We are living in the age of cynicism, when everyone seems jaded, as if nothing surprises us anymore. So, when something does deliver more than you’d expect, it’s a genuine delight. Such is the case with 2023 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid Limited compact sedan, starting price, $24,400 — or about half of the typical cost of a new vehicle.
Yet despite its size, it offers as much interior space as a midsize Toyota Camry. Better yet, it’s available in a number of personalities, powered by conventional, high performance or hybrid drivelines. But it’s the hybrid electric model that proves perfect, with a combination of performance and fuel efficiency at a price mere mortals can afford, whether choosing the Blue or upscale Limited trim level.
Either way, you’ll find the Elantra Hybrid wears the same handsomely chiseled lines that characterize its conventionally powered siblings. Its side sculpting accentuates the sloping rear backlight, lending a sense of motion that endows this little sedan with a sporty flair. It’s far from the bland designs that typify this segment.
Inside, you’ll find that the cabin is fitted with the hard plastic of the class, but untypically, it’s nicely textured, with detailing that’s unexpectedly attractive. Opting for the Limited trim brings with it an indulgent heap of comfort and convenience features, including a small sunroof, leather trim, heated and ventilated front seats wireless device charging, ambient lighting and dual automatic climate control. OK, it doesn’t have a heated steering wheel, but it does have most of the luxury accouterments of a far more expensive automobile — and that’s unexpected.
The instrument panel layout has a horizontal orientation thanks to a sizable digital display consisting of the infotainment system and instrument cluster. Thoughtfully, there are physical shortcut buttons for the screen’s many functions, and while simple to use, they are very slow to respond. But the tech package is good, as it comes with front USB ports, wireless device charging, navigation, XM Sirius Satellite radio, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay.
As is typical of compact four-doors, the driving position is low, but legroom both the front and back are generous considering the size of the car. The trunk is a spacious 14.2 cubic feet, although it lacks any grocery bags hooks or cargo net. That’s unexpected as well, but not in a good way.
Things get better once it’s time to move.
The Elantra Hybrid mates its 104-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder to an electric motor that together produce 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque through a responsive eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. That’s less than the 147 horsepower generated by the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine used in conventionally powered Elantras. But those models come with a continuously variable automatic transmission and a less-sophisticated torsion beam rear suspension. Hybrids benefit from a more sophisticated independent rear suspension, a good reason to opt for the hybrid.
Another reason is its sprightly acceleration. It’s clearly one of the quicker mainstream compacts, especially once up to speed. The dual clutch transmission shifts swiftly and discreetly, making for a better driving experience compared to the CVT tranny used in other trims. Given its mainstream mission, its light steering comes as no surprise, but it feels too loose and slow at low speeds. Body lean is controlled at low speeds but becomes noticeably more pronounced when pushed hard. Yes, road noise is evident, but it’s not objectionable. Bump absorption is reasonable but not as good as that of some competitors. Even so, overall, the Elantra has an ambiance of sophistication above its station.
But the hybrid weighs more than its conventionally powered siblings, and produces fewer ponies. Thus, it’s slower off the line, but it proves to be very responsive at speed. Hyundai has yet to imbue its hybrids with the sportiness it’s capable of engineering. But this one returned an excellent 50 mpg. Certainly, stretching your fuel budget is this car’s exceptional trait, one of many.
The driving experience remains fairly middle of the road, without the crisp athleticism of the sporty Hyundai Elantra N. Yet it remains an enjoyable daily driver, one that makes an inordinate amount of sense, thanks to its roomy cabin, excellent fuel efficiency, an up-to-date tech package and what passes for an affordable price.
It’s surprisingly well-rounded.
2023 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid
Base price: $24,400
Engine: 1.6-liter Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder
Horsepower/Torque: 139/195 pound-feet
EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 49/52 mpg
Observed fuel economy: 50 mpg
Fuel required: 89 Octane
Length/Width/Height: 184.1/71.9/55.7 inches
Ground clearance: 5.3 inches
Payload: 990 pounds
Cargo capacity: 14.2 cubic feet
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