Best & Worst Hyundai Elantra Years

We've taken a closer look at every Hyundai Elantra from 2001 until the latest model and categorized the best & worst years in this guide.

In this ultimate guide, I will explore the best and worst Hyundai Elantra model years, breaking down consumer reviews, owner satisfaction, and reliability.

Armed with extensive research from reliable sources like NHTSA, Kelley Blue Book, and others, we’ve meticulously analyzed each generation to highlight their strengths and areas of concern.

At the end, you will gain a thorough understanding of each Hyundai Elantra model year with their respective problems and standout features.

Let’s dive right in.

Related:Best & Worst Hyundai Tucson Years

Table of ContentsShow

Hyundai Elantra Generations

The Hyundai Elantra, first introduced in 1990, made its mark in the automotive world with its compact size and affordable price point.

In this guide, we will limit our analysis to model years post-2000, considering that the first and second generations are older and there’s insufficient data to provide a comprehensive review of them.

Below is a brief overview of the Hyundai Elantra generations, dating from 2001 to the present:

3rd generation (XD)2001-2006
4th generation (HD)2007-2010
5th generation (MD/UD)2011-2016
6th generation (AD)2017-2020
7th generation (CN7)2021-Present

Recognizing the shifts between generations is essential for potential buyers, as the differences can significantly impact their overall driving experience and might very well be the deciding factor in their purchase decision.

Hyundai Elantra Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

In our comprehensive ranking and categorization of Hyundai Elantra’s model years, we go deep into a myriad of factors. These factors encompass:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • owner ratings

Next, we’ll present a graph combining the ratings from all the aforementioned sources, offering a visual representation of the Elantra’s performance over the years.

Hyundai Elantra Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

Following the graph, a concise table will categorize each model year of the Hyundai Elantra as best, neutral, or worst, based on our extensive research.

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
3rd generation (XD)2005
4th generation (HD)2007
5th generation (MD/UD)2014
6th generation (AD)2018
7th generation (CN7)2022

Neutral Years are model years that neither exceptionally stand out for their excellence nor significantly underperform. These years offer a balanced performance, without major pitfalls or standout attributes.

It’s important to note that some of these factors inherently contribute negatively to the overall assessment. For instance, higher instances of NHTSA recalls or complaints often indicate a vehicle’s reliability issues.

Let’s dive into the specifications of the best, neutral, and worst years.

Best & Worst Years for Hyundai Elantra 3rd Generation (2001-2006)

Hyundai Elantra 3rd generation 2001 model
The 2001 Hyundai Elantra

The 3rd generation of the Hyundai Elantra, introduced in 2001, was pivotal for the South Korean automaker.

Hyundai worked meticulously to shed its reputation for producing budget vehicles and made strides toward building cars that were reliable, well-designed, and equipped with modern features, while still offering value for money.

The Best Years: 2005, 2006

By 2005, Hyundai had significantly refined the Elantra, ensuring it was competitive in its segment. These models were powered by a robust 2.0L DOHC engine, which was renowned for its efficiency and longevity.

Paired with either a 4-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual transmission, it ensured a blend of performance and economy. Available in several trim levels, including the feature rich GLS and sporty GT, there was something for everyone.

The GT, in particular, provided a more dynamic driving experience, complete with leather upholstery and a firmer suspension setup for enhanced handling. Additionally, Hyundai prioritized technological and safety enhancements during these years.

Advanced in-car entertainment systems began to emerge, and the brand standardized crucial safety features such as improved airbag systems and anti-lock brakes.

The Neutral Years: 2003, 2004

The models from 2003 and 2004 served as a bridge, connecting the early challenges of the generation with the refinements of the later years. The main concern was rusty front lower arms causing suspension problems.

They continued to sport the dependable 2.0L DOHC engine and saw incremental improvements over their predecessors. Available primarily in the GLS trim, these models aimed to provide a balance between cost and features.

Hyundai, during these years, took steps to enhance the Elantra’s technological footprint. Safety began to gain more prominence but hadn’t yet reached the more comprehensive standards set by the later models.

The Worst Years: 2001, 2002

The 2001 and 2002 Elantras were plagued with several challenges. Most prominently, they faced an unsettling number of NHTSA complaints, predominantly concerning airbags and suspension systems.

In 2001, owners frequently reported issues with airbag lights intermittently illuminating. This led to multiple recalls related to airbag failures. Additionally, suspension and brake issues were rampant, with corrosion emerging as a significant adversary.

This corrosion, especially in the suspension’s front lower arms, severely impacted the vehicle’s ride quality and posed safety threats. The 2002 model introduced new concerns related to service brakes.

Due to the combination of these recalls, safety issues, and a plethora of owner complaints, the 2001 and 2002 models are widely regarded as the least desirable years of this Elantra generation.

See NHTSA 2001, 2002, 2003 Hyundai Elantra recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Hyundai Elantra 4th Generation (2007-2010)

Hyundai Elantra 4th generation 2007 model
The 2007 Hyundai Elantra

As Hyundai transitioned into the 4th generation of the Elantra, the world watched the brand redefine its position within the compact car market segment.

The Elantra’s design matured, its features became more pronounced, and the brand continued to integrate global automotive trends into this renowned line-up.

The Best Years: 2007, 2008

The years 2007 and 2008 symbolize a zenith in Hyundai’s quest for excellence with the Elantra. At the heart of these models lay the evolved 2.0L engine, fine-tuned for optimal performance and fuel efficiency.

The available transmissions – both the 5-speed manual and the 4-speed automatic – were calibrated for responsive drives, aligning with the needs of the urban commuter and the highway enthusiast alike.

Notably, the advancements in in-car entertainment and connectivity set these years apart. Hyundai began to integrate more advanced audio systems, ensuring that rides were entertaining.

Beyond the basic safety protocols, additional features such as Electronic Stability Control began to make their way into the standard offerings.

The fuel efficiency rated at 18 mpg for city and 36 mpg for highway driving, signified Hyundai’s conscious effort to make the Elantra an economically sensible choice.

The applause was justified: with a 4.6 out of 5 from KBB, and the 2007 and 2008 models earning 4.7 and 84 points from Edmunds and J.D. Power respectively.

The Worst Years: 2009, 2010

However, the subsequent years, 2009 and 2010, didn’t maintain this high momentum. Most alarming were the steering issues.

In 2009, the electronic power steering (EPS) became a significant point of contention. The EPS’s electronic control unit began to exhibit discrepancies in the steering input signals, leading to the disabling of the steering power assist.

This challenge persisted into 2010, which, combined with the rising reports about electrical, transmission, and service brake issues, led to a perceptible dip in owner satisfaction.

Hyundai’s prompt response came in the form of recalls, addressing some of these concerns. It’s crucial to note that while these issues were concerning, they were not representative of the entire ownership experience.

The 2008, 2009 and 2010 Elantra SE was consistently chosen as a Top Pick for compact sedans by Consumer Reports magazine.

Best & Worst Years for Hyundai Elantra 5th Generation (2011-2016)

Hyundai Elantra 5th generation 2011 model
The 2011 Hyundai Elantra

Emerging into its 5th generation, the Hyundai Elantra undertook a radical transformation, sporting a fluidic sculpture design and projecting a more modern aesthetic.

Dressed in sleeker lines, enhanced technology, and improved performance metrics, the fifth generation was a bold step into the future.

The Best Years: 2014, 2015, 2016

The pinnacle of the 5th generation arguably arrived during the years 2014, 2015, and 2016. These models were a synthesis of Hyundai’s rigorous R&D efforts, fine-tuning, and the culmination of feedback from prior years.

The powertrain, anchored by an optimized 1.8L or the more spirited 2.0L engine options, delivered robust performance, while the available 6-speed manual or automatic transmissions provided the flexibility consumers sought.

Fuel consumption numbers had improved impressively, averaging 20 mpg for city drives and an admirable 39 mpg on highways. Complementing this performance was an array of trim options, ranging from the base SE to the luxurious Limited, each for distinct consumer preferences.

Advanced infotainment systems, Bluetooth connectivity, and a host of driver-assist features symbolized Hyundai’s commitment to aligning with contemporary technological trends. Safety remained paramount, with the inclusion of enhanced features like blind-spot detection and rearview cameras in the upper trims.

Consumer Reports rated the reliability of the 2016 Hyundai Elantra with a stellar 5 out of 5, solidifying its position in the compact car segment.

The Worst Years: 2011, 2012, 2013

Contrastingly, the initial years of the 5th generation – 2011, 2012, and 2013 – faced a few hiccups that shadowed their release.

The 2011 model year largely surrounded with airbags, suspension, steering, and engine issues. Owners lamented the intermittent illumination of the airbag light, signaling a potential malfunction.

Electronic Stability Control also emerged as a concern, with glitches potentially causing unexpected braking and reduced engine power. Eventually, Hyundai issued a recall of 155000 2011 and 2012 Hyundai Elantra models.

The 2012 model continued the trend, with the engine becoming a focal point of concern. Reports of engine stalling, knocking noises, and a general lack of refinement became more commonplace. Steering, too, remained an area of contention.

The 2013 model intensified these issues further, particularly with steering problems leading the charge. The year witnessed the highest number of registered NHTSA complaints for any Elantra model year. Electrical glitches and malfunctions, though not as pronounced as the steering concerns, began to emerge.

See NHTSA 2011, 2012, 2013 Hyundai Elantra recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Hyundai Elantra 6th Generation (2017-2020)

Hyundai Elantra 6th generation 2017 model
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra

With a sharper exterior design infused with Hyundai’s evolving fluidic sculpture philosophy, the 6th generation Elantra continued to reinforce its position in the compact sedan segment by offering a well-balanced package of aesthetics, functionality, and advanced features.

The Best Years: 2018, 2019, 2020

Coming into its stride in 2018, the Elantra showcased Hyundai’s ability to learn from past endeavors and execute refinements.

Powertrain options in these years were versatile, including the fuel-efficient 2.0L MPI Atkinson Cycle engine, the sporty 1.6L Turbo-GDI, and a 1.4L Turbo-GDI for the Eco trim, ensuring that there was an Elantra for various tastes and preferences.

Coupled with advanced transmission systems, including a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission for those seeking an extra edge in performance, the drive became smoother, responsive, and more engaging.

The trim levels offered a spectrum of choices, from the comfortable SE and SEL to the luxurious Limited and the dynamic Sport. Consumer Reports rated the fuel efficiency as 21 mpg for city and a staggering 49 mpg for highway driving.

Advanced safety features like Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, and Safe Exit Assist became more standard across the range. Infotainment received a significant boost with larger touchscreens, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and even wireless charging in select models.

The 2018 model, in particular, garnered acclaim, scoring a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS. The 2018 and 2019 model years are particularly rated as 4.49 out of 5 in the VehicleHistory.

The 2019 year further augmented this reputation, with outstanding reliability and owner satisfaction scores from renowned platforms like Consumer Reports.

The Worst Years: 2017

The initiation of the 6th generation in 2017, unfortunately, had its share of challenges.

The main concerns for the 2017 edition focused on the motor, with mentioned issues such as stalling and high oil use.

Electrical system malfunctions, which included glitches and intermittent failures, compounded the concerns.

Hyundai’s proactive response was commendable, issuing two targeted recalls for the 2017 models specifically. These addressed critical areas like power brake assist and power steering assist failures.

See NHTSA 2017 Hyundai Elantra recalls and grievances.

Best & Worst Years for Hyundai Elantra 7th Generation (2021-2023)

Hyundai Elantra 7th generation 2021 model
The 2021 Hyundai Elantra

The 7th generation, with its bold parametric dynamics and immersive cocoon interior layout, represented Hyundai’s vision of pushing boundaries while staying grounded in delivering what customers cherished most – reliability, safety, and innovation.

The Best Years: 2022, 2023

The years 2022 and 2023 marked a strong rebound for the Hyundai Elantra, building on the foundation laid in the prior year and rectifying its initial missteps.

With options such as the Smartstream G1.6 gasoline engine and newer hybrid variants, Hyundai showcased a clear direction towards sustainable mobility.

Trim levels in these years encompassed a range from the functional to the luxurious, catering to a broad spectrum of consumers. Hyundai’s Digital Key, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and dynamic voice recognition systems were clear indicators of Hyundai’s intent to merge convenience with technology.

Safety continued to be a cornerstone for Hyundai, with features like the Hyundai SmartSense package offering Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, and more.

The 2022 and 2023 model years were especially rated higher than average by Edmunds.

The Worst Years: 2021

Despite the ambitious goals Hyundai held for the 7th generation, its initiation in 2021 encountered turbulence.

Specific issues concerning seat belts came to the fore, with Hyundai having to issue a significant recall for certain 2021 Elantras. The primary concern was related to the front driver-side and/or passenger-side seat belt pretensioners, which, in the event of a crash, posed a risk of exploding upon deployment.

While the company was quick to respond and address the issues, it was evident that the 2021 model had growing pains typical of a newly redesigned model year.

Hyundai Elantra Average Resale Values

Here’s a graph illustrating the Hyundai Elantra’s average resale values over the years, providing insights into its financial longevity and what to shell out for one of the models.

Hyundai Elantra Average List Price


Going through the Hyundai Elantra’s history reveals a mixture of brilliance and challenges. For those eyeing an Elantra, opt for model years that align with our best recommendations.

Which specific Hyundai Elantra model year are you considering after reading this guide? What features or factors matter most to you?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.