Ace of Base: 2019 Hyundai Elantra SE

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
ace of base 2019 hyundai elantra se

The Korean car maker has long since shed its also-ran status, enjoying sales success and the ability to grab a steadily growing portion of the market share pie.

Unlike a few others who shall not be named, Hyundai believes there are still customers out there who want to buy a well-equipped compact sedan with a price tag under $18,000. It believes this so fervently, in fact, that it refurbished the Elantra for the 2019 model year.

Endowing it with a pair of headlights that look sharper than a Ginsu knife, this Elantra looks markedly different than the last one that appeared on these Ace of Base pages. I’m not entirely sold on the kinda-Lexus front end treatment, but no one can say it looks boring. In fact, save for the top trim (which earns a snazzier set of LED peepers), all versions of the Elantra have the same front fascia, fog lights and all. Score one for economies of scale.

The base SE comes equipped with air conditioning, tilt/telescope steering wheel, Bluetooth gear, and a bunch of charging points for smartphones. The lone concession to frugality is the inclusion of Hyundai’s 5-inch infotainment screen, the smallest of three available and the only one without Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. You’ll have to rough it and make do, kids.

An inline-four displacing 2.0 liters – seemingly the industry sweet spot – makes 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. This is the same engine in all Elantras save for the Eco, which sports a 1.4L unit. This base SE is the only Elantra left standing with a clutch pedal, so get one while you can if you’re a fan of the brand. Sticks disappeared out of its big-brother Sonata ages ago.

Fifteen-inch tires sized 195/65 keep a lid on replacement costs. That 10 year powertrain warranty doesn’t hurt in that regard, either. Rear drums are an annoying cost cutting measure, as is the exclusion of safety nannies like lane keeping and blind spot monitoring, features which appear at no charge on all other trims.

This gives me pause, until your author realizes he routinely curses those systems in most other machines. There is no doubt they would be helpful to a new driver but perhaps instruction in bloody paying attention could supplant them. Just a thought.

At $17,100 plus freight but less a myriad of available rebate programs and subvented rates, the 2019 Elantra neatly undercuts even the cheapest crossovers from other manufacturers that are trying to claim those machines are the new point of entry into their brands. The case for well-equipped and affordable small cars lives on.

[Images: Hyundai]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make our automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you’d like to see in our series? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and is priced in Freedom Dollars. As always, your dealer will probably sell for less.

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2 of 47 comments
  • Bd2 Bd2 on Oct 31, 2018

    Don't know what Schreyer was thinking when he approved the cosmetic changes for the MCE. Went from one of the better looking entries in the segment to one of the worst.

  • Mike-NB2 Mike-NB2 on Oct 31, 2018

    I drive a lot of rentals in my job and since it's a corporate account at a low rate I get put in a lot of low-end cars. The location I rent from is mostly Korean cars and GM products with a few Chrysler (or whatever they go by these days) products thrown in. As a Ford guy I've asked why no Ford products and it's because that location has a contract with the GM dealer down the road for customers needing a rental. The dealer demands that GM owners only get GM products. (If you have faith in your products wouldn't you want your customers to drive the competition?) Anyway, I always have my fingers crossed for a Hyundai or Kia. Even the base models are well built and well equipped. And they look good too. (I have my fingers crossed that Hyundai/Kia follow through with their promise to put a turbodiesel in their mid-size SUVs. My wife will be replacing her '14 Escape in a couple of years and the Hyundai/Kia would be perfect for us as we tow at the maximum weight with the Escape. The TD Kia Sorento would increase the towing capacity to 5000lbs and get better fuel economy doing it.)

  • Stuart de Baker Chris Tonn, having driven a G90, I thought your review was excellent, and I much enjoyed the humor. Being somewhat older than you are, I thought of it was a modern rendition of a 62 Cadillac and a '64 Lincoln I drove in 1970, a car that aimed to please in similar ways, but did a much, much better job of it. Your description truly captures that, when you said "It drives like a stable cloud."To be sure, it's not the car I'd buy if I had 100 Gs to spend on a car; nonetheless, I found I loved it when I drove it--and when I looked at it after having driven it--somewhat to my surprise.I haven't been reading TTAC much, but I'll be looking for your reviews.
  • Kwik_Shift How many more strip mines will need to be created?
  • Kwik_Shift Green Monster Energy and Poutine (original or "pulled pork poutine") were my motivators, back in the day.
  • KevinB Starbucks for a doppio espresso and gruyere and bacon egg bites in the morning, and a salt caramel cold brew in the afternoon, because I am eating and drinking myself silly at my destination.
  • MaintenanceCosts The previous generation is one of the best ways in the last 20 years to enjoy flagship-level luxury in complete anonymity.This generation is all tacky ostentation and I'd feel embarrassed to be seen in one.