2023 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid review: conventionally unconventional
An alternative hybrid vehicle with divisive looks that delivers 45 MPG
2023 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid review with The Road Beat
Words and pictures by Mitchell Weitzman
Are you tired and bored of choosing a Honda or Toyota hybrid vehicle? Have commitment issues and not yet sure you want to take that plunge with the plug to 100% electric? Then Hyundai’s Elantra Hybrid is a car worth considering, granted that you can get past the divisive looks. Do I like them? Eh, it’s certainly distinct and stands out, but you might find this car really repulsive. There is good news on that front, though, as a refreshed update is coming out later this year with a new front fascia that is immediately more attractive - just a heads up. But, back to the current Elantra Hybrid.
What you do get here is a compact sedan that has markedly more room in the back seats than a Corolla, making for a usably spacious car for many. I like the seats, making a comfortable place to spend time, and the controls and layout of the interior give a decent impression of a cockpit as they wrap around you. I like the driving position and the steering wheel, wrapped in leather on this example, feels great in the hand. There’s still this weird HAL-9000-esque graphic display to the left of the gauges that I kept waiting to animate and say, “I’m sorry, Mitchell.” This blank space comes across as a waste here (it does display information in the hotshot, overachieving, spectacular N model) on a car that otherwise has an attractive and modern looking interior with nicely integrated screens elsewhere.
Overall, while there are some plastics strewn here and there and with some rough edges due to cheap, injection-molded manufacturing processes. It’s definitely a fine place to be, not really any better than most rivals in its class, but notably behind the current class leaders that are the Mazda3 and Honda Civic. Compared to a ubiquitous Corolla or the new Prius, I do find the Elantra more spacious at least and more interesting inside. It's even reasonably quiet for an economy car when on the highway.
Performance is nothing to shout about, with 0-60 MPH taking a slow 8.5 seconds, but that’s expected in this application. The new Prius, however, smokes all its hybrid peers with a seven second 0-60 MPH run; Who would have thought the Prius would be destined to be the fast hybrid of the bunch! Luckily, noise and vibrations are damped and controlled, well relatively at least for a four-banger, and the transmission is mostly transparent. MPG is the big ticket item here, with the Elantra Hybrid returning a commendable 45 MPG during our week together, even if that does come up short a few MPG compared to the window sticker’s estimate. This number trumps the latest Corolla SE Hybrid, which disappointed at 39 MPG, though that model was AWD. On a level playing field and both sporting FWD, I imagine they will be about neck and neck. The new (and fast) Prius promises 50 MPG, handily besting both on paper.
Taken command on the road, the Elantra Hybrid is a sedated affair, offering little in terms of excitement (the very essence of the Elantra N super sedan) so don’t come looking for fun here. Handling is, well, you turn the wheel and it changes direction most of the time, just without any vigor nor enthusiasm. On the whole, when comparing a basic Elantra next to a basic Civic, the Honda does offer more in terms of driving fun and dynamics, as the Elantra has little interest in cornering from its lack of grip and easily approachable understeer. At least the steering is nicely weighted and is direct, more so than a Corolla, but it’s honestly really hard to talk about how the Elantra Hybrid drives because of how boring it is. Look, you get in the car, it starts, and it’ll take you to where you want - yet, this what 99% of buyers of this type of car are looking for. The ride quality is comfortable most of the time, with some choppy roads exposing some weaknesses, but it’s at least a nicer car to drive than a Corolla, mostly down to the more intimate cabin and environment.
Look, it’s definitely easier to write about fun and exciting cars because they just exude magic throughout the car that transfers to you. The Elantra Hybrid, unlike the special Elantra N, is one of those cars; this is a vehicle made for transportation and using as little fuel to save you money. On that front, it succeeds. However, I’d rather have the yet-unreleased Honda Insight (a Civic Hybrid essentially), or the new Prius. Yes, I said Prius, but for the right reasons, including shockingly attractive looks, greater performance, and possibly an even thriftier engine, though the Prius is a little cramped inside. There’s no real way to do wrong with any of these mundane choices, but while the Elantra Hybrid might not be my favorite hybrid or small commuter sedan, it’s nonetheless a comprehensively and objectively capable one. If you hate the looks, you probably wouldn’t consider it anyways, but if you love them, then it’s the perfect car for you as a way to stand out from the sea of unimaginative Corollas.
2023 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid
As-tested price: $30,305
Pros: Mild-mannered; Great economy Cons: Mild-mannered; looks not for everyone
2023 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid review.