2018 Hyundai Elantra Eco is a Peppy, Gas-Sipping Charmer

Light on the wallet, the 2018 Hyundai Elantra Eco still packs a punch. All photos by Matt Coker

To figure this one out, I need a head doctor–head as in noggin, not necessarily leader of a department.

Recently, when Ride Me featured Hyundai’s 2018 G80 Sport, yours truly wrote that the driving experience resembled a luxury-car versus sports-car ride.

A few weeks later, I climbed behind the wheel of Hyundai’s 2018 Elantra Eco and guess what? It provided the sports-car feeling I craved. Bear in mind the all-wheel-drive G80 Sport had a 3.3L Twin Turbo V6 pushing out 365HP, while the Eco had a 1.4L Turbo GDI V4 pushing out 128HP.  

Nuts, right Dr. Andretti?

Perhaps it had to do with familiarity behind the wheel, because except for those years I was driving an old Caddy El Dorado convertible, my every-day cars were predominantly small sedans or mini trucks–and never a mid-size luxury ride.

The ’18 Elantra Eco loses no style points, but the aerodynamic design actually boosts fuel efficiency.

So, it was deja vu all over again while making tight U-turns, taking the Eco hard through downhill S turns and getting up to the flow of freeway speeds. (I know, that normal flow speed can be zero on the 405; I was referring to entering different freeways where traffic was rolling around 65-70 mph.) The ride itself was nice, smooth, which would also describe the changing of gears provided by the automatic 7-speed EcoShift Dual Clutch Transmission with Shiftronic.

The exercises were performed in the Eco’s three driving modes: Normal, which is what you’ll normally use as you otherwise have to activate the Eco or Sport modes. Eco mode makes the engine sip even less gas, especially in city driving. Sport accelerates the throttle response and tightens up the steering.

Low-rolling-resistance tires wrapped around 15-inch alloy wheels did quite well gripping the road when the car was put through the paces, but they along with the Eco’s aerodynamic design were actually devised to further improve fuel efficiency.

Indeed, in further comparions with the G80 I recently test drove, the luxury sedan is said by government estimators to generate $2,100 in annual fuel costs versus $1,050 for the Elantra Eco, whose “Eco” name applies to fuel efficiency, not hybrid motoring.

In that sense, comparisons really ought to be made with similar conventionally powered versions of the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Nissan Versa, Scion and Toyota Corolla. Fueleconomy.gov ratings have all of those hitting at least 35 miles per gallon of gas, which is exactly where it puts the ’18 Elantra Eco.

Everything is within easy reach and the color combinations of the dashboard lights are attractive.

That’s the average based on 32 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. The gubment also has this Hyundai scoring an impressive 8 on the 1-10 scale (10 being best) for its fuel economy and greenhouse gas rating, while the smog rating is a less stellar 3.

Comparing sticker prices really works out well for the Eco if you through the G80 back into the mix. The one I recently test drove, once you added in the accompanying fees and charges, approached $59,000. My Quartz White Pearl Elantra Eco tester comes in at $21,560.

As for extras, the only items that were not included in the base price were the $125 carpeted floor mats. I say, “Splurge!” Especially since this is among the standard features on the Eco:

Projector headlights; door handle approach lights; vertical LED daytime running lamps; heated outside mirrors and front seats; leather-wrapped steering wheel; 3.5-inch monochromatic TFT driver information center; dual-zone automatic climate control (with CleanAir ionization and Auto Defogging systems); 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; and an audio system that is equipped with six door-mounted speakers.

A complimentary three-month SiriusXM satellite radio subscription is also included. But my favorite standard feature is the keyless entry system with not only a key fob and push-button starting but Hyundai’s hands-free “Smart Trunk,” which no other car in the Eco’s class offers. Approach your Eco with the key fob, and the trunk lid will open by itself as three beeps sound, which anyone toting boxes, groceries, a stroller (or all three) can appreciate.

There is plenty of cargo space in the Eco’s trunk, whose lid can open hands-free.

Another favorite feature is the rearview camera with Dynamic Guidelines that show the path of the vehicle once moving. Blind-Spot Detection with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert is another standard safety feature.

The ’18 Elantra Eco received four stars each in Government 5-Star Safety Ratings for driver, passenger, rear seat, rollover and overall score, and five stars for the side of the front seats.

Yes, of course, this is yet another Hyundai covered by “America’s Best Warranty,” which includes: the 10-Year/100,000 mile Powertrain Warranty; 5-Year/60,000 mile New Vehicle Limited Warranty; 7-Year/Unlimited Miles Anti-Perforation Warranty; and 5-Year/Unlimited Miles 24-Hour Roadside Assistance.

Hyundai dealers also send you on your way in your Eco with a full tank of gas.

So, failing to consider this model when shopping for cars in its class would be a major sign someone needs his/her head examined.

That gas tanker on the 405 can keep on going as the ’18 Elantra Eco is a sipper.

Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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