There’s nothing better than driving an understated car from Los Angeles to Sonoma and back. With a vehicle that doesn’t stand out from the crowd, it’s easier to maneuver through traffic than with, say, a sports car. That’s why the 2018 Hyundai Elantra Limited was a welcome partner for the seven-hour-plus hegira in late July, for the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.
Invisibility has its benefits and, while the lovely Lakeside blue exterior garnered admiring glances here and there, the commonality of the Elantra allowed stealthy travel up and down the boring interstate. Hyundai renewed the Elantra model a couple of years ago, ridding itself of the hatchback complement and continuing with a four-door, front-wheel-drive sedan. Upgrading both exterior and interior to introduce more modern technology, Hyundai has made a compact, near-midsize product that does well in all types of driving situations.
The 2018 Elantra Limited is powered by an inline four-cylinder 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine that makes 147 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 132 lb-ft of torque at 4,500; redline is 6,500 rpm. It uses multi-point fuel injection, unlike the Eco and Sport turbocharged Elantra models that have a more fuel efficient direct injection. A standard six-speed automatic transmission with Eco, Normal and Sport modes and the ability to shift manually is standard on this sedan.
MacPherson strut and torsion beam axle suspensions keep the Elantra firmly planted, as do Nexen 225/45R tires mounted on twinned, 5-spoke 17-inch alloys. A front stabilizer bar is included. Hyundai fits motor-driven power steering for the Elantra Limited, with a nice 34.78-foot turning circle. All-wheel disc brakes are standard for this 2,976-pound top-of-the-line model.
When you accumulate nearly 1,000 miles during a single week, it’s easy to get to know a vehicle and the 2018 Hyundai Elantra Limited is a very welcoming sedan. With its soft-button door openings, its pushbutton engine operation and all-around cohesiveness inside the cabin, the current Elantra has an ease about it that’s not always easy to match.
The grippy steering wheel fronts an info center with phone and audio system operations on the left and cruise control to the right; the info center is easy to access by ratcheting info forwards and backwards. Covered shallow storage below the central stack includes two-USB, auxiliary and 12-volt plug-ins, while a tunnel covered storage has a USB plug.
For this Limited model of the 2018 Elantra sedan, Hyundai sets the starting price at $22,985 including freight. There are two options on this car, floor mats and the ultimate package at $4,350. That includes an excellent navigation system with 8-inch touchscreen, Infinity premium audio with 8 speakers (including center channel and subwoofer), a 4.2-in color TFT instrument cluster, one-touch small power sunroof, heated rear seats (front seats have three-position heaters), smart cruise control, lane keep assist, integrated memory with two settings for the driver’s seat and outside mirrors, automatic high beam assist, Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system with connected care, remote package and guidance package for three years.
These options bring the grand total to $27,460, if not a huge bargain, at least an example of good packaging for most drivers. On this sedan, the seating is lovely gray leather, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as are entry lamps in the front door handles, a driver’s seat that recedes for exit and entry, LED running lights (but no fog lamps), cup holders in all four doors and the rear pull-down armrest, synced climate controls for the front seats in a straightforward and business-like interior, that’s a nice mix of black and gray and not too busy.
There are soft plastics atop the dash area, together with a horizontal, muted plastic accent line; while the front seat occupants are well coddled, there are no climate outlets to the rear. There’s sufficient space for three in the back and the ubiquitous 60/40 fold to this Hyundai’s rear seats allows access to the 14.4-cubic-foot trunk that feels larger than it actually is. For this weekend trip there was no problem filling the trunk with photographic supplies, gifts and luggage. A small spare lies below the floor of this well-appointed trunk area.
This driver, using two of three available modes – eco and sport – managed to eke close to 40mpg from the 14-gallon tank on the final fill-up, which included Los Angeles’ big climb through the “Grapevine”. The 2018 Hyundai Elantra Limited is rated at 28/37/32 mpg and, even using the very fun sport mode I did better than that. Easily. No tankload was less than 37mpg, even with plenty of around-town motoring.
As for the infotainment access, it was easy and plentiful. Plugging the phone in to charge brought Apple CarPlay up, (whether it was wanted or not) and it was easy to disengage while charging. The nav system took me to destinations correctly and intuitively. It was nice to be able to disengage the lane departure nanny, but I kept the blind spot monitoring available. The Elantra Limited’s central info center included trip info, compass, lane departure, audio info, tire pressures and settings for the driver. At the base of the central info are outside temp and the odometer.
Trip info is easy to ratchet back and forth and this driver kept that screen on range, while occasionally looking at trip odometers and efficiency. The entertainment items, as well as information were all easily accessed. The audio system shows what a well-insulated cabin this is; listening to my faves on XMSirius made that perfectly clear.
When you’re in a vehicle for as long as I was, you get a good feel for whether it’s a good machine – or not. I found this 2018 Hyundai Elantra Limited to have good acceleration, even in Eco mode (it was great in Sport). The steering was good but still a wee vague on-center and the suspension was a tad too soft for me. Your impression could be different. The brakes are excellent; LA traffic is notoriously difficult to work through but this Hyundai had no issues. After nearly 1,000 miles over a week, the 2018 Elantra Limited kept me wanting more. Unfortunately I had to return it. Perhaps this might be your next road warrior?
Words and photos by Anne Proffit