2020 Hyundai Elantra Limited Review
By Jakob Hansen, 6/14/2021
The small car segment is evolving, and Hyundai is at the forefront of the change.
When we think of small cars, we tend to not think of luxury at the same time. The two worlds—compact economy car and luxury sedan—couldn’t be further apart, but that’s not the case with the new 2020 Hyundai Elantra Limited. The worlds have collided, and what resulted is one of the best cars in the class, if not the best car in the class.
When reviewing cars, there are several factors that must be taken into account. First is the class of the car. Despite what seems fair, not all cars are held to the same standard. What’s regarded as “class-leading” in one segment, could be an industry-standard in another.
When it came to the 2020 Hyundai Elantra Limited, I frequently found myself holding the car up to a higher standard than should be expected for a small sedan, comparing it to other cars far out of its class. Oftentimes unfairly criticizing it for not standing up to those vehicles. I had to remind myself that the Hyundai is, in fact, several classes below those that I instinctively compared it to due to its high-quality interior. I automatically placed the car far above its class without even realizing it.
The next factor to take into account is price. Price is arguably the most important factor to consider since we all take value into account when purchasing our cars. We want our dollar to make as much of an impact as possible, and where our dollar travels the furthest, is where we want it to go.
The Hyundai takes your dollar and stretches it to Kingdom Come. The features and build quality that the Elantra offers are far superior to its price point and make the Hyundai an excellent value.
There is a lot of “good” in the Hyundai. To start, the interior is built to excellent quality, and that is truly where the car shines. Every button you push, lever you pull, or dial you twist feels like it was hand-built by tiny little precise elf hands. The fit and finish are outstanding and there is no play in the linkages. The gear shift, for example, smoothly slides through the gears when pulled, and does not move an inch when in gear. In drive, the gear sits is solid in place, with no play whatsoever.
The climate controls are appealing to push and turn, clicking and gliding through the options with ease and precision. The automatic climate control also works excellent. Quietly keeping the cabin at the right temperature without excessive fan noise or frequent inputs to the controls.
The difference between the Hyundai and its competitors is how well it performs as a whole.
Many of the cars in the class have all the same features that the Hyundai does, but the Elantra does it better, more consistently, and more precise.
The automatic wipers for example. I didn’t realize I had them on for the first couple of rainy days with the Hyundai because they simply worked, without me even thinking about it. The windshield was always cleared, with no excessive wiping like Toyota’s often do. The automatic high-beams were the same, flawless operation with no blinding oncoming traffic and quickly turning back on when needed. The same can be said for the adaptive cruise, the climate control, the infotainment system, and just about everything else in the car.
Everything simply works—and works well.
Driving feels as good as the interior. The car quietly whisks you along with a comfortable ride that easily absorbs road imperfections, keeping the cabin comfortable and quiet. No other car in this class has a quieter or more composed ride.
The last of “The Good”, and in our opinion, the most important, is the price. Our tester held a sticker price of $27,215, including destination charge. Compared to its closest rivals, this puts the Hyundai within a couple hundred dollars of each. Right in the sweet spot. For the features you get, with the build quality that Hyundai has demonstrated, there isn’t much that can stand up to it.
As good as everything is in the Hyundai Elantra Limited, there are, of course, some complaints. The stereo system could be better. With normal listening, it has clean, crisp sound, but when cranked up to 11 to rock out to some classic Justin Bieber, it loses its quality and is frankly a bit weak.
There were also no cooled seats, which wouldn’t a massive complaint, but seeing as it’s competing with the highest-priced vehicles in its class, the lack of cooled seats seems like a bit of an oversite.
Dynamic driving is also a bit gutless. The engine is powerful enough to get you out of trouble and easily merge into highway traffic, but when pushed the Hyundai fails to deliver a dynamic, engaging drive. Which to Hyundai's defense, is not what this car signed up to do. If an engaging ride is what you’re looking for, head over to the Hyundai Elantra GT N-Line.
Lastly, there are some clear cost savings that are visible in the cabin. Hyundai does a great job hiding the fact that this occupies the second most affordable car class, but the signs are still there. There are cheap plastics on large panels, significant panel gaps between the dash and the doors, and the center tunnel could be made of nicer materials. What’s good, however, is that none of these hard plastics are on surfaces that you interact with, meaning you only have to look at the ugly plastics, but not touch them.
There is none. There are no glaringly obvious pitfalls in this car.
Wait, there is one. The adaptive cruise control turns off below 5 mph, and is therefore unusable in stop and go traffic. The odd part of this is that Hyundais performance small car, the Elantra GT, allows full stop and go cruise, allowing the car to even sit at a stoplight and resume cruise after the car ahead moves forward. Why is this missing from the Elantra Limited? I am certain I have no idea.
The small car segment has been quickly evolving. What was once seen as a “cheap car class” has quickly become an entirely different landscape. The low cost, second rate interiors that once ravished this class have quickly become obsolete and unacceptable.
No longer can manufacturers make these cars to appeal to the lowest price, that time has come and gone, and it’s by far for the better.
This is by far the best car we have tested in this class for 2020. The jury is still out on some of the competitors, and so that may change as time goes by, but for now, we deem the 2020 Hyundai Elantra Limited the king of the small car class.