2011-2016 Hyundai Elantra sedan: problems, engines, fuel economy, pros and cons, photos

Updated: December 10, 2021
The 5-th generation Elantra sedan is a stylish front-wheel drive compact.
2014 Hyundai Elantra 2014 Hyundai Elantra sedan.
It comes with a fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The Elantra sedan is widely available on the used car market, but is it a good choice to buy used? What are the reported problems? What model years should be avoided?

Hyundai Elantra Problems: There are a few reports of wheel bearings and shock absorbers going, but it's fairly common for all cars.

A problem with a transmission range switch (inhibitor switch) may cause the vehicle to start in Neutral but not to start in Park. One symptom of this issue is when the transmission shifter position indicator "P" is not displayed on the instrument panel. The repair is not very expensive; the transmission range switch must be replaced. The NHTSA website has a number of complaints about this issue. We found a few YouTube videos explaining the problem and the repair.
We found several reports that the engine is making a ticking noise after started cold. Hyundai Auto Canada issued the bulletin 14-20-002 about a a knocking noise in the 1.8L engine of the 2011-2013 Elantra Sedan (UD). According to the bulletin, "The symptoms of this particular engine knocking condition is the engine exhibits a loud knock during start up but the noise reduces as the engine reaches operating temperature".
Hyundai Elantra interior Hyundai Elantra interior.
There are a larger number of complaints about the engine on the NHTSA website for the 2013 Elantra, compared to other model years. CarComplaints.com rates the 2013 Elantra poorly, with most complaints also related to the engine.

The NHTSA website also shows 168 complaints (as of March 2020) about the steering in the 2013 Elantra. Many owners mention a clicking noise in the steering. The Hyundai service bulletin TSB 17-ST-002 says the noise in the steering might be caused by a worn rubber coupling and mentions extending the warranty for certain models for this issue to 10 years/100,000 miles (google: warranty extension TXX7).

The Hyundai TSB 13-AT-014 for the 2011- Elantra (MD/UD) mentions a problem related to the transmission input and output speed sensors causing the codes P0717, P0721 and P0722. The repair procedure involves the inspection of the harness and the connector, as well as installing a new input/output speed sensor inside the transmission.

There are also a few reports that the leather steering wheel is peeling off.
Several owners mentioned audio system failures.
Exhaust rattles are not uncommon, but they are not very expensive to repair.
Hyundai has issued several recalls; check for details at the NHTSA website.

Engine: The Elantra GLS, SE and Limited sedan comes with a 148-hp 1.8L DOHC 4-cylinder engine with the code name "Nu." It's a modern lightweight engine with variable timing on both camshafts. The 2014+ Elantra sedan SPORT comes with a 173-hp direct-injected (GDI) 2.0L version of this engine. Direct injection means that fuel is injected directly into the engine combustion chamber under much higher pressure. Read also: Pros and cons of buying a car with Direct Injection. The Nu engine doesn't have a timing belt; it uses a maintenance-free timing chain that doesn't need to be replaced in regular intervals.

Fuel Economy: The EPA rates the 2011-2013 Elantra sedan at 28/38/32 mpg city/highway/combined. This means you can get close to 475 miles (764 km) on a tank of gas in mostly highway driving. The 2015-2016 Elantra sedan 2.0L auto gets 24/35/28 mpg.

Handling and ride: The Elantra handles well and is maneuverable in city driving; the turning diameter is 34.8 ft. The downside is that some road noise is noticeable, especially when driving on a rough road. The engine noise is pronounced too.

Mechanical: The Elantra sedan rides on MacPherson struts in the front and a torsion bar axle in the rear suspension. Rear brakes are discs. The steering is electrically assisted.

Pros: Looks, fuel economy, roomy interior, trunk space, Bluetooth, standard USB, iPod connection, inexpensive maintenance.

Cons: Road and engine noise, not all models are equipped with a spare tire, interior materials could be better, engine issues in earlier models.

Overall: Given the crash test results, engine problems and other reliability questions, we recommend looking for 2014 and newer models. As of March 2020, Consumer Reports rated only the 2014 Elantra 'above average' for predicted reliability; all other model years of this generation were rated 'average'. We think the 2013 Elantra should be avoided altogether due to the number of engine complaints. If you are buying a used Hyundai Elantra, consider getting a good powertrain warranty, since the engine and transmission are the two most expensive to repair items.

Hyundai had problems with engines in other models, such as the Sonata and Santa Fe. On the other hand, we spoke to two Elantra owners; both had the Elantra for over 4 years. Both owners were happy with the car. One owner mentioned the peeling steering wheel as the only problem she had, although later she had some issues with the transmission. We found Elantra owner reviews online were mixed: many owners complimented a roomy interior, trunk space, gas mileage and maneuverability, but others mentioned a lack of spare tire and engine issues in earlier model years. Among similar cars, we recommend the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3. Read also: What mileage is OK for a used car?

Safety: Six airbags, antilock brakes and a stability control system are standard on all trim levels. Crash test results are mixed. The NHTSA rated the 2012 Elantra sedan early release with only three stars out of five in a frontal crash. The 2012 later release, as well as 2013-2015 Elantra sedan got perfect five out of five stars overall rating. The 2011 model wasn't rated.

Related reviews:
Toyota Corolla 2014-2018
Honda Civic 2012-2015
Used Chevrolet Cruze 2011-2015 review
Used Toyota Corolla 2009-2013 review
Mazda 3 2014-2018 review
Used Nissan Versa 2007-2011 review
Dodge Dart 2013-2016 review
Used Honda Civic 2006-2011 review
Mazda 3 2010-2013 review

Hyundai warranty: Hyundai's new car warranty coverage is one of the best in the industry. However, at the time we did our research for this review, the Hyundai USA website mentioned that the 10-year / 100,000 mile powertrain warranty coverage "applies to original owner only." Used car buyers can still benefit from the 5-year/60K mile basic warranty.

Model line-up: In the U.S., the 2011 Elantra sedan was available in two trim levels: the base GLS and Limited. The GLS comes with standard power windows and locks, tilt steering, an iPod USB jack, and 15- or 16-inch tires and optional Bluetooth. The Elantra Limited offers a sunroof, fog lights, heated leather front and rear seats and optional 17-inch tires. Optional premium audio system, navigation, rearview backup camera and automatic headlights were available on both trim levels. For 2014, the base trim level was renamed SE. The Elantra sedan SPORT with the 2.0L 173-hp engine was added to the lineup.

Maintenance: The Elantra is not very expensive to maintain.
Regular oil changes, tire rotations, plus, after 60K, a drive belt, transmission fluid and spark plugs. Regular inspection will show if anything else needs to be done. The Owner's Manual for the 2011-2015 Elantra recommends using the 5W-20 engine oil. Oil change intervals are listed at 7,500 miles for normal conditions and 3,750 miles for severe conditions. Severe conditions include repeated short trips, extensive idling, driving in areas where salt is used in winter months, mountainous areas, etc.

In our view, the engine oil should be changed at least every 5,000 miles, as some amount of oil is normally consumed between oil changes. The automatic transmission fluid is recommended to be changed every 60,000 miles (for severe conditions). Spark plugs must be replaced at or before 105K miles. Tires must be rotated every 7,500 miles.