Best and worst Hyundai Elantra years — which to avoid
We dove into owner feedback and issues reported to pinpoint the best and worst Hyundai Elantra years. This guide cuts through the clutter, offering clear advice based on what owners have actually experienced and the problems they've faced, making it easier for you to choose Elantra that promises a good mix of performance and reliability.
Hyundai Elantra is one of the best choices for a compact family sedan, but it’s often difficult to pick a reliable one out of 30 model production years. During the production stretch, some models had fairly low reliability ratings, even though the Elantra is a decent model overall.
Our team of automotive experts wanted to aid you in your purchase through this guide on the best years to buy and worst Hyundai Elantra years to avoid. We’ll not only discuss the best-rated models out of the bunch, but also pinpoint the ones you should avoid due to bad driver reviews, NHTSA complaints, and low reliability scores.
Why you can trust REREV’s advice on which car model years to avoid: Our car experts look at official data, ask real drivers what they think, and talk to experienced mechanics to make sure our list is useful. This reliable info can make buying a car easier for you. Want to know how we do it? Find out more about our research methodology.
How we rated the best and worst Hyundai Elantra years
While in the making of this guide, our team relied on several sources of information regarding Hyundai Elantra years to avoid. We first went through the safety ratings and records of complaints and recalls on NHTSA, as well as driver reviews and ratings on popular vehicle evaluation websites.
We cross-referenced that information with known details on ownership feedback, as well as information we received from popular Elantra forums (after thorough checking of course). So, considering it all, we came up with this list of the best and worst Hyundai Elantra years:
|Hyundai Elantra Generation
|Best Hyundai Elantra Years
|Worst Hyundai Elantra Years
|2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
Most common Hyundai Elantra problems
The Elantra started its journey back in 1990, and the first three generations were surprisingly reliable for a new model. Truth being said, these were mostly affordable cars that didn’t have much tech or additional equipment that could go wrong and malfunction.
Because of that, the first model year that received some criticism for reliability issues was 2006, and that’s impressive alone. Still, we have to consider all the model-specific problems and driver complaints filed on those to help you get the best possible option for your pocket and needs.
1. Airbag-related problems
Even though the Elantra has proven to be a fairly reliable model, some problems like the airbag system fault make drivers wonder. One of the most common problems that the Elantra owners have faced over the years is the airbag malfunction and the SRS light showing up on the dashboard. In some situations, it was a false alarm due to bad wiring and the airbag light didn’t make a cause for concern
However, in other situations, it was a more serious issue and there were several recalls concerning the airbag control module. Because of the module failure and airbag sensor faults, the airbags sometimes didn’t inflate on time. On the other hand, it’s also a common situation for airbags to inflate in situations where they shouldn’t, which adds up to the safety risk and increases the potential of injuries.
2. Steering assist system malfunction
The power steering system in the recent Elantra models operates with the help of the electronic power steering connector which is prone to premature failure. This problem mostly affects the 2017 models, and it leads to drivers having a hard time turning the steering wheel.
It’s like trying to steer the car without the power steering system, so Hyundai had to take action and schedule a recall. Owners could get the connector motor replaced and that made the electronic power steering system useful again. In case you wish to get a 2017 Elantra, make sure to check if it has gone through the recall.
3. Fuel delivery system fault
Another bothersome issue that was common for the fourth-gen Elantra is premature fuel pump wear. Drivers have reported the signs of a bad fuel pump relay and inadequate fuel pump pressure. Because of this, the fuel couldn’t reach the injectors with proper pressure and it affected the combustion cycle. This problem was most common with Elantra cars equipped with a 2.0-liter Beta engine.
It caused all sorts of issues from engine misfires, to difficulties starting the car and even engine seizing while on the road. Having an operational fuel pump is crucial, so it’s worth paying extra attention to this matter when buying a fourth-gen Elantra.
4. Electronic stability control issues
If you are an experienced driver, chances are that you are familiar with the ESC or the electronic stability control system. It’s not related to the steering assist problem we mentioned before, since the ESC applies brakes to a certain wheel to properly distribute engine power and prevent sliding while driving on slippery roads.
You can see by the role of this system how dangerous the ESC malfunction could be, especially if you are used to driving with this sort of assist. To make things worse, the malfunctioning ESC sensor didn’t only lead to a system failure, but also to the stability control system misleadingly applying brakes on certain wheels.
This caused unpleasant driving situations and loss of power without the real need for the ESC system to intervene. This was a common problem on 2010-2011 Elantra models, and the good thing is – it’s easy to check this before the purchase with the help of a trusted car electrician.
Worst Hyundai Elantra years to avoid
Now comes the crucial part in avoiding the bad production years of the Elantra and we’ll use the listed issues for help. Based on these, as well as the driver complaints record and the NHTSA reports, we can finally answer the question – what are the worst Hyundai Elantra years?
The worst Hyundai Elantra years are 2012 and 2013, but here’s a complete overview of badly-rated years:
Previous model years from 1990 to 2006 were quite sturdy and long-lasting, and it seems that a few problems occurred with the modernization of the model. Let’s take a closer look based on Elantra generations:
Third-generation Hyundai Elantra (2001-2002 model years)
The third-gen Elantra wasn’t exactly the worst one since there wasn’t much going on regarding reported problems. However, we can’t go past the few model years that still received some complaints, especially concerning transmission problems.
These were mostly present for the 2001 and 2002 models with more than 400 complaints submitted to NHTSA each. There were also some problems with the powered window operation and electrical malfunctions, so if you are buying a third-gen model, make sure to go around those two.
Fourth-generation Hyundai Elantra (2006 model year)
The 2006 Hyundai Elantra wasn’t as reliable as the previous models, but it wasn’t the worst one either. There are just a few crucial issues to pay attention to here, and one of them is the infamous airbag problem. The seat occupancy sensor malfunction caused the front passenger airbag to inflate without an apparent reason, increasing the risk of injuries.
On top of that, there were some reports of fuel delivery system leaks that could lead to a lean condition within the engine. This leads to poor performance and power output and causes that bothersome fuel smell in the cabin, so it’s best to avoid this model year.
Fifth-generation Hyundai Elantra (2010-2013 model years)
The fifth generation of the Elantra was arguably the worst one due to several known faults that may occur, and the 2013 model year in particular is deemed the worst model year. Some of the known faults of the 2010 to 2013 Elantra include the mentioned ESC problem, corroded coil springs that lead to punctured tires, and problems with the frontal airbag sensor.
When it comes to the 2013 model year, there’s the additional problem of a malfunctioning brake switch. Because of this, several problems occurred including the possibility of moving the shifter from “park” without applying the brake on Elantra models with an automatic gearbox.
The faulty switch also led to inoperable brake lights, and prevented drivers from disengaging the cruise control system, making the 2013 model Elantra one of the worst models yet.
Sixth-generation Hyundai Elantra (2017 model year)
With the sixth generation, things got much better for the Elantra as a model, and there were far fewer complaints filed by owners. However, there were a few known issues with the 2015 and 2017 models in particular.
The electric steering assist system problem made the 2017 model year the worst-rated one in terms of reliability out of all the sixth-generation models. Together with the braking system faults and airbag faults, these were the main problems of the sixth-gen Elantra.
What are the best Hyundai Elantra years to buy?
Now that you know which Hyundai Elantra years you should avoid, you can also plan ahead and go for the most reliable model years. Luckily, there are quite a lot of these due to the overall reliability of the model, but here’s a complete list if you wish to make the best pick:
The best model year for the fourth-generation Elantra is 2007, while the best fifth-gen model is 2014, although it also received some complaints. That’s why we advise you to skip the fifth-gen models if possible and go for the sixth-gen Elantra.
2007 Hyundai Elantra
The 2007 Elantra is one of the best-rated models overall if we look at more recent models produced after the third generation. It received great driver feedback along with 4.5 out of 5 stars on reputable sites like KBB, not to mention having a low number of NHTSA complaints.
However, where this model truly shines is the transmission and engine since there were no major issues with those vital systems reported. On the other hand, getting this one might make you face some slight problems with interior accessories or electrical features, but it’s nothing you can’t handle with timely maintenance.
Is Hyundai Elantra worth buying?
Ultimately, the Elantra deserves all the praise as a model and while it has a few problematic model years, it’s nothing when compared to similar cars from the same class. It’s enough to avoid the worst model years like the 2013 Elantra to get a decent daily driver with enough room for four passengers and little to no reliability issues.
Make sure to use our guide to pick the best option for your budget and needs, since the Elantra comes with reliable models in every generation.
What is the most reliable year for the Hyundai Elantra?
The most reliable year for the Hyundai Elantra is the 2005 Elantra, while the 2019 model year is equally reliable when it comes to more recent models.
Which model of Hyundai Elantra is the best?
The seventh generation model of the Elantra is the best one yet with a modernized interior and exterior and a low account of reliability complaints.
What years did Hyundai Elantra have engine problems?
Hyundai Elantra had engine problems in 2006 and these were mostly caused by faulty fuel pump pressure that triggered engine stalling.