2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring

Everyone in the media is universally swooning over the Genesis coupe and sedan, but this unassuming little wagon is, by far, my favorite Hyundai. It's immediately evident the Elantra Touring has European roots--the suspension is soft, but it still feels solid in a turn and, for once, Hyundai hasn't over-dampened the car. By the time I made it to the highway, I almost thought I was in a Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen.

There are, however, three minor problems with this car. Unless you're puttering around town, the engine is seriously lacking in power. Part of this may be due to the available ratios with the five-speed manual, but I'd like a little more power in a car this size if I were routinely hauling several people or a wagon's worth of cargo. The B&M shifter is pretty good, but Rusty is correct that it's still not as good as it could be. My only other gripe is slightly odd styling, but that's always going to be a subjective score anyway. One aspect of the exterior sure to garner attention are the stunning wheels. It seems as if Hyundai was known for steel wheels and hubcaps only months ago and now there are beautiful alloy wheels from the factory!

Inside the cabin there are some decidedly cheap materials, but none are offensive enough to diminish my enthusiasm for this car. The iPod interface is first-rate; the XM radio displays the artist and title of a song while scrolling through channels; and all the controls are easy to use. Cloth seats are supportive and the manual adjustments work well.

Yes, the Elantra Touring is basic, bare-bones transportation, but it doesn't feel like a penalty box. Enthusiasts will appreciate its European roots, and everyone will love the price. Product planners at competing automakers should take notice of this car and pay serious attention to Hyundai.

Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor

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