After testing the all-new-for-2011 Elantra earlier this year, we applauded the liberal amounts of style and equipment Hyundai had brought to its compact sedan. However, the colors the Elantra is dressed in make a big difference in showing off the car's seductive design, both inside and out. This 2012 tester was painted in a drab grey exterior hue -- named titanium grey metallic -- and the leather-trimmed interior was done up in varying shades of grey and black. The monochromatic color scheme sucks the life out of what is otherwise a very aesthetically pleasing and well thought-out interior. It feels drab. Our previous tester had a snazzy cream and black interior that was just as lively as the car's spunky powertrain. An all-black interior is also available that looks a little sportier, thanks to the metallic trim pieces standing out in contrast to the ebony leather.
Also worth noting on the Elantra is its battery cover. While in my care, I had to use the Elantra to jump-start my own car and discovered that the positive terminal for the battery was covered under a flip-open piece of plastic with the negative nearby, and both terminals clearly labeled. For those rare times that you end up under the hood, it makes for no-mess, no-fuss access to the battery terminals - something few cars have.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
Despite the thick A-pillars, there's good visibility, thanks to the broad windshield and generous side glass. Excellent headlights, with great high-beam reach for picking out the deer that are always lingering on the sides of the country road that I drive home. The ride quality on rough pavement is a little bit rough; the Volkswagen Jetta definitely does a better job on that front. Here's something I discovered that I absolutely love: the navigation system has a touch-screen button to turn off the volume. This sounds simple, but I cannot tell you how many cars I've driven with navigation systems where I have searched, in vain, for the ability to turn off the gosh-darn voice guidance!! It's always possible, but it's usually buried in some submenu or another.
I agree with Donny's observations regarding the colors of this particular test car. I had positive memories of the last Elantra I drove, but this one seemed somber and boring by comparison. Choose your colors well.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
My husband and I own a 2003 Elantra, which he uses as his daily driver. It's not a bad car -- in fact, it has been a paragon of reliability in the eight years we've owned it. However, driven back to back with this new Elantra, there is absolutely no comparison. The new car is miles ahead in almost every possible category -- the exterior styling is more modern, the interior materials are first-rate, options like navigation and Bluetooth are available, and the fuel mileage (which was already quite good) is even better. On top of that, when adjusted for inflation, the new Elantra isn't that much more expensive than the 2003 car. This particular model is a top-of-the-line Limited with navigation and runs about $23,500, but you could get an automatic GLS with the comfort package (which includes almost everything that's on this car except for navigation and leather) for a little more than $18,000. Driving the Elantra is also a much more satisfying experience. The brakes are better, the steering is better, the body control is better. This car represents a very good value, in that it has just the right blend of performance, quality, and styling at a price that is very competitive for its class. The time is getting near for us to replace our old Elantra, and this new one will definitely get a close look.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
The 2012 Hyundai Elantra is clearly among the leaders in the cutthroat compact-car class. However, as a car enthusiast, it doesn't really speak to me the way a Ford Focus or a Mazda 3 does. The Hyundai's overall styling is bold and distinctive, although I am personally not a fan of its exterior looks. I also find the steering feel and handling to be merely average. However, for those who like the design and are not troubled by the steering and handling, the Elantra would be an excellent choice, particularly when you consider the fact that it's got so many upscale options available (like heated front AND rear seats, navigation, a sunroof, and more) and is rated at 29/40 mpg in all iterations.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Although the Elantra may not be the enthusiast's choice, its bold styling, long list of optional equipment, and excellent fuel economy make it a smart choice for those looking for a good all-around compact car. What's most impressive about the Elantra, and all the newly redesigned Hyundai's for that matter, is the accessibility of the cabin. All the controls are clearly organized and labeled; whether you want to change the radio station, enter an address in the navigation system, or adjust the windshield wipers, everything seems to be right at your fingertips.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms