2020 Hyundai Elantra driving for review

The last time we fully tested a Hyundai Elantra, we were put off by its poky acceleration, stiff ride, and loud engine. We also would’ve liked more standard safety features. Now, with updates for the 2020 model, it’s as if Hyundai heard our complaints—and the complaints of other owners—and fixed the things that had been bugging us.

Hyundai has added a new continuously variable transmission (CVT), updated the suspension, and made several advanced safety features—forward-collision warning (FCW), automatic emergency braking (AEB) and lane-keeping assist (LKA)—standard equipment on even the base model.

This updated Elantra is now a strong competitor in its class, ready to take on the Honda Civic, Subaru Impreza, and Toyota Corolla.

We rented a new 2020 Elantra from Hyundai to try it out and see what’s changed. These are our first impressions. 

What we drove: 2020 Hyundai Elantra Value Edition
Powertrain: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, paired to a CVT
MSRP: $20,600
Options: $820
Destination fee: $920
Total cost: $22,340

What We Like . . . So Far

The Elantra gets a CVT for the first time, and based on our early miles in the car, we think this is one of the best applications of that type of transmission we’ve driven lately. Often, CVT can amplify whiny engine noise, but that wasn’t the case here. There was some noise when the engine was really pushed hard, but for the most part, the CVT felt like a traditional geared transmission, and it helped the engine deliver adequate power whenever we asked for it. This updated model is not nearly as noisy as its earlier version is. Big wins all around.

Notably, the suspension tweaks resulted in a ride that absorbs bumps considerably better than before. That combined with the reduced noise makes the car feel more substantial and refined.

Some of the things we liked about the last version still hold true here: It’s a relatively roomy small car with comfortable front seats. Its controls are simple, easy-to-use, and well laid out, a typical trait for Hyundai models right now. It also has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility on the top three trims; they’re not available in the base SE trim.

Finally, we also liked that the front passenger seat can be raised and lowered, something that buyers can’t often find in more expensive vehicles. 

2020 Hyundai Elantra interior

What We Don’t Like

There wasn’t too much to complain about. Our biggest objection was that the driver’s seat didn’t offer enough lower back support. Lumbar support adjustment is available only on the power seat that comes with the Limited. 

What We’ll Keep an Eye On

That CVT should also mean better fuel economy for the Elantra. Our Kia Forte, the Elantra’s corporate sibling, got 34 mpg overall with the same transmission, 1 mpg more than our originally tested Elantra.  

CR’s Take

The updated Elantra is a competent contender in the small car category, even as the popularity for those cars is waning among shoppers. Still, given its fairly low starting price, buyers could get a real bargain.

We’d suggest that shoppers target the SEL trim, which is just above the base level. In addition to FCW, AEB, and LKA, shoppers who choose that trim get blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning systems. We know based on an exclusive Consumer Reports survey that our members value both of those features. More important, FCW, AEB, and BSW improve safety. Even with all of that, the SEL trim starts at just above $20,000—a pretty decent value. 

2020 Hyundai Elantra rear

About the cars we rent: Consumer Reports tests only the cars that we purchase. We pay automakers on occasion to drive early or different versions of cars we may ultimately buy. (We don't borrow press cars free of charge, as many other publications do.)