Hyundai’s Elantra was originally launched back in October of 1990, and was powered by a Mitsubishi-designed 1.6-liter straight-four engine that produces 113 horsepower. In 1992, it was refreshed and added Hyundai’s current logo to the grille. But, that was only for the European market. North American models were stuck with the previous year’s look until 1993, which is when we got to see its second facelift and the current Hyundai logo on the model.
When it comes to the best versions of a used Hyundai Elantra, anything from 2011 to 2015 is a good choice. That’s the 5th generation, and it’s second only to the sixth generation when it comes to technology, safety, and performance, especially if you pony-up and decide to buy model from either 2014 or 2015.
While those model years might prove more expensive, you will have the opportunity to enjoy modern features that are found on the 2016 and 2017 versions. For some, this is key. Simply because features and performance upgrade so quickly year-after-year in the sedan segment, meaning you might not have the latest and greatest that Hyundai offers if you buy one from the start of this generation, let alone one from before 2011. Then again, that doesn’t bother some people. For most consumers, price is the main factor. Since it’s an economy sedan, finding a used version priced well within your budget is a cinch.
Since the Elantra was released and revised numerous times throughout the years, it has been associated with upscale quality for its price point. That fact holds true with the start of the fifth generation.
The first thing most buyers notice about the 2011 Elantra (whether they’re buying it new or used) is the exceptional amount of quality you’re getting for the price point. Especially on the inside, where it looks and feels like a high-end luxury sedan, when, in reality, it’s a perfectly affordable economy car. Well-textured panels, plush cloth and leather seating, and a solidly assembled cabin with no rattling, all add to this sense of luxury, along with the Elantra’s well-sculpted dashboard. There are a few plastic and wobbly buttons, but they don’t really take away from the aesthetics of the cabin.
And the best part is, it’s quiet. Even on the highway, wind, road noise, and rattling are obsolete. If you go over rough spots in the road, you’ll barely even feel it. Furthermore, the Elantra does an exceptional job of gripping corners when going around tight turns, thanks to its somewhat sporty and reliable handling.
In 2012, an Active Eco System arrived on the scene. This Active Eco System modifies engine and transmission parameters with the push of a button. Then, it will increase the fuel economy by 7%, which is pretty good, considering it gets 28 mpg city and 38 mpg standard with its 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. That engine produces 148 horsepower and 131 lb.-ft. of torque though, so you won’t be tearing around corners with the Elantra. However, you will get a confident and fuel-efficient ride, and that’s what really matters when it comes to this segment of vehicle. It’s also important to note that California ended up getting a partial zero-emissions (PZEV) version of the Elantra. While it didn’t help fuel economy, it certainly reduced the power output – dropping the horsepower down to 145 and the torque to 130 lb.-ft.
Make sure you don’t end up buying a used 2012 Elantra that was originally shipped and sold in California new, lest you end up with a weaker engine that gets the same fuel-efficiency as the unaltered one.
For 2013, the Hyundai Elantra remains unchanged. So, let’s go over the safety up until this point.
Traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, active front head restraints, side curtain airbags, front seat side-impact airbags all come standard. This safety suite helped the Elantra earn a perfect five stars in overall crash protection, four stars for overall frontal impact protection, and five stars for overall side impact protection. The IIHS gave it top ratings of “Good” for its performance in its frontal-offset, side-impact, and roof-strength tests. All told, the Hyundai Elantra proves just as safe as the other compact economy sedans on the market.
Numerous changes were made in 2014, including minor aesthetic modifications on the outside and inside. More importantly, a new Sport trim has been introduced with a more powerful engine. Finally, the infotainment features have been updated, and engine noise has been reduced, thanks to some effort on Hyundai’s part.
While the 1.8-liter saunters over unchanged from the start of this generation, the 2014 Hyundai Elantra Sport has an all-new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. This engine produces 173 horsepower and 154 lb.-ft. of torque, and comes paired to a manual transmission standard. An automatic transmission is optional. As far as fuel-efficiency goes, it gets 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway when the automatic transmission is equipped – one mpg less when the manual remains.
Unsurprising, this is slightly less than the 1.8-liter engine’s 28 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. But, that’s because the horsepower and torque is bumped up quite a bit. With the standard engine (1.8-liter) still retaining the same 145 horsepower and 130 lb.-ft. of torque.
If you’re looking for a Elantra that provides more speed than fuel-efficiency, grab one from 2014 if you don’t mind paying a little extra.
Since a new trim was just added last year, along with a few aesthetic enhancements, the Elantra carries over unchanged into 2015.
Naturally, it still retains all the same strengths as the 2014 model. Of course, this is typical of a vehicle when its generation has come to a close. The Elantra did not receive any other major changes ahead of the 2016 model year.
Therefore, save yourself some money and buy a 2014 model with lower miles. You’ll get more bang-for-your-buck, rather than purchasing one from 2015.