The Hyundai Elantra, an economy-minded vehicle from South Korean automaker Hyundai, is currently in its fifth generation of production and is strong competitor in the compact car market. However, that was not always the case, as the Elantra had to deal with a reputation for being shoddily designed and cheap. Thus, getting an Elantra, especially the oldest ones, out of the large pool of used cars in the market requires a substantial amount of caution.
The first generation of production for the Elantra ran from 1992 to 1995, and this is the era that should be most avoided. In addition to high mileage and very low availability due to age, the car is severely underpowered. Only a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine was available for the vehicle: one that generates 113 horsepower and 102 lb.-ft. of torque. Moreover, the car is only available as a four-door sedan. Kelley Blue Book sets the first-generation Elantra’s price range at approximately $2,300 to $2,800, although the car is usually sold for much less.
The second-generation Elantra arrived for the 1996 model year, and was produced until 2000. It is a slightly better choice than its immediate predecessor — with an engine upgrade to an 1.8-liter engine with 130 horsepower and 122 lb.-ft. of torque, then 2-liter engine with 140 horsepower and 133 lb.-ft. of torque in 1999. Aesthetically, the car has a smoother, more rounded-out design. Although not a recommended buy due to more polished offerings from Toyota and Honda in that period, it is an economical one. KBB estimates its value at a range of $2,800 to $3,700, but ’97-to-’00 models can be purchased for as low as $1,000.
The third-generation Elantra, produced from 2001 to 2006, continued the gradual improvements made on the small car. The engine received an increase of horsepower — to 135, then 138 after the 2003 model year. The sedan became bigger, and a hatchback edition was introduced in 2002, notable for including leather upholstery. For the first time in its history, the Elantra presented itself as a worthy choice alongside compact car leaders like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Also, resale value has held up well over the years; currently customers can purchase one within the range of approximately $4,000 to $8,400.
The model years 2007 to 2010 revealed even more refinement for the Elantra, as a sports-oriented trim was introduced, handling and ride quality was improved, and the body design and interior detail was given a more upscale look. Like its immediate predecessor, the four-generation Elantra is strongly recommended for people who feel that getting a compact car from Toyota or Honda is financially out of their reach; it has a KBB value of around $10,000 to $14,000.
With each passing year or generation of production, the Hyundai Elantra has steadily built a reputation for being a worthy car choice among used cars. Thus, getting a used one from the third or fourth generation is most recommended, while it is best to avoid the Elantra’s oldest versions.