ROAD TRIP: 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco

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2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco

The Hyundai Elantra is all-new this year, which means everything about the car changed. This included the introduction of a new trim level, the Elantra Eco, which is focused on fuel efficiency.

As a rule, when an automaker produces a special fuel efficient version of a car, it’s as boring as heck. The best fuel efficiency comes from an engine that’s smaller. It also helps to have a smaller, lighter car, so fuel efficient models are often stripped down with modest interiors and lackluster power.

Hyundai aimed to prove otherwise and to do so, they flew us to Alabama, let us drive a new Elantra Eco right off the assembly line, and then told us to go. Where was entirely up to us, but we had a week to figure it out and eventually make our way home.

Home for me is New Hampshire, so we had a big road trip ahead with plenty of miles to get to know the Elantra Eco. My drive partner, Rachel Ferrucci hails from Connecticut, so we pointed north and the adventure began. First, we stopped for BBQ, because you need plenty of energy to undertake a road trip. Also, one does not simply visit the south and not enjoy some good food.

We got a dinner recommendation from a guy working at a Harley-Davidson shop and he warned us that the place was a bit of a drive. He wasn’t kidding. We found ourselves on narrow, twisting back roads that eventually led us to dinner.

Those roads showed off how well the car handled. It was easy to manage and comfortable. Riding in the passenger seat I didn’t feel like I was being tossed around the inside of a tin can, despite some ridiculously tight turns.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Ecao Waffle House

Our journey north included plenty of highway driving. This is where fuel efficient cars are really put to the test. They might do just fine on city streets, but put them on the highway and poor acceleration is often an issue.

The engine in the Elantra Eco is different from what you’ll find in the rest of the Elantra lineup. Instead of a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, the Eco has a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with a 7-speed dual clutch automatic. It has 128 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque, which are modest numbers.

The Elantra Eco proved its mettle, easily merging into traffic and getting up to speed. There are three drive modes of Eco, Comfort, and Sport and we tried them all. Sport was noticeably more responsive and more fun with the engine revving higher, but Comfort and Eco did well, too.

There aren’t many cars that do Eco mode well. They might deliver better fuel economy in Eco, but they become so nonresponsive that they’re miserable to drive. Eco mode in the Elantra Eco was only the slightest bit less responsive than Comfort making it easy to use. We made most of the journey in Eco and got fabulous fuel economy to match.

Looking for a new or used car? Check out BestRide’s listing search here.

EPA-estimated fuel economy is 32/40/35 mpg city/highway/combined. On stretches of highway driving we beat those numbers consistently, hovering around 45 mpg. Even during drives through cities, rush hour traffic, and slow-going mountain roads, we still hovered around the 40 mpg mark.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco Gas Stop

Every road trip has its share of adventure. Ours included driving into the wee hours of the night in the middle of West Virgina and coming across what seemed like every deer in the state. The Elantra Eco took this opportunity to show off responsive steering and solid braking.

Spending hours in a car can be tiresome with seats that start out comfortable eventually becoming stiff and forcing breaks to stretch tired limbs. Four days and over a thousand miles of seat time and never once were we tired or stiff.

The interior isn’t fancy, but it is still a nice place to pass the hours. There’s plenty of room up front and rear with enough room in the backseat to hold an empty whiskey barrel from the Jack Daniel’s distillery that you picked up as a souvenir. That thing is going to be a brilliant table.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco Rear Seats

The infotainment system kept us entertained the whole way and was easy and intuitive to use with a responsive 7-inch touchscreen display. The Elantra Eco includes Apple Car Play and Android Auto to help keep you from being distracted. We used Apple Car Play throughout the trip to get directions and it worked seamlessly.

One issue we had with the Elantra Eco was the Blind Spot Detection system. It was way too sensitive and sounded a warning tone even when there was plenty of room to safely change lanes. It was jarring enough that we turned it off altogether.

We also found the transmission somewhat rough switching from first to second gear. It seemed to catch, then switch gears, but was smooth through the rest of the range and coming back down. It was a slight mar on an otherwise exceptional ride.

The Hyundai Elantra Eco starts at $20,650 which puts it near the top of the Elantra lineup. That’s still a good price for a car with great fuel economy, a comfortable interior, and an intuitive infotainment system. If those are your priorities, then the Elantra Eco will not disappoint.

Looking for a new or used car? Check out BestRide’s listing search here.