Who can afford those cars you write about? That’s what I get asked a lot. But to be fair, that question doesn’t represent me very well. Sure, I get high-end, super-expensive to drive and review. But I also get affordable family vehicles too. No really, I do! Case in point, this week’s tester is the 2020 Hyundai Elantra. It can’t much more basic and affordable than this.

But, being basic, doesn’t mean it’s lousy or cheap because this Elantra is neither of those things.

For the 2020 model year very little is changed for this compact car. Gone is the manual transmission. Sorry Boomers, but nobody knows how to drive a manual any longer, and so it only makes sense to replace the manual with an automatic transmission. Unfortunately, they went with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and that is never a good thing.

EXTERIOR

The looks of the Elantra lack distinction. It doesn’t have the pizzazz of other vehicles in this segment and also doesn’t have the youthful personality either. So, that leaves the Elantra kind of stuck in the middle somewhere, in a segment that seeks out young buyers. I’d like to see more personality and more styling from the Elantra, although the front end is nice with the hood indentations. But there’s so many hip things carmakers can do with lights today, that the Elantra misses that opportunity to add character to this dull car.

PERFORMANCE

The Elantra has some personality when it comes drive performance. It offers a couple different engine options that range in excitement and personality. Unfortunately, my tester had the base 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine which has satisfactory, but uninspiring performance. With a couple of peppy, turbocharged engine options, this one lacked enthusiasm. It makes only 147 horsepower. Plus with the annoying overall performance of any CVT that further detracts from this engine and the Elantra’s overall performance.

As such, the 2020 Hyundai Elantra, without the peppier engines is quite basic, and this time I’m using that in a derogatory way.

INTERIOR

The Elantra offers a nice, quality interior. My tester was the top-trim Limited. As such, it’s surprisingly nice, with a good amount of rear legroom. That’s a nice surprise for a compact car. This won’t fool you thinking you have a luxury car, but for an “affordable” car, it is pleasantly surprising.

It’s no surprise, if you’ve read my Driver’s Side column through the years, that you know I like hatchbacks. The Elantra has a hatch and I’m sure it would scratch me where I itch. But as a sedan it was a nice interior. The 14.4 cubic feet of cargo room is an impressive number. And adding a hands-free trunk release is a nice feature for an affordable car.

The infotainment system is basic, but that’s a good thing this time. It’s intuitive and offers just enough technology, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration on an eight-inch touchscreen.

There are some nice safety-oriented tech features like forward collision avoidance, lane keep assist and cross-traffic collision warning. For that reason, the Elantra is a great vehicle for a young or first-time driver.

PRICING

There are five trims for the Elantra sedan. My tester was the top-tier Limited. The starting price for the Elantra Limited is $22,800. My tester came with the expensive Ultimate Package which includes the aforementioned eight-inch touchscreen, power sunroof and the sensor-based safety elements I just mentioned. As such, my tester had a final MSRP of $27,215.

FUEL ECONOMY

The Elantra has great fuel economy. It has an EPA rating of 30 mpg/city and 40 mpg/highway. It may be a little poky, but it makes up for it with less trips to the gas station. I averaged just over 34 mpg in a week’s worth of mostly suburban driving.

Basic can have many meanings, both good and bad. The Elantra may be a basic car, but it also has many better-than-basic qualities too.

SPECS

2020 Hyundai Elantra Limited

Price/As tested price……………………. $22,800/$27,215

Mileage…………………………………… 30 mpg/city; 40 mpg/hwy

Engine……………………………………… 2.0-liter 4-cylinder

Horsepower…………………………… 147 hp/132 lbs./ft.

Transmission…………………………… CVT

Drive Wheels………………………… Front-wheel drive

Final Assembly Point………………… Ulsan, Korea

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Jimmy Dinsmore

For several years Jimmy Dinsmore has reviewed new vehicles, offering up a unique look and an interesting voice in his weekly column. Jimmy looks at vehicles from the consumer’s point of view. Light on the technical jargon, and lacking the cynicism that pervades many other auto reviews, Driver’s Side treats each vehicle fairly, offering a light-hearted take. Email him at - jimmydinsmore@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @driversside.

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