The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Takes On The Top 3 Compact Sedans In America

Small cars are no longer the penalty boxes of old, especially in the compact segment where models like the all-new Hyundai Elantra combine a strong selection of luxury, safety, and infotainment features with sleek design and an affordable price tag. Comfort and class have gone way up at the entry-level, and the end result has been a dogfight between the Japanese automakers that have traditionally dominated the compact space and upstarts from Korean and Detroit that have studied their enemy well.

The 2017 Hyundai Elantra builds on the success of the previous-generation of the sedan, providing a slightly more muted take on the fashion-forward template that has guided much of Hyundai's design development over the last few years. Inside, the car is more spacious than you might think, sneaking mid-size accommodations into a compact package whose external dimension have grown only somewhat compared to the year before.

There's a lot to like about what's inside the 2017 Hyundai Elantra past the generous amount of passenger room. Two LCD touchscreen infotainment systems measuring seven and eight inches, respectively, are on the docket, and Hyundai has also added a fair amount of active safety equipment to the mix, including blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning (and lane keeping assistance), forward collision warning, and an automatic braking system.

The engine bay reveals a 2.0-liter four-cylinder unit stepping in for last year's 1.8-liter mill, although output is almost identical (147 horses versus 145). A six-speed manual gearbox is available with this motor, but the six-speed automatic does a fine job of timing gear changes to maximize straight-line speed when needed. Fuel mileage is down a bit for 2017, rated at 29-mpg combined, but when the optional 128 horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder becomes available with the Elantra later in the year you an expect to see efficiency boosted to a more competitive level.

The 2017 Hyundai Elantra is geared up to do battle with a trio of class-leading compact car stalwarts that have some of the most fiercely loyal buyers in the business. How hard does the freshly-redesigned Elantra compete with the top 3 compact sedans in America? Let's take a closer look.

2016 Honda Civic

Killer Features: The Honda Civic was also recently redesigned (2016), bringing with it not just more aggressive styling but also a host of equipment improvements and two new drivetrains. The Civic is now also more engaging to drive than the model that preceded it, answering the call from Honda fans the world over to add a little fun to the well-loved compact sedan.

Better Than The Elantra? The Civic currently has two four-cylinder engines available – a 2.0-liter and a 1.5-liter turbo – that both beat the Hyundai in terms of fuel economy (31-mpg combined and 35-mpg combined) and output, (158 horsepower and 174 horsepower). That 1.4-liter turbo can't hit the Elantra order sheet soon enough, but it will still be down on grunt compared to the Honda Civic.

Worse Than The Elantra? Honda is sticking with its LaneWatch blind spot camera in the Civic, which shows you an image of the area immediately to the right of the sedan when you hit your blinker. It's only on one side of the car, and you have to take your eyes off the road to use it – give us the more traditional, and comprehensive blind spot monitoring feature in the Elantra any day.

2016 Toyota Corolla

Killer Features: The 2016 Toyota Corolla is one of the most reliable automobiles on the market, and like the Elantra it comes with a fair bit of standard equipment. Toyota has added the Entune touchscreen audio system to every single model, regardless of price, and the Corolla also happens to be fairly roomy inside for a compact car.

Better Than The Elantra? Stop me if you've heard this one: fuel mileage. Like the Civic, the Corolla outperforms the Hyundai Elantra regardless of whether you choose its base 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine (31-mpg combined) or the upgraded variable-valve timing version of the same mill (35-mpg combined).

Worse Than The Elantra? The Corolla may be many things, but it's certainly no speed demon. With a choice between either 132 horsepower or 140 horsepower, you're a fair bit slower than the Hyundai in most situations. More disappointing is the active safety quotient found with the car, as Toyota has yet to offer more than a rearview camera with the Corolla.

2016 Nissan Sentra

Killer Features: One of the most appealing aspects of the 2016 Nissan Sentra is its price: at $16,780 it's the only compact sedan on our list within spitting distance of the $15,799 you'll pay to get behind the wheel of the Hyundai Elantra.

Better Than The Elantra? The Nissan Sentra's 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine manages to best the Elantra in the efficiency department if you opt for the most efficient model (34-mpg combined). It also happens to boast one of the largest backseats in the small car business, complemented by a suitably enormous trunk.

Worse Than The Elantra? The Sentra isn't quite as quick (130 horsepower) or as interesting to drive as the Hyundai Elantra. There's also only one engine choice with the car, making it the only compact in our comparo that doesn't let you upgrade under the hood.