Small cars get about as much respect these days as the dreary torrent of misspelled tweets from zillionaire athletes and blustery politicians.
I mean, who cares? Cars, of course, get shoved aside by SUVs and crossovers -- the Instagram influencers of the industry.
So, I understand if you somehow overlooked the 2019 Hyundai Elantra I had recently.
I might end up doing the same with the 2020 elections. However, after years of also-ran status, the Elantra is becoming a fairly worthy contender in the compact sedan segment, where first-time and budget buyers often start.
While crossovers continue to get all the attention with their high-riding stance and greater room, some automakers believe – maybe bravely – that the market could shift back to cars, particularly with young buyers.
I’m not so sure, but I hope so as an outlier who still much prefers cars over crossovers.
My restyled 2019 Elantra – though not quite up to Honda Civic status – can run with most other compacts and offers the value of a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Heck, if nothing else, the silver Elantra I had recently looked considerably better than the Civic. With its restyled front-end, the Elantra manages to make a large grille look graceful, pairing it with aggressive, over-sized headlamps that generate glare as well as light.
Likewise, the $27,000 Limited model I had featured a chiseled Audi-esque hood and short overhangs up front that kept things taut. Meanwhile, character lines up high and low added some sculpting to the sides, while big wrap-around taillamps gave the rear an Infiniti sort of feel.
It is a nice overall package that settled on slotted alloy-and-gray 17-inch wheels shod with 225/45 tires.
Besides styling, the Elantra had one other stand-out benefit in the compact-sedan class: It uses a real six-speed automatic transmission – at least for now – rather than one of those rubbery CVTs favored by most of the others.
The 2-liter four-cylinder engine that spins it is adequate with 147- horsepower, but lacks the refinement and spirit of Honda’s motors – which all contain shreds of Honda’s racing DNA in them.
Still, the Hyundai four-banger offers decent performance around town, with lively responses up to about 40 as it rides a nice surge of torque. Above 50 mph, the engine flattens out and loses its spirit, chugging to 60 mph in a sluggish 9 seconds, according to Motor Trend. It can also sound coarse and overworked doing it.
That won’t get you run over trying to merge onto Baghdad Boulevard, but it won’t give you any low-level thrills, either.
Despite the engine’s 32-mile-per-gallon overall economy, a better choice would be Hyundai’s turbocharged 1.6-liter four with 201-horsepower.
The Elantra’s stiff, well-sorted platform can handle it.
The front-wheel-drive sedan turned into corners quickly with a touch of sportiness and while it rode firmly, it felt sophisticated, stepping over bumps with a muted, expensive-sounding thunk.
Similarly, the 2,800-pound Elantra’s steering was quick, though numb, but the car still felt pretty agile at moderate speeds, and composed and confident at highway speeds.
As you might expect in this segment, my Elantra’s gray interior wore a lot of plastic, but I thought it was nicely detailed and executed.
A large dashboard in dark gray, for example, rolled around an 8-inch display screen, dropping gently down to a lower dash in light gray. A hood over the instrument panel used a different texture of plastic that contrasted with the rest of the dash, while knobs and buttons below the display screen controlled the audio and climate systems.
Moreover, my Limited model offered Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capabilities, as well as forward-collision avoidance assist, lane-keep assist, and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warnings.
It also had a cellphone/digital-device charger at the front of the console.
Although heavily plastic, the gray door panels were squared off on top and trimmed with a band of silver through the door-handle.
They nicely complemented the Elantra’s light-gray seats with decent bolsters and perforated centers, which had fair legroom in back and surprisingly good headroom.
My car had one major option, the $3,350 Ultimate Package that mainly included navigation and a power sunroof.
Also, in case you hadn’t noticed, Hyundai and sister company Kia have been sitting atop the J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey, further enhancing the solid little sedan.
Will that help sales? Probably not, but the Elantra and other good compact-sedan wallflowers are just waiting to blossom once – and if -- crossovers and SUVs run their course.
Unfortunately, that could be a big and long if.
2019 Hyundai Elantra Limited
- What I liked most: The Hyundai Elantra’s mix of clean styling, solid platform and handling, and value.
- What I would change: The base 2-liter 4-cylinder – the engine most buyers will likely choose – needs lots of additional muscle just to feel reasonably spirited
- MSRP: Base price, $22,600 for Limited model; $26,960 as equipped.
- Official color: Symphony Silver.
- Fuel economy: 28 miles per gallon in town, 37 on the highway and 32 combined with filler on the left.
- Odometer reading when tested: 4,690 miles.
- Spare tire: Temporary compact.
- Weight: 2,844 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 181.9 inches long/70.9 inches wide/56.5 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 14 gallons.
- Towing capacity: 1,000 pounds.
- 2019 Hyundai Elantra in a few words: A thoroughly decent, if unspectacular, compact sedan that could be really good with a few tweaks.
- Warranty: Five-year, 60,000-mile overall warranty and 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain protection.
- Final assembly location: Ulsan, Korea.
- Manufacturer’s website: www.hyundaiusa.com
- E-mail me at email@example.com