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The 2017 Elantra is Hyundai’s safest version yet, and not just in a crash

The Hyundai Elantra you’ll find in dealerships today looks a bit strange, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s a fairly bulbous, expressive, almost aquatic-looking thing, and the masses apparently approve because the Elantra remains one of Hyundai’s most popular models. In an automotive climate that insists on pleasing the greatest number of consumers possible, weird can be good.

That’s why when photos of the 2017 Elantra started popping up, I found myself slightly disappointed. It’s a fine-looking vehicle — in fact it’s more classically attractive than the old one — but it also looks a bit safe. It’s the latest example of Hyundai’s “Fluidic Sculpture” design language, and as such, it equips a more traditional front end punctuated by a large hexagonal grill. It’s a similar piece to the one found on the Hyundai Genesis, Sonata, and Tucson, but it also happens to be strikingly similar to the chest plate you’ll see on dozens of cars on the market today. The sixth-gen Elantra may be the best one yet, but stylistically it may blend into the crowd.

2016 Hyundai Elantra

2016 Hyundai Elantra

That being said, aesthetics are just one element of what makes up a good car, and the 2017 Elantra looks to be much improved overall. The new body is actually sleeker than the old one with a 0.27 coefficient of drag, and the interior is much cleaner, albeit in a more conventional, horizontally-focused way.

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Performance has also been boosted considerably for the 2017 model year. The Elantra’s chassis is now reinforced with 53 percent high-strength steel compared to 2016’s 21 percent, which improves rigidity, quietness, ride quality, and handling.

Two new engines are available for 2017 as well, including a 2.0-liter four-cylinder on SE trims with 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque, and a 1.4-liter turbo for Eco trims with 128 hp and 156 lb-ft.  The 2.0-liter engine bolts up to either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic, while the boosted powerplant mates to an “EcoShift” seven-speed dual-clutch. Hyundai estimates that the Eco option will return an impressive 35 mpg combined, but the 2.0-liter’s numbers of 29 mpg city and 38 mpg highway aren’t bad either.

Safety is always a high priority for Hyundai, and this vehicle is no exception, with its available automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, blind spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert. The brand expects a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a 5-Star Safety Rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The new Elantra arrives at dealerships in January, and pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date.