Ace of Base: 2019 Hyundai Elantra SE

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

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.

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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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.)

  • Philip I love seeing these stories regarding concepts that I have vague memories of from collector magazines, books, etc (usually by the esteemed Richard Langworth who I credit for most of my car history knowledge!!!). On a tangent here, I remember reading Lee Iacocca's autobiography in the late 1980s, and being impressed, though on a second reading, my older and self realized why Henry Ford II must have found him irritating. He took credit for and boasted about everything successful being his alone, and sidestepped anything that was unsuccessful. Although a very interesting about some of the history of the US car industry from the 1950s through the 1980s, one needs to remind oneself of the subjective recounting in this book. Iacocca mentioned Henry II's motto "Never complain; never explain" which is basically the M.O. of the Royal Family, so few heard his side of the story. I first began to question Iacocca's rationale when he calls himself "The Father of the Mustang". He even said how so many people have taken credit for the Mustang that he would hate to be seen in public with the mother. To me, much of the Mustang's success needs to be credited to the DESIGNER Joe Oros. If the car did not have that iconic appearance, it wouldn't have become an icon. Of course accounting (making it affordable), marketing (identifying and understanding the car's market) and engineering (building a car from a Falcon base to meet the cost and marketing goals) were also instrumental, as well as Iacocca's leadership....but truth be told, I don't give him much credit at all. If he did it all, it would have looked as dowdy as a 1980s K-car. He simply did not grasp car style and design like a Bill Mitchell or John Delorean at GM. Hell, in the same book he claims credit for the Brougham era four-door Thunderbird with landau bars (ugh) and putting a "Rolls-Royce grille" on the Continental Mark III. Interesting ideas, but made the cars look chintzy, old-fashioned and pretentious. Dean Martin found them cool as "Matt Helm" in the late 1960s, but he was already well into middle age by then. It's hard not to laugh at these cartoon vehicles.
  • Dwford The real crime is not bringing this EV to the US (along with the Jeep Avenger EV)
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Another Hyunkia'sis? 🙈
  • SCE to AUX "Hyundai told us that perhaps he or she is a performance enthusiast who is EV hesitant."I'm not so sure. If you're 'EV hesitant', you're not going to jump into a $66k performance car for your first EV experience, especially with its compromised range. Unless this car is purchased as a weekend toy, which perhaps Hyundai is describing.Quite the opposite, I think this car is for a 2nd-time EV buyer (like me*) who understands what they're getting into. Even the Model 3 Performance is a less overt track star.*But since I have no interest in owning a performance car, this one wouldn't be for me. A heavily-discounted standard Ioniq 5 (or 6) would be fine.Tim - When you say the car is longer and wider, is that achieved with cladding changes, or metal (like the Raptor)?
  • JMII I doubt Hyundai would spend the development costs without having some idea of a target buyer.As an occasional track rat myself I can't imagine such a buyer exists. Nearly $70k nets you a really good track toy especially on the used market. This seems like a bunch of gimmicks applied to a decent hot hatch EV that isn't going to impression anyone given its badge. Normally I'd cheer such a thing but it seems silly. Its almost like they made this just for fun. That is awesome and I appreciate it but given the small niche I gotta think the development time, money and effort should have been focused elsewhere. Something more mainstream? Or is this Hyundai's attempt at some kind of halo sports car?Also seems Hyundai never reviles sales targets so its hard to judge successful products in their line up. I wonder how brutal depreciation will be on these things. In two years at $40k this would a total hoot.So no active dampers on this model?