In a segment about as competitive as the application pool for Harvard, the <a href="http://www.automobilemag.com/new_cars/11/hyundai/elantra/index.html" title="Hyundai Elantra" alt="new Hyundai Elantra models and submodels”>Elantra stands out as one of the most well rounded entries. It has a ton of standard equipment, gets great fuel economy, and has an attractive and comfortable interior. It also drives very competently, if not engagingly. The only flaw is ride quality. It’s not terrible in any conventional sense of the word – I drove the Elantra for several hours on the highway and then through some rough city roads and was never really uncomfortable. As with those Harvard wannabes though, small issues become magnified because the other candidates are so darn good. Models like the Ford Focus, the new Honda Civic, and the Chevrolet Cruze offer similar (if not quite equal) equipment and fuel economy, but ride like luxury cars. The Focus is also much more rewarding to drive, as is the Mazda 3. Of course, each of the models I just mentioned has a few imperfections of its own, so it really comes down to a buyer’s priorities. Those looking primarily for value and fuel economy who don’t often drive on awful roads – in other words, most compact car customers who live in the southern half of the United States – can do no better than the Elantra.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
What’s perhaps most amazing about the all-new Hyundai Elantra is just how much of a quantum leap it represents over the last Elantra. This is a car that used to define the bottom of the barrel; now, it’s a leader in the compact-sedan class in terms of styling, refinement, comfort, and amenities.
The Elantra, the Honda Civic, and the Ford Focus are all new this year and will be competing fiercely with each other for the attention of buyers who are newly concerned with fuel efficiency but are accustomed to enjoying the luxuries and conveniences of more expensive cars and crossovers. The Elantra is well equipped for this task. There has been, and will continue to be, a debate about which of these three cars is the best to drive, but the differences between them are probably too subtle for most general-interest buyers to discern. What shoppers in this segment are going to react to are considerations like value, styling, comfort, roominess, and the Elantra has these attributes in spades. One small example of how user-friendly this cabin is: it took me all of about 30 seconds to sync my iPhone with the Elantra’s Bluetooth.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
The Elantra is another really good vehicle from Hyundai. The cabin is neat and straightforward while still being stylish and, dare I say, elegant. Every control is clearly labeled, within easy reach, and nicely sized and weighted. The overall feeling of quality and attention to detail is truly impressive. This top-spec Limited Elantra is loaded and trimmed in leather so I’m interested to see how the base GLS model will compare, especially considering it starts at about $15,700, more than five grand less than this version.
The exterior design is just as well done as the interior. It looks enough like the Sonata to establish a clear family resemblance but it’s also unique enough so it doesn’t look like a mini-me of its larger sibling. The new Elantra also manages to be modern — instead of garish, too futuristic, or just plain boring like some of its competitors — without looking trendy or like it will start to show its age quickly.
Driving the Elantra is less of a revelation, but it’s still quite good. The engine is responsive and, while it doesn’t exactly purr under hard acceleration, it’s not terribly loud or harsh either. The thick steering wheel provides decent feedback and is nicely weighted. Like the Sonata before it, the Elantra is a markedly better than its predecessor and will likely be a game-changer for Hyundai, this time in the compact car segment. I look forward to driving the new Ford Focus and Honda Civic to see how they compare.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
I eagerly awaited a chance to drive the 2011 Hyundai Elantra. Hyundai has been riding a wave of success for almost two years now and the Elantra promised to bring the brand’s newfound poise and refinement to a segment that’s suddenly white-hot. Perhaps my expectations were too high for the little Hyundai because I thought the Elantra took a step back from our Four Seasons Sonata SE in terms of driving dynamics. Yes, the bigger, more expensive Sonata gets a more sophisticated suspension, but when cars as small as a Fiat 500 feel more solid on the highway at 80 mph I know Hyundai can polish the suspension tuning and damping a bit more. That said, Joe DeMatio is correct that the vast majority of buyers shopping for a car based on appearance, value, and fuel economy will find no fault in the Elantra’s ride.
Unlike Joe, I had a difficult time figuring out how to pair my phone with the Bluetooth system in this car. I had to look long and hard to find the small button next to the CD eject button that’s responsible for pairing your phone. Any owner would be smart enough to read the manual first, but other Hyundai products have been so intuitive for tasks like pairing a phone that I’ve come to expect an interface that doesn’t require a manual. Once my phone was connected, the sound quality was very good.
Overall I was very happy with the Elantra. As David Zenlea pointed out, there’s no better mix of performance, value, and quality than the Elantra in the compact car segment for most shoppers right now. As much as some people like how the new Focus drives, getting a well-optioned car pretty much necessitates the MyFord Touch system that can be incredibly frustrating. Hyundai’s stellar infotainment system is a bigger draw for the average consumer than European-tuned driving dynamics, especially in this segment.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
2011 Hyundai Elantra Limited
Base price (with destination): $19,980
Price as tested: $22,860
1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine
6-speed automatic transmission
17-inch alloy wheels
Electronic stability control
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Tire pressure monitoring system
AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system with 6 speakers
iPod/USB and auxiliary audio input
Remote keyless entry
Tilt/telescoping steering column
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
Leather seating surfaces
60/40 split fold rear seats
Options on this vehicle:
Premium package — $2000
Navigation with high-resolution 7-inch touch screen
Premium audio system with external amp
Proximity key entry with push-button start
Carpeted floor mats — $95
iPod cable — $35
Key options not on vehicle:
29 / 40 / 33 mpg
Horsepower: 148 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 131 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm
Curb weight: 2877 lb
Wheels/tires: 17-inch alloy wheels
215/45R17 Continental ContiProContact all-season tires
What’s new? Everything