There’s something every hybrid has that the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco doesn’t. That’s right. A “hybrid” badge.
That’s not fair. The Elantra Eco has an “Eco” badge.
But what the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco really doesn’t have is the dual powertrain system that’s the very definition of a hybrid system, and that means the Elantra has less weight, less complexity and…drumroll…lower cost.
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco four-door sedan is a member of the new sixth-generation Elantra, but instead of the naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter engine, the Eco is powered by a new 1.4-liter turbocharged four and a dual-clutch automatic transmission. It’s a new trim level for the Elantra, at $20,650 priced between the entry-level Elantra SE (at $17,150, plus $1,000 for a six-speed automatic transmission) and the fancier Elantra Limited, with a $22,350 starting price.
We first-drive tested the 201 Elantra Limited and it impressed us. Progress over the past two generations is particularly remarkable. We were underwhelmed by the 2009 Hyundai Elantra SE, a hash of design on the outside and mash of materials on the inside.
The 2014 Elantra Sport we tested, however, was significantly upgraded. We summed it up by saying “The Elantra is just that good.” We’ve seen similar strides made by the Hyundai Elantra GT, a five-door hatchback. We tested the 2013 Elantra GT and the 2016 Elantra GT.
Now the styling of the 2017 Elantra follows the Elantra GT, the sedan losing its smiling grille in favor of the GT’s gaping hexagon, but of course keeping the longer wheelbase and trunk instead of hatch.
Like many entry-level compact sedans, the 2017 Elantra SE comes with steel wheels. The SE’s are 15-inchers with wheel covers, and 16-inch alloy wheels are optional. The Limited comes with 17-inch alloy wheels standard. The Elantra Eco also comes with alloys, but they’re only 15-inch with no options. No doubt this is a fuel economy move, but it looks odd, with too much space around too small wheels.
A price cutting move for both the SE and the Eco is rear drum brakes, the Limited coming with rear discs. Nevertheless, the Eco has the full suite of active safety features including electronic stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist as standard equipment.
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco actually has no option packages (though your Hyundai dealer has a short list of accessories, including a first aid kit, cargo net, wheel locks, bumper applique, and cargo tray). The standard equipment inventory is extensive, however, including blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, heated outside mirrors, solar control glass, automatic projector headlamps, LED door handle lights, dual automatic temperature control with “CleanAir Ionizer” and an automatic defogging system, heated front seats, proximity key with pushbutton start, Bluetooth hands-free phone, a seven-inch multi-information screen, AM/FM/SiriusXM Satellite Radio/CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers, SiriusXM Data Services including NavTraffic, NavWeather, and sports and stocks, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support, and hands-free trunk opening. And all this standard equipment on a $20,650 automobile.
Beyond all the stuff, however, is the drive train that makes the Eco the Eco. The direct-injection 1.4-liter turbo is a gem, with an integrated cylinder head and exhaust manifold, which Hyundai claims to improve fuel economy at higher engine speeds. Similarly, “an optimized straight intake port increases tumble flow for fast combustion, suppressing knock tendency to further enhance efficiency.”
Output for the little turbo four is 128 horsepower at 5500 rpm, while torque plateaus at 156 lb-ft. from a none-dare-call-in-lugging 1400 to 3700 rpm. The torque gives the engine performance that belies the horsepower rating.
The seven-speed dual clutch transmission aids performance and fuel economy. With direct connection from engine to drive wheels, the transmission loses nothing to a torque converter, notorious for consuming engine output. The wide ratio spread of the seven speeds makes for easier, quicker take offs with lower revs at highway speeds for better fuel economy.