By LEN INGRASSIA

Arcadian Auto Editor

With a sleek exterior refresh, Hyundai’s 2019 Elantra has transformed itself from a vanilla wrapper to a stylish compact sedan.

This segment is hotly contested and rivals with Japanese, German and American models are quick to move equipment packages and technology advancements to the forefront. And even with tight rear seating and a light pedal, Elantra is a contender with its cool looks, awesome infotainment system and pocketbook value.

Pros:

Inexpensive (entry around $18,000)

Great fuel economy

Smooth ride

Cons:

Cramped back seating

Sluggish acceleration

Modest interior

Elantra is available in six trim levels: SE ($17,985), SEL, Value Edition, Eco, Sport and Limited ($22,600). Our Limited tester came loaded at $26,960, including full navigation, forward collision avoidance and an 8-inch touchscreen.

Most exterior panels on the Elantra have been reshaped — including the front end, quarter panels, hood and rear bumper — and available 17-inch alloys to set off the new look. C pillars slope rearward and add to the rakish look ... however, that also diminishes rear visibility.

Three engine choices are available that start with a base 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder, the only powerplant for the SE, SEL, Value Edition and Limited, each mated with an available six-speed automatic or manual. We’re not certain why Hyundai chose such lackluster mojo for its Elantra lineup. Its performance is okay around town, but our tests found little aggressiveness on the open road. Our independent testing of the zero-to-60 sprint recorded a pokey 10.6 seconds, for instance, which lags behind most rivals such as Corolla or Civic.

But for more oomph, the quicker Eco trim package gets a turbocharged 1.4-liter motor to power its front wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission. And the Sport trim’s 1.6-liter turbocharged engine develops near 200 pounds per foot of torque with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic.

The Limited model is draped in leather and belts out tunes through an eight speaker Infinity system. Seating is comfortable up front, although bolstering would help. A sliding armrest provides the driver with an adjustable balanced fit, side to side. Add in nifty Apple Car Play, Android Auto and a wireless charging pad for connectivity with a 7-inch touchscreen, and the Elantra becomes far more attractive.

While dated, the Elantra’s interior is functional, lots of buttons and dials intuitively placed for driver ease. Pertinent information includes wheel specific tire pressure is displayed in an available center cluster.

The Elantra is city-friendly with a short turning radius, ease of parallel parking and a quiet cabin with nearly firm suspension to absorb those annoying bumps. Once up to speed in highway conditions, the Elantra can hold its own without taxing its engine.

Problems surface when quick passing is required, though, and we found it best to stay in place. Overall, our Limited delivered precise steering, firm braking and a smooth ride. Safety gear is abundant with blind-spot monitors, lane-departure warning, collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic alert and brake assist.

With its added safety and extended warranty, Hyundai’s Elantra is in the running behind industry leaders such as Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. Other rivals include Mazda 3, Nissan Sentra, VW Golf and Ford Focus.

Contact independent automotive columnist Len Ingrassia at lenscarcorner@comcast.net

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