Compact car; Built in South Korea
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,100 – $2,100*

1996 Hyundai Elantra 4-door sedan

1996 Hyundai Elantra 4-door sedan

1996 Hyundai Elantra 4-door wagon

1996 Hyundai Elantra interior

1996 Hyundai Elantra 4-door wagon

  • Dual airbags
  • Optional antilock brakes
  • Fuel economy
  • Passenger room
  • Passing power (automatic)
  • Small trunk opening
  • Noise

Value-conscious shoppers might want to take a close look at this latest, greatly improved Elantra, which flaunts a friendly demeanor. Though not flawless, moderate secondhand prices can make it tempting.


At 100.4 inches, the wheelbase of the front-drive subcompact was two inches longer than the prior Elantra’s, and six inches longer than that of the mini Accent. Sedans and new station wagons came in base and upscale GLS trim, all with standard dual airbags. Antilock brakes were optional only for GLS versions. Sole engine was Hyundai’s 130-horsepower, 1.8-liter 4-cylinder with dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. Both 5-speed manual shift and a 4-speed automatic transmission were available.

Yearly Updates

1997 Elantra
Except for revised interior fabrics, Hyundai’s midlevel sedan continued as before.
1998 Elantra
Elantra saw no changes for 1998.
1999 Elantra
Elantra got modest nose and tail restyling, and replaced the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder with a 2.0-liter unit. The GLS model was dropped, but GL could be ordered with antilock brakes.
2000 Elantra
After nearly a year’s absence, the uplevel GLS model returned, but entry-level GL trim was gone; so GLS was the sole model.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Early Elantras carried a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder with dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, rated at 130 horsepower. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard, and 4-speed automatic with electronic controls optional. In ’99 Hyundai dropped the 1.8-liter in favor of a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. It made 140 horsepower and offered the same transmission options.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/110
Engine HP 130
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 122
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 140
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 133
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

Road Test

Hyundai’s second-generation Elantra took a giant leap forward in roominess, quiet running, and all-around competence on the road. Not only is this version quieter than the prior Elantra at highway speeds, but the engine becomes raucous only when pushed hard. Acceleration is good with either transmission, and passing power is brisk in around-town driving. On the downside, the automatic transmission shifts abruptly at times, and passing power above 60 mph is meager. Fuel economy is good. We averaged more than 25 mpg.

The suspension absorbs most bumps neatly, providing a stable highway ride. Unfortunately, you must cope with an abundance of suspension and tire thumping. Steering feels a trifle loose, but an Elantra handles competently, maneuvering nimbly with good grip. Brakes have a solid pedal feel, but a panic stop in an Elantra without ABS produced plenty of tire squeal and even a threat to swerve.

Visibility is clear in all directions. Head and leg room are generous in front for medium-sized adults. Backseat space is adequate, with acceptable head and leg room, but not enough width to hold three occupants comfortably. Sedans have passable trunk space, but a small opening, so loading of bulky items could be easier. The split-rear seatback on the GLS model folds for additional cargo space. The station wagon’s rear seatback folds to create a flat cargo floor.


Model Tested: 1997 Hyundai Elantra sedan 5-speed

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 4
Fuel Economy - 7
Ride Quality - 3
Steering/Handling - 3
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 4
Room/Comfort Front - 4
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
Cargo Room - 3


Value - 5

Total: 40


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
100.4 174.0 66.9 54.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
11.4 14.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.6 37.6 43.2 34.6
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
100.4 175.2 66.9 58.8
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
63.0 14.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.6 38.9 43.2 34.8
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Elantra 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 3
Front Passenger Injury - 3

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 3
Rear Passenger Injury - 1


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 141
Injury 213
Theft 84

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: If the transmission slips or will not go into fourth gear, the end clutch probably needs to be replaced. (1996)
Automatic transmission
Description: Automatic transmissions may flare between second and third or downshift poorly. There is a modified transmission-control module available. (1996-97)
Hard starting
Description: Hard starting may be due to a cracked in-tank fuel line. (1996-97)
Timing belt
Description: Noise from the timing belt due to belt walking off of pulley and rubbing timing cover requiring replacement of the idler pulley. (1999-00)
Transmission problems
Description: If transmission sticks in 3rd, shifts poorly, or has harsh 1-2 shift, the pulse generator may need to be replaced. (1996-2000)
Check-engine light
Description: Check-engine light illumination on SOHC models might be caused by a problem with the transmission control module (TCM). Repair includes replacement if the TCM. (1996-99)

Recall History

Description: Wipers may not operate, due to contamination.
Description: Evaporative emissions control system can apply excessive vacuum to fuel tank, resulting in minor tank distortion; small crack could develop, allowing fuel to escape.
1999 w/automatic transmission
Description: Pressure control solenoid-valve seals can allow transmission fluid to leak, resulting in slippage.
Description: Intermittent low-speed engine stalling occurs if the mass airflow sensor electrical signal is interrupted due to engine vibration transmitted to the MAF sensor-connector wiring harness.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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