2010 Hyundai Elantra Blue

If you replaced the "Blue" suffix with "thrift," you might have a little more semblance of what this car is all about. Not only is the Elantra remarkably inexpensive to purchase (although you will want to spring for the $1700 comfort package option), it's inexpensive to operate. Thanks to some small powertrain refinements and low-rolling-resistance tires, the Elantra is able to eke out an EPA rating of 35 mpg on the highway - the same as the Honda Fit (the Elantra's 26 mpg city figure isn't far off from the Fit's 28, by the way).

Also identical to the Fit: the price tag. $14,000 will either buy you a base Elantra Blue or a base Fit. As equipped at around the $16,000 mark, our tester carried comparable equipment (and pricing) to a Fit Sport.

Which would I chose? The Fit may have a little more versatility and nicer materials inside (those in the Elantra are generally as hard as carbide), but I tip my hat in favor of the Hyundai. I was impressed at how quiet the car was (some wind noise, but road and engine noise were well-insulated), and how composed and smooth -- even floaty, at times -- the car was during long stretches of highway driving. I found the front seats perfectly comfortable, but they could use some additional bolstering.

On the accessory front, make sure you spring for that $35 iPod cable if you plan on plugging one into the car. I was able to play songs through the iPod's USB dock cable, but the radio wanted to display bizarre title names, disable artist and album searching, and grouped all tracks into folders. Using Hyundai's accessory cable, however, completely rectified the problem.

Evan McCausland, Web Producer

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