with a six-speed automatic with Shiftronic (meaning three drive modes: normal, sport and eco).

This car is all about passenger comfort and fuel economy — performance comes in a distant third. I did try to mine some entertainment from the drivetrain. To do this, I started out in low and power-shifted into drive, getting the revs up. Use your ears and the tach to shift, and you’ll get a little performance vibe. The 2.0-liter is rev-happy, and it does whine a little when pressed in this manner. I constantly had my foot to the floor to pull some acceleration out; 30 or more horses are sorely needed. Yes, the six-speed has a sport mode, but its difference from normal isn’t huge.

The no-nonsense interior theme is contemporary, and with leather seating, it’s nice. Easy-to-read gauges, intuitive control placement and an influx of tech are just enough to keep this car up with the leaders. Available all-new dynamic bending light and smart cruise control technology, standard iPhone/USB and auxiliary input jacks and SiriusXM satellite radio provide for your entertainment. The top center of the dash features a 4.2-inch LCD display for the audio and navigation systems. Material components are soft-sided metal trim and hard, grained plastic.

Comfort improves this year due to an inch more length and width. Traditionally a compact, Elantra technically squeaks into the EPA’s mid-size classification. Front-seat comfort/space is good, as the buckets are nicely bolstered and supportive. I can’t say the same for the flat, thinly padded folding rear seats, but they allow access to the 14.4 cubic foot trunk. Elantra Limited models are quieter, as more insulation and thicker glass cut interior noise.

The front-wheel-drive Elantra is not a performance machine, and it’s no match for segment leaders Focus and Mazda 3. Suspension layout consists of a simple strut front and beam rear suspension riding on standard 17-inch P225/45-R17 tires and alloys. The ride is very compliant and composed, and the work Hyundai’s engineers have done to stiffen the body pays dividends. Steering has improved and tracks better, and in sport mode, there’s more feel and quicker response.