Seat Time: Impressive All Around, Except For One Thing

June 23rd, 2016 at 2:11pm

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Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: John McElroy
Vehicle: 2017 Hyundai Elantra ECO
Price: Starting at $20,650

Final Impression:

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Admiration and exasperation. In some ways this car is a standout. In another way I don’t care for it at all. OK, let’s get the bad news over with first.

If you ever get a chance to drive the Elantra Eco, do not, I repeat, do not pull out in front of a cement mixer. Its 1.4 turbo gasoline engine performs admirably in so many respects, but not while accelerating from a dead stop or low speeds. No doubt its 7-speed DCT contributes to the problem. A torque converter would definitely help this car.

There’s a huge pause as you step into the gas and the car thinks about what to do. It only lasts a second or two but that’s enough to crush your confidence as you try to pull onto a busy street. The car offers three different driving modes: Eco, Normal and Sport but not even the Sport mode cures it.

Once you get this car going it’s quite good. It cruises comfortably at highway speeds with decent passing power, and easily winds its way through traffic.

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In my heavy-footed driving I averaged 38 miles to the gallon. I’m sure that if I had eased off a bit it would have gone over 40 mpg. It’s officially rated at 35 mpg combined, but I bet most buyers will be pleasantly surprised that it beats the label. This also puts it close to hybrid territory.

Most impressively the engine idles very quietly. I actually had to check and see if it has a stop/start system. It does not. It idles at about 750 rpm and I could neither hear it nor feel it while sitting in the driver’s seat. Amazing.

In fact, it’s quiet car overall. Not as quiet as a Honda Civic, but it comes close. And it has a cushy ride. That will not appeal to enthusiasts, but anything with “Eco” in the name will probably not appeal to them anyway.

This is the perfect commuter car for someone who wants to travel in quiet comfort without spending a lot of money. The version I test drove cost about $23,000. I think that’s a bit pricey for what it is, but it came loaded with extra features. If not for its slow-off- the-line response, I would heartily recommend the Elantra Eco.

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