Auto Review: Hyundai’s exceptional Elantra

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Thu., Sep. 15, 2011
- Contributed Photo

Every auto manufacturer (and, let’s face it, everybody else as well) would love to have a crystal ball to predict what the public will be driving a few years down the road. A perfect example of this is when SUVs took off in popularity in just a few short years. If you had predicted this and built a line of them, you were in a terrific position, whereas if you didn’t, you had to scramble to create models to meet the demand.

These days, there’s in increasing demand for exceptional fuel economy, and Hyundai has foreseen this and brought to market a new line of fuel-efficient vehicles, including the all-new Elantra. This is not only the right kind of car at the right time; it’s as handsome, refined and pleasant to drive as it is wonderfully stingy with a gallon of gas.

Like its predecessor, the 2011 Elantra is a compact sedan, but Hyundai points out it really has the interior room of a midsize. Powered by a new “Nu” engine, this is a 1.8-liter Inline Four with 148 horsepower, and a choice of either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. We sampled the automatic (made by Hyundai in-house instead of purchased from a supplier), and while the new Elantra won’t be pinning you in the seat under hard acceleration, the front-drive powertrain is acceptably quick and reasonably refined.

The styling of this handsome sedan is called “Fluidic Sculpture” by the designers, and I mention it here because it contributes to low wind noise levels (although there is a bit of road noise). Ride quality is as good (or better) than any cars in the class, and quick steering along with fairly modest external dimensions make for crisp handling and good maneuverability. Strong ABS brakes along with Vehicle Stability Management and a host of other sophisticated electronic algorithms are standard equipment, making the Elantra a loaded car in terms of safety technology.

The interior of this compact-with-the-room-of-a-midsize reveals a continuation of the fluid, contemporary styling and the kind of detail and workmanship rarely (if ever) found in the entry-level class. The driver’s pod reveals clear, concise instrumentation and easy-to-use controls, all of which have a quality that further imparts a sense of craftsmanship. Our Limited test unit included marvelous leather seating surfaces and heated front and rear seats (which we’ll need before you know it). Room is good for all occupants, and my only complaint with the rear seats is the smallish side window makes the rear cabin seem less roomy than it actually is. What doesn’t suffer from such an illusion is the trunk, which, at just shy of 15 cubic feet, is quite capacious.

If all these attributes aren’t enough to impress you, our Elantra Limited had EPA numbers of 29 MPG city/40 highway, and we saw 31 MPG in a week of mixed driving.  This is a lot of car for the money, and the 2011 Hyundai Elantra Limited has a base price of $19,980. With options that included a navigation system, our sticker came to $22,830.

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