I had the chance to drive the Elantra Touring shortly after it came out in 2009. That car had a peppy four-banger with a lively chassis and a communicative clutch; sadly, this Elantra Touring was not that car. Two years on, the Elantra Touring still has plenty of around-town pickup from its 2.0-liter I-4, but the formerly lively chassis now suffers with body roll and the clutch has zero feel. The car’s character — or lack thereof — begs for the automatic transmission, even if it is a few cogs short of the competition with only four forward speeds.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
I once got into a fairly nasty spat with a relative who unfairly knocked the Elantra Touring I was driving. It’s been two years since that episode, but the Elantra Touring is still a car I’ll defend. It’s still stylish, still somewhat enjoyable to drive (it’s a small wagon, Donny, not a hot hatch), still roomy and practical, and — at roughly $20k for this top-spec, leather-clad example — very affordable.
Of course, there is room for improvement. Although the Elantra Touring appeared here in 2009, the car itself — known as the i30 abroad — actually debuted in Europe back in 2007. As a result, it’s a little behind Hyundai’s design renaissance, which is currently sweeping through the company’s portfolio. This is perhaps most notable inside, where the design is bland but ergonomically acceptable, and plastics continue to be dark and rather hard to the touch.
I wouldn’t be surprised if much of this is rectified when the next-generation car arrives, reportedly within the next year or two (here’s hoping Hyundai can also add a clutch that feels as good to use as this sweet B&M shifter). Still, those who can’t wait aren’t to be faulted — this remains a great little car that always manages to pleasantly surprise me every time I slide behind the wheel.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
I’ll join the the Elantra Touring fan club. This car does a fairly good impersonation of an Audi A3 at a fraction of the price — and with more room inside. True, it won’t be confused with the A3 on a twisty road or a track, but around town, I thought the power was ample, and the handling better than expected. I tried a little slalom one morning, and I was surprised how controlled the car felt.
The fact that the Elantra Touring even comes with a stick inoculates it from nit-picking about clutch feel or anything else. In general, I’ll take a flawed manual over an automatic any day.
The only real complaint I have with the car is that it hasn’t gone through the new Hyundai styling machine. Give this car the new Elantra’s front end and dashboard/interior, and you have a world-beater of a wagon in this price class. Throw in the 2.4-liter I-4 found in the new Sonata (or even the new Elantra’s 1.8-liter) and things would get even better.
Matt Tierney, Art Director
An Elantra Touring with chrome-accented wheels and a B&M Racing shifter? C’mon, stop trying to be something you’re not. There’s no way a wagon, especially a Hyundai wagon, could be a peppy, road-hugging, street sprinter.
But when you get down to brass tacks, the powertrain’s not half bad. With the electronic stability control turned off, our Hyundai managed to fill the cabin with the smell of smoking tire(s). (Granted, I was on a slight incline.) Shift action is an absolute pleasure, thanks to B&M’s touch, and driving never turns into a chore.
That being said, there are a whole lot of rough spots. The steering is as numb as an eskimo’s nose, the clutch is flaccid, and the suspension is not convincing. And the sunroof shade seems to have a mind of its own under hard braking. Even so, I’d be hard pressed to say that I wasn’t surprised by Hyundai’s little wagon that could.
Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor
There’s a lot of love for the Hyundai Elantra Touring in the Automobile Magazine office, and I largely agree with the verdicts of my colleagues on this car. This compact wagon doesn’t just win on utility and practicality and value, but on the more substantial fact that it’s actually good to drive. But as good as it is, this Touring is a class below the new crop of small cars. Compared with the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze, and even Hyundai’s own Elantra sedan, the Touring lags in ride quality, interior style, and cabin quietness. On the highway, wind noise is unnoticeable, but the incessant drone of the 2.0-liter engine quickly becomes tiresome. Those quibbles aside, this Elantra looks like a good deal at just over $20,000 for this well-equipped version. Expect to pay about $2000 more for something comparable from Ford.
For many American small-car shoppers, the Hyundai Elantra Touring will be a significant surprise — but largely because their expectations are so low. In reality, this little wagon was an overlooked element in the crescendo that culminated with the Sonata. Now that Hyundai is hitting every note, this Touring doesn’t look quite as impressive, but it does bode well for the next Elantra Touring that should arrive pretty soon.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
As Evan McCausland points out, the Elantra Touring is based on the European i30, not the same platform the new Elantra sedan rides on. Personally, I’d rather have the Elantra Touring’s European roots than the Elantra sedan’s slick new interior. This is the best-dampened Korean car I’ve ever driven, there’s enough steering feel to inspire confidence at speed, and the engine has just enough power to keep things interesting if you’re willing to shift for yourself. Oh, and there’s a ton of room inside for people and cargo. This is exactly the car I’d want as a daily driver.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
How much do I like this car? My wife and I are very seriously considering buying an Elantra Touring. Since I first drove one in May 2009, I’ve held up this model as a car I would actually and could conceivably buy. A long Fourth of July weekend living with this test car only reinforced that opinion. Given our circumstances, the Elantra Touring pretty much fits our needs perfectly.
In its relatively small footprint, this Hyundai wagon offers lots of cargo space, tons of back-seat space, and comfortable front quarters. Not only is it spacious and versatile, though, it also offers impressive driving characteristics, with nice chassis balance, surprising grip, responsive steering, and a manual gearbox that’s fun to operate. I love the fact that you get heated leather seats and a sunroof for a shade over $20,000. I would add only Bluetooth and cargo-management stuff to my own Elantra Touring, and it would still sticker for less than $21,000.
I averaged an indicated 28 mpg over 300 or so far-from-easy holiday-weekend miles. The trunk held our kids’ tandem double stroller and, on a separate occasion, an ExerSaucer with room to spare for diaper bags and other items shoved in along one side.
On the downside, the door armrests could use more padding, the interior is outdated, and the ride can be harsh at times, but those were the only things that occasionally reminded me that I was driving a $20K car. What I most dislike about the Elantra Touring is its styling, which looks a little frumpy in my opinion, but my wife likes it and I don’t hate it, so we might be headed to a Hyundai dealer fairly soon. I will, however, make sure that we look into a few other options as well, namely the Mazda 5 (although the Mazda 5 isn’t available with kid-friendly leather upholstery and a stick). Perhaps I’ll see if a Jeep Patriot, a Suzuki Kizashi, or a Ford Focus hatchback will hold that big stroller. I’m pretty confident that we’ve already found a winner in the Elantra Touring, though.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
2011 Hyundai Elantra Touring SE
Base price (with destination): $20,245
Price as tested: $20,375
2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine
5-speed manual transmission with B&M Racing shifter
17-inch alloy wheels
Electronic stability control
Traction control system
Tire pressure monitoring system
6-speaker audio system
Roof side rails
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
Cooled glove compartment
Heated front seats
60/40 fold-down rear seatback
Options on this vehicle:
Carpeted Floor Mats — $95
iPod Cable — $35
Key options not on vehicle:
Bluetooth Hands-Free System — $325
Rear spoiler — $195
Roof rack cross rails — $195
Mud guards — $85
Cargo Net — $50
23 / 31 / 26 mpg
Horsepower: 138 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 136 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
Curb weight: 2937 to 3080 lb
Wheels/tires: 17-in. alloy wheels