2011 Hyundai Elantra: Goodness through and through

9 Jun 2011 | 2,018 views | No Comment
By Don Hammonds It's oh, so difficult to overstate the goodness of Hyundai's 2011 Elantra. A week's test drive convinced me that this car, by viruie of so many things, is so far ahead of the compact car competition--except for perhaps Chevy's Cruze and Ford's Focus--that buying a car this size without at least considering the Elantra would be unwise indeed. It's undeniably one of the best five cars we've driven here at "Automobile Journal during this waning model year that ends this fall.  Why is it so good? There's the fit and finish and quality. It's all beautifully done and befitting of a car costing a lot more money. There's the style and imagination that went into every facet of the Elantra.  There's the utter value of getting so much for your money.  There's how much fun you have driving it--and the lpeasure you get when you tell people that it's a Hyundai.    I don't know how often I had people say, "Wow. that's a nice car. What is it?"  Or "I was only thinking about buying one. Until I saw yours.  Now I'm definitely buying it."  Even my 17 year old said, "Wow, this is one really sick (cool) car."       Name me one other compact car for which you will pay $19,980 --the base price of the Limited version----and get: Electronic stability control and traction control. A six speed automatic transmmission. Alloy wheels. Power sunroof. Leather interior. Fog lights. Tilt and telescoping steering wheel.Heated front and rear seats.60/40 split folding rear seat. Air conditioning. Satellite radio. Side curtain airbags. ABS with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, and much more, along with a 10 year, 100,000 mile limited powertrain. And for $22,110, the final price of our test model, you get a really good, e asy to use navigation system, a premium audio system, rearview camera and other good stuff! Power comes from a 145 horsepower 1.8 liter four cylinder.  It is rated at 29/40 miles per gallon, with estimated annual fuel costs of $1,363 based on 15,000 miles of driving and $3 a gallon gas.      But it's unfair to make the proposition to buy this car simply based on value.Tthat was the deal on the "old Hyundai," when the cars were fine for going from point A to point B and you bought a Hyundai on the value proposition and nothing else. This is a "must have" car, a car you test drive, fall in love with, and decide you've got to have it.  If you get behind the wheel of the Elantra, you'll discover how much fun it is to drive, in spite of a steering system that 's a bit overassisted, and a suspension system that does not absorb rough road surfaces quite as well as some of its competition. Despite all that,  it corners beautifully, accelerates very well, and just simply is more fun to drive overall than its competitiors, except for Mazda's sporty through and through Mazda3, and again, Ford's Focus and Chevy Cruze. Those cars still have a bit more sporting dash for those so inclined than the Elantra. But the Elantra still comes mighty close to the best in its  marketplace. The interior was rich and elegant looking, with cool blue lighting, some nicely done aluminum and chrome accents, and seats that had good quality leather. And oh yes--there were individual head rests for rear seat passengers. Problem areas?  A few.  Although I liked the ultramodern design of the climate control system with its "dial within a dial" theme, I still had to watch it every time I used it to make sure I wasn't accidentally doing one thing when I wanted to do another. Hey, if you have to look at the dials every time you use it, its not intuitive, and probably should be redone. Another issue: the banging of your head getting into the car in the back seat and the tight headroom back there.  According to our pals at Automobile Magazine, the Elantra had the most legroom among sixompetitors, at 43.6 front and 33.1 rear, the headroom is only 37.1 in the back.  Only the Honda Civic EX-L was less with 36.2 inches in headroom  in back.   Also, we couldn't find a inside trunk release for the Elantra. With the goodness and "gotta have it" that Hyundai has going on for itself, the only thing that we think  Hyundai is missing is some of the "lifestyle," "choice," and "history" considerations behind its brand, and that holds true for people who are into cars, enthusiasts, and people who just want to "know" what they are buying along with the car and the value it represents. When you buy a Honda, a Ford, a Chevy or a Nissan, for instance, you know you're buying the clubs, the gear, the events, the racing, the endorsements and the rich history that those brands represent. There are publications, websites and all manner of social stuff that are connected with those brands. This is an area where we think Hyundai, still a relatively new brand,  needs to step up its game a bit. Once it's got some of those things in place, Hyundai is clearly headed for the top given the strength of  its lineup including Elantra, and its seemingly unending way to be both imaginative and stylish, as well as being a top value and affordable for millions of people.

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