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