Ace of Base: 2018 Hyundai Elantra SE
This Korean automaker has been known since the dawn of time as a purveyor of value-packed cars, making a name for itself by offering machines comparable in price to its competition but stuffed to the gunwales with features for which The Other Guy charged extra.
Hyundai introduced the Elantra nameplate about 20 years ago and has since taken it through more styling iterations than Mickey Rourke — frequently, and often dramatically, updating its looks. The current model went on sale a couple of model years ago and continues to pack ‘em in with valuable features at a cut-rate price.
The base Elantra, in SE trim, has a list of standard equipment that would cause a lot of expensive cars to blush. Air conditioning (a key feature, in this author’s opinion), a tilt/telescope wheel, and height adjustable driver seat mean the Elantra makes it easy to get comfortable. A remote keyless entry fob will hang from the keychain of your brand-new Elantra SE as well. Oddly, selecting a manual transmission causes Bluetooth capability and cruise control to vanish from the spec sheet. Smartphone input via a USB port remains, as does an auxiliary input.
The base model (and the more costly Eco trim) deploy drums for rear brakes. It attempts to make up for this safety faux-pas by offering side curtain airbags for the front and rear passengers as standard, along with the expected inflatables up front. The driver gets a knee airbag, too. 15-inch steelies are found at each corner, shod in cheap-to-replace 195/65/15 rubber.
Don’t worry about flat-black side mirrors giving away your frugality; the base Elantra has body-colored caps on those. Economies of scale, always the Ace of Base best friend, assure power windows (with one- touch service for the driver) and a 60/40 split rear folding seat appear on the SE.
A 2.0-liter inline-four is under the hood, making some 147 horsepower — fairly standard for this end of the segment. A six-speed manual transmission is available on the SE, the only trim where one can spec that shifter, save for the much more expensive Sport model (which has a different engine).
The thing is not bad looking, and is certainly an improvement over the “fluidic sculpture” of the last Elantra (and leagues ahead of the frumpy iteration before that). Its tail lights look like triple afterburners. All eight colors are offered gratis, refreshing when so many manufacturers limit choice to the greyscale on base models. One is not forced to take a beige interior on their Elantra SE, either.
Hyundai’s famous warranty helps to seal the deal, guaranteeing five full years of roadside assistance, no matter how much you drive. The powertrain is covered for twice that long or 100,000 miles.
I don’t often mention incentives in this series as they are fluid and may change from region to region However, it’s worth noting total rebates on the base Elantra could total up to $3,500. Given an MSRP of $16,950, that’s nearly a 20-percent discount. Looks like Hyundai pegs the value meter once again.
Not every base model has aced it. The ones that have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selections.
The model above is shown with American options, sans destination fee, and is priced in Freedom Dollars. As always, your dealer may sell for less.
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I have rear drums on my pickup truck that weighs 2-1/2 tons. BTW-I tow a 5,500 pound travel trailer all over the Intermountain west with it. No issues!
The Elantra is a decent buy, but for those interested in having some fun driving, the Elantra Sport is the one to get. In order to compete with the very good (sans the styling) Civic, the next Elantra needs to grow larger and get a nicer interior (something more in lines with the interior of the Elantra GT/i30).