Ace of Base: 2018 Hyundai Elantra SE

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
ace of base 2018 hyundai elantra se

Surprises are rare in the car world, given that most companies leak like a screen door on a submarine (or endlessly tease a new model *ahem, Challenger, ahem*), but it occasionally does happen. Last night in Park City, Utah, Hyundai took the wraps off a mid-cycle refresh for its Elantra, an event that was unexpected by all hands.

The 2019 model’s styling will surely be commented upon by a news author here on the site later today. Until then, it is worth revisiting the current model in an effort to understand how it continues to hoover up sales to the tune of about 200,000 cars annually.

The base Elantra, in SE trim, has an equipment list longer than a Michael Cohen guilty plea. Air conditioning is standard, a feature your author considers a new-car essential. It would appear from the comments that many of the B&B feel the same. A tilt/telescope wheel and height adjustable driver seat are on tap but, oddly, selecting the no-charge manual transmission causes Bluetooth capability to vanish from the spec sheet. Perhaps the company doesn’t think we can talk and shift gears at the same time.

A 2.0-liter inline-four lies under the hood, making 147 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission is available on the SE, the only trim where one can spec that shifter, save for the expensive Sport model (which carries a different engine).

On the current car, a natty set of tail lights that look like triple afterburners have been traded for lines-n-slashes in 2019. All eight colors are offered gratis, refreshing when so many manufacturers limit choice to the greyscale on base models.

Don’t worry about flat-black side mirrors belying your frugality. The base Elantra has that covered – literally – with body-colored caps. Power windows (with one- touch service for the driver) and a 60/40 split rear folding seat appear on the SE, but cruise control does not.

The base model does deploy rear drums – a minor disappointment. It attempts to make up for this thumb-in-the-eye to safety 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. Fifteen-inch steelies are found at each corner, shod in reasonable 195/65/15 rubber.

Hyundai’s warranty reassures a lot of new buyers, guaranteeing five full years of roadside assistance, no matter how much you drive, while the powertrain is covered for twice that time frame.

Incentives generally go unmentioned in this series, but it is definitely worth noting that certain markets can find $4,600 leasing cash on the hood of a base Elantra. With an MSRP of $16,950, that’s nearly 30 percent off. Now there’s a surprise.

[Images: Hyundai]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They stoke the fires of our flinty cheapskate hearts. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments and feel free to eviscerate today’s selection.

The model above is priced in Freedom dollars and shown with American options and trim. Destination charges can go pound sand. As always, your dealer may sell for less.

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2 of 73 comments
  • Tsoden Tsoden on Aug 22, 2018

    I bought my Elantra in 2014 (2013 model). Compared it to the 2014 Corolla and 2013 Mazda 3. The Corolla did NOT impress me - the styling was fine, but it just did not feel as refined - engine was quite coarse, and I really was disappointed by the lack of brightness on the standard LED headlamps. The 2013 Mazda 3 would have been much cheaper - was quite refined, BUT the back seat was too small. Even though the 2014 redesign 3 was out, it was not even a consideration due to inflated costs compared to the outgoing 2013. In the end, the 2013 Elantra (GLS trim) has suited me just fine. hard to beat a 5 year bumper to bumper warranty too. The car has been quite solid - only a couple minor quirks that the warranty covered.

  • Eggsalad Eggsalad on Aug 22, 2018

    Even in Las Vegas, where dealers don't even try to make good deals, these are routinely advertised at $13.5k, which makes them a screaming deal. But they're thin on the ground, because they're either loss leaders, or bait-and-switch-mobiles for people who want/need an automatic.

  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"
  • ToolGuy When Farley says “like the Millennium Falcon” he means "fully updatable" and "constantly improving" -- it's right there in the Car and Driver article (and makes perfect sense).