By on December 6, 2017

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.

[Image: Hyundai]

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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56 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2018 Hyundai Elantra SE...”


  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    My bf just bought a 2018 Elantra, I think they called it the Value Edition. It was like $19,800 and added power sunroof, heated cloth seats, alloy wheels, automatic climate control, Apple Carplay with a bigger touch screen, lane departure warning, and rear side traffic alert. I thought the materials in the Civic were much nicer and the powertrain was much smoother and quieter, but he liked the seating position and gauges in the Elantra better. I told him about the higher resale value of the Civic but the $3,000 rebate on the Elantra making it $16,800 sealed the deal.

    • 0 avatar
      tmport

      The Value Edition is a tremendous deal, especially with the rebates. Sunroof, heated seats, push-button start, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring, rear disc brakes…there aren’t many better bargains out there.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        I share the impression that the Value Edition is the sweet spot of the lineup in bang for the buck.

        I disagree with the author about the previous edition’s exterior styling, though. Like the Sonata, I think the previous gen was the looker and this one is blanded down, and I think the shrunken sales of both successor cars confirm it.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    Didn’t take time to compare features, but interesting that the Canadian version, the Elantra L is MSRP $15999 CDN and currently offering a $1000 rebate.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The Canadian L Manual also lacks air conditioning (but does have heated seats*); that’s present on the next-level-up LE Auto (+$2500, to 18500, adds BT as well as the 6AT). Want a manual with AC? It’s that’s the $19100 GL Manual, which includes CarPlay/AA and a heated steering wheel.

      I’m shopping in this market right now, and I’m finding out that a lot of Canadian-market compacts (Jetta, Corolla, 3 as well as others) omit AC in the base trim, only to add it as part of a pretty expensive package and/or in tandem with an automatic.

      It’s really annoying: I’d like a base-trim car, but really don’t want to forgo AC.

      * I know it’s cold in Canada a few months of the year, but I’d take AC over heated seats

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        I’m shocked that any car would omit A/C today, but that shows how desperate mfrs are to sell using entry-level pricing.

        Besides cooling, I like A/C for defrosting and defogging. I keep the A/C button turned on year-round.

      • 0 avatar
        claytori

        I talked to a Hyundai dealer some time ago. The salesman suggested that the base model could be upgraded with dealer installed air (all OEM parts) for about $1500, which was much less than the model step up to the GL. However, I didn’t bite. BTW, heated seats are used much more than AC in Canada. I lust for a heated steering wheel. If using the car for commuting, you may not drive much in the middle of the day when AC is nice. For morning and evening summer drives open windows and sunroof is great.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    If I was buying a new car today, the value edition package would probably be it. I take some issue with this: “One is not forced to take a beige interior on their Elantra SE, either.” You mean not forced to take black. Most compacts and subs only offer black. One reason why I like Elantra is you can get an interior that’s not black.

    • 0 avatar
      eManual

      Amen!

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      Just got a 2014 Elantra GT the day before Thanksgiving. Tan leather interior… SCORE!

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Interesting to see several comments on the Value Edition. In this era of fixed trim packages, it’s one of the few cars that includes something I like (a sunroof) while omitting something I don’t need (paying extra for bonded leather seats which, IMO, often aren’t particularly nice).

      I’m also glad to see the Rear Drum Jihad is out in force today. On a compact or subcompact, rear discs are a bench racing/marketing feature, not a safety feature.

      • 0 avatar
        cognoscenti

        Amen to this! People tend to forget how slowly rear drums wear (read: cheap to maintain), and the in the real world braking performance is just not that far off for most vehicles – even when their owner is has a fairly aggressive driving style.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          Agreed on drum brake performance, but I hate replacing them; they’re a real pain.

          It’s hard for me believe drum brakes are cheaper to produce than disc, but they’ve always been considered an upgrade.

          I had the thrill of replacing the drum brakes on our 01 Elantra twice in a month. The first was when they were worn. The second was when my daughter drove to work with the parking brake on, wondering what the red brake light meant on the dash, and also wondering why the car seemed sluggish. $60 of RockAuto parts replaced everything.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            I think that you’re right, SCE to AUX, in that in and of themselves rear drums actually aren’t cheaper than rear discs. However, I think that rear drums are cheaper than the combo of rear discs and extra parking brake hardware.

            https://www.cartalk.com/content/why-do-manufacturers-still-use-drum-brakes-find-out

          • 0 avatar
            focus-ed

            No reply button to Featherston comment so I’ll do it above his claim that “rear drums are cheaper than the combo of rear discs and extra parking brake hardware”. By all accounts the hardware on my drumless GTI (it actually has fully functional emergency/parking brake, nice) looks the same as legacy setup on the old Focus. Original drums lasted into 135k, with shop tech helping their demise during a test drive (moron forgot to release the brake). Since the replacement was so late in the life if the vehicle (and rust really took off following overheating), removing them was a pain. Also, the design of drums on Focus (and replacements being sold without the inner bearing seal) resulted in more frequent replacements after that (easy at that point, though by now I got seals installed so we’ll see if they lasted longer).
            Any work on old rusted car parts sucks. Overhauling front calipers was just as much fun (should have just bought re-manufactured ones on the 1st try).

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    It’s bland, but it’s good basic transportation.

    I’d skip the SE version and proceed directly to the SEL, which has one of the best infotainment systems in class, plus stuff like alloys.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Are rear drums really that terrible for normal drivers? I mean, they are plenty strong enough to swiftly lock the rear wheels at speed (and ABS takes over at that point, whether you have discs or drums.) Yeah, they don’t disperse heat as well, but unless you are descending long, steep grades every morning, that won’t be a concern for most people either.

    Yes, if you drive like a maniac, brake fade might be an issue, but somebody shopping for a base Elantra probably does not have enthusiastic driving on the top of their priority list.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I think rear drum brakes are a “safety faux pas” only if you plan on taking your base Elantra to Mid-Ohio or Road Atlanta. Lets be honest, on a small fwd car, the rears are basically there for a parking brake function.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Hah! Beat you by two minutes!

      I think the continual carping about things like rear drums by the automotive press comes from just needing to find SOMETHING to criticize on any car that’s not genuinely sporty, ignoring the fact that these are commuter cars.

      You also often see notes in reviews like “The tested Prius has wheels of only 15 inches, likely compromising handling.” (When 15″ was an accepted standards for quite well-regarded cars not that long ago.) It’s a *bleep!*-ing Prius, FFS, not a Miata!

      And don’t get me started about complaints for power when even cars like this will be perfectly adequate for daily use. It’s especially funny when dark aspersions are made about being able to merge on to interstates, even though inexperienced teenagers seem to have mastered the feat with even-slower cars just fine. (One of the family cars growing up was a 62HP VW Microbus; somehow I managed to merge into notoriously-brutal DC traffic all the time without killing myself.)

      • 0 avatar
        mmreeses

        commuter cars should not use expensive low-profile tires. Like the base Fusion SE, which should be riding on 16″ 65 tires. but run on 18″ 55 if i recall correctly.

        Keep the low-profiles for the Titanium trim.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Complaining ad nauseum about drum brakes on a lightweight commuter car is prerequisite for being a “car guy”. If you can’t review exciting machinery, criticize an economy car for being entirely mission appropriate, I guess.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        I should ban people that complain about rear drums on cheap subcompact and compact cars.

        • 0 avatar
          EAF

          Drum brakes = no sale

          As someone who services his own car, I want absolutely nothing to do with replacing or adjusting drum brakes.

          I HATE them. Thanks.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            I prefer discs, but if I owned a subcompact car, it wouldn’t bother me. It’s not going to be a deal breaker either way.

            I forget what it’s like to service brakes though. My C-Max has 70K miles and the pads have very little wear.

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            The nice thing about rear drums is they rarely, if ever, need work done on them, whereas rear discs seem to warp/pit/corrode much quicker.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Agreed with psar.

            Buy a car with rear drums and basically forget about them for the next two decades, spray the parking brake cables with some Fluid Film if you’re in the salt belt perhaps. That’s it. Whatever formula they put in brake shoes for the past quarter century make them seemingly impervious to wear. Rear disks in the salt belt on a plain jane commuter car? I don’t see the point.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            The drum brakes I’ve serviced over the years have caused me a lot less hassle than the rear discs I’ve serviced. Although many of those calipers were from early 90’s vehicles where they were still trying to figure out how to make rear discs function reliably in a corrosive environment.

            I’d prefer having discs, but drums don’t bother me.

          • 0 avatar
            DweezilSFV

            Self adjusting drum brakes have been standard on cars for decades.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      I think it’s interesting that the Eco trim also pulls drum brakes. I’m somewhat surprised that hybrid and EV models don’t switch back to 4-wheel drums. Nominally adjusted they drag less than disc brakes. With heavy regenerative braking the drums would heat up less than if they were the sole source of stopping power.

      I also hear that drums actually panic stop better than discs…once. Then will do so again an hour later after they cool down.

  • avatar
    MQHokie

    Recently leased one of these for my 2 college student daughters. The Value Edition mentioned above makes for a ridiculously nice car in this price range. The thing will be under bumper-to-bumper warranty for the entire time I have it, it gets very good fuel mileage, Apple Car Play lets the girls use their phones for on-screen navigation, and the lease payment is peanuts. What’s not to like? It’s a little short on horsepower, but there’s enough to cruise on the highway at extralegal speeds without any drama.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      From what I can tell, it isn’t really short on power versus anything else in it’s price range. Some of the turbocharged cars feel faster, but they really aren’t.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        That’s not really true, psarhjinian. Instrumented testing shows the turbocharged compacts are, generally speaking, provably quicker than most of the naturally aspirated ones. That’s definitely true of the model in this story (the Eco model with the 1.4T handily outperforms the NA 2.0).

        What I find most gratifying about mine (a Jetta 1.4T) is that it’s *effortlessly* quick around town. I don’t have to abuse the engine to get the most out of it. The drawback is that low-end power suffers somewhat, and it’s useless to push the engine beyond 5,500 rpm.

        • 0 avatar
          psarhjinian

          I’m looking at the Jetta 1.4, Cruze (diesel), base Elantra and 3 right now. Honestly, they all feel about the same (the Cruze seems a little quicker off the line; the 3 feels fastest in general) from my admittedly subjective perspective.

          Interestingly, when I looked at the actual rankings (in CR) they’re all within a half-second of each other. The Hyundai is the slowest, the 3 (with the 2L) is the fastest.

          What I do like about the Jetta and the Elantra is the under-hood access: both cars look really easy to do work on. After having to go armpit-deep in my Traverse’s wheel-well to change a headlamp, I can appreciate that.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Check out Car and Driver…I think they have better testing methods than CR. The quickest compact by far is the 1.8T Golf, especially with a manual. The 1.5T Civic is also right up there.

            Most of the NA cars run 0-60 in the eights.

            3s are among the quicker cars in this class, but but the problem is that you have to rev the p*ss out of them, and that leads to a lot of the “Mazdas are noisy” complaints you hear on this site.

            Turbos just work better in this application if you’re looking for cheaper speed – the midrange torque is really, really hard to beat, IMHO.

            If I could just figure out how to disable the traction control in my Jetta, it’d be a pretty formidable little stoplight warrior.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            I won’t argue that there’s anything wrong with preferring a turbo power curve over that of a naturally aspirated engine, but I will disagree with classifying the use of the full rpm range as abuse. If a modern engine can’t handle cycling between the torque peak and redline at full throttle for hundreds of hours continuously, it would never even make it to production. My 2.3L MZR Mazda engine has seen 6500 rpm many thousands of times in my 13 years of ownership. I enjoy everything about revving that engine over 5000 rpm.

            It would be abusive to do that without the engine fully warm, but it would be equally abusive to drive a turbo hard when it’s cold, or shut it down when it’s really hot.

            The current Mazda Skyactiv engines generally seem a little rougher than the old MZR, but they smooth out fine and I still find them pleasurable to rev, at least with a manual. Automatic transmission shifts at full throttle can be unpleasant. I usually just want to wind the engine out followed by a soft skip into the highest gear.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Agreed, rpn453, but that’s not what most consumers are looking for (and, frankly, if you do a lot of driving in heavy traffic, winding the engine out all the time gets real old, real fast).

          • 0 avatar
            Dan

            Better times aren’t better testing. C&D brake torques at the line followed by dumping the clutch if it has one. The hard launch will typically pick up a full second to 60 in the vehicles that can take advantage of it (read: stick, turbo, or best of all stick and turbo) but it beats the chit out of the car and isn’t indicative of much else.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            Yeah, I don’t spend much time in heavy traffic. When I do I rarely need to accelerate quickly as I just try to analyze the flow ahead of me to avoid using the brakes at all. I don’t really compete for position anymore like I did in my younger days.

            Back then, my Iron Duke Grand Am was a good point-and-shoot vehicle in traffic. Plenty of torque and the auto tranny always kicked down instantaneously. 98 hp was plenty. I can double-clutch my downshifts pretty quickly when necessary – certainly much more quickly than many modern autos that have to submit a request to the computer and wait for it to schedule a meeting to discuss the proposal and then get managerial approval before turning it over to the planning committee to schedule the shift – but not as quickly as that old automatic.

            So I consider the transmission’s behavior to be at least as big a factor as the engine’s.

            The only small turbo 4 I’ve test-driven was that of the Juke, and in my limited seat time I was actually very impressed with how well that worked with the CVT to deliver an instant rush of speed. All the other turbos I’ve driven have been diesels and powerful engines in sporty cars. They all had plenty of character.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    What really makes the Elantra a true Ace is that it really is inexpensive to own as well as lease. You could probably get a Cruze, Focus or Jetta for about the same (the Jetta also very user-friendly) but the Elantra’s reliability ratings are in the Corolla’s league, but for much less money.

    I can’t see paying the Toyota or Honda premium in this case, and the only cars that really present alternatives are the 3 (which is more expensive, but more fun) or the Cruze (and only if you can cost-justify the diesel).

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      On that note, Psar, is that the Elantra, in its NA 2.0 trims, has MPFI. That’s a nice feature if you’re part of the “buy it and keep it a long time” cohort.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    Ha, this is my rental car this week. There is no bluetooth in sight, but it’s perfectly competent and returning about 32 mpg.

    Apparently Dollar rental car has two price categories below this, not sure what populates them.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I had one as a rental this year as well, really found it perfectly competent, and I was seeing 41 mpg indicated over the course of an hour highway drive at 75ish mph. The biggest win is that the Koreans have finally figured out suspension tuning IMO. Well damped, not crashy at all (for the class).

  • avatar
    ijbrekke

    My wife and I found that the difference between MSRP and actual sales price on the Korean brands is pretty drastic. In comparing with, say, a base Civic, a relatively even match on paper swings pretty heavily with $3-4K discounts. We ended up with a brand new Elantra GT with the full warranty extended to 10 year/100,000 for $15.5k. It’s fine – I wouldn’t want it as my daily, but my wife loves it and thats all that really matters.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Hyundai (and Kia, but same thing) seem to have trouble combining manual transmissions with cruise control. Usually, I want both of those things in my car.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Agreed. This is what crossed them off my list when I was economy car shopping back in 2011-2012. Ended up with a Civic LX with a 5spd and steel wheels that had cruise control, the basic power accessories and A/C.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Yeah, how much could it cost to include cruise? And bluetooth? Costs next to nothing these days.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      I cannot figure out why cruise isn’t on the manuals either. The only thing missing is the switches on the steering wheel – the cruise disconnect can use the micro switches already on the clutch (to allow the starter to energize) and the brake (for the lights) that can be slaved to the computer which already controls the fuel via the accelerator switch. Speed is already sensed from the installed speedometer sensor. I installed cruise on my ’99 F350 using about $15 worth of Radio Shack parts (two toggle switches, one momentary switch, three resistors, and a project box)and I am fairly certain these items are already in their parts bins at a price much lower. Could just be another packaging-for-more-bucks by the manufacturers.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        My MT Sonata has cruise but the heated seats are deleted in order to accommodate the emergency brake lever.

        Back in the 80’s Honda did not include cruise with manual transmissions. If I remember correctly regardless of the trim level.

        • 0 avatar
          TonyJZX

          Cruise control is stnd outside of the US on manual.

          I suspect you can buy the steering wheel control panel and install it yourself or pay an auto electrician.

          However you can only get manual on the base model OR the turbo 1.6 Elantra SR top of the line model so there’s that.

        • 0 avatar
          johnds

          I looked up a 1988 Accord LXI Manual and it had cruise control. I bet the base model DX didn’t have cruise, likewise no power windows or locks either.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Wow, the value edition is pretty well equipped. I can see why people buy the Elantra. (low price and a long warranty)

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    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!

  • avatar
    bd2

    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).


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