2011 Hyundai Elantra LimitedPosted on August 5th, 2011
Compact sedan is a super value
By Nina Russin
It’s rare for a baseball player to hit consecutive home runs, and perhaps less common for a car company. But that’s exactly what Hyundai has done with its new compact Elantra sedan, following on the heels of the midsized Sonata.
The new Elantra is a super-value, not only because of its sub- $20,000 price tag, but what the car offers: a fuel-efficient engine, extensive roster of standard convenience and safety features, and an industry-leading ten-year/100,000 mile warranty.
Power comes from a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 148 horsepower, and a proprietary six-speed automatic transmission. The Elantra averages 33 miles-per-gallon for combined city and highway driving according to the EPA. Mileage for my 100-mile test drive was slightly better: 34.5 miles-per-gallon.
Base price for the upscale Limited grade is $19,980 including destination charges and a full tank of gas. Standard comfort and convenience features include keyless entry and start, 17-inch alloy wheels, a power sunroof, XM satellite radio, USB and auxiliary ports, Bluetooth interface, leather trim, and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio, cruise and Bluetooth controls.
A premium package on the test car adds navigation with a rearview backup camera, automatic headlamps and an upgraded audio system ($2000). Carpeted floor mats and an iPod cable bring the price as tested to $22,110.
Big power from a small block
I’m leery of small, four-cylinder engines, which can be gutless in times of need. Think about pulling out of a tollbooth at the height of rush hour and you’ll get the picture.
While Hyundai’s 1.8-liter engine revs high hard acceleration, it does so in a very civilized manner. Equally important, it produces enough power to perform under challenging conditions. Just to be sure, I drove the Elantra up the Beeline highway east of Phoenix towards Payson: an elevation gain of about 3000 feet.
Under normal loads, such as highway cruising, the engine revs between 1500 and 2000 rpm: hence its outstanding fuel economy. The six-speed automatic transmission transitions smoothly through the gears with a minimum of shift shock and no hunting. During hard acceleration or on steep grades, the engine will rev as high as 4000 rpm, but it does so free of vibration.
Variable valve timing enhances power, as does the engine’s 131 foot-pounds of torque, which is quite a bit for a block of this size. Engineers wisely contained curb weight to 2877 pounds (less for the manual transmission version), providing a positive power-to-weight ratio.
Aggressive in the corners
While the Elantra is by no means a sports car, the sedan’s steering, suspension and brakes offer surprisingly good performance on winding roads. The suspension includes gas-filled monotube shocks, which have a firmer rebound. A stabilizer bar on the front axle helps to keep the chassis flat in the corners.
The electric power steering system offers plenty of assist for low-speed maneuvers, with positive on-center response on the highway. A 34.78-foot turning radius makes for easy parking on the street. The occasional U-turn is a non-issue.
While some competitors save money by using drum brakes on the rear axle, Hyundai uses discs on all four wheels. Discs don’t retain water the way drums can and are easier to service, especially in areas where the drums might be prone to rust. Ventilated discs on the front axle offer additional stopping power under the part of the chassis with the most weight.
Seventeen-inch wheels are exclusive to the Limited grade: base models come with 15-inch rims. The smaller wheels are more than adequate for average driving, but the larger alloy rims dress up the exterior and provide a slightly larger footprint for aggressive maneuvers.
The Elantra’s stylish interior makes the car look more expensive than it actually is. Keyless entry and start saves the driver for fumbling for the fob, which is both a convenience and safety feature.
Fit and finish is excellent throughout the passenger compartment. Manual seat adjustments are easy to use. The driver’s seat has ample lower lumbar support for trips several hours in duration.
The tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag, and a clear forward view. Redundant audio controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction. A digital display in the gauge cluster gives the driver trip meter, range and fuel economy statistics.
A center stack screen displays the maps for the optional navigation system, audio selections and the wide-angle view from the rear backup camera when the car is in reverse. Unfortunately, designers failed to put a hood over the screen and the small digital display above it, so the image literally disappears in bright sunlight.
Sound from the premium audio system is quite good. The standard USB port and optional iPod cable enable the driver to run his portable music player through the car audio system.
Second-row seats have a reasonable amount of head and legroom for small-to-average adults. Although the Elantra doesn’t have a tall floor tunnel, the location of the center console eliminates some legroom in the center position.
Both rows of passengers have access to bottle holders in the doors, and cupholders in the center console and a fold-down armrest in the rear.
The rear seats fold flat to create a pass-through and extend the rear cargo area. With the seats in place the Elantra has plenty of room for the weekly groceries or a weekend’s worth of luggage. Cyclists will be better served with Hyundai’s Tucson and Santa Fe crossover vehicles.
The Elantra comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, daytime running lamps, antilock brakes, traction and stability control. The factory warranty includes five years of complimentary roadside assistance with no mileage cap.
Kia builds the 2011 Elantra at its Ulsan, Korea assembly plant.
Likes: A stylish, well-equipped compact sedan with excellent fuel economy and a high level of standard safety features. Hyundai’s ten year/100,000 mile factory warranty is the industry leader.
Dislike: Center stack displays are difficult to read in bright sunlight.
Model: Elantra Limited
Base price: $19,980
As tested: $22,110
Horsepower: 148 Hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 131 lbs.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 29/40 mpg city/highway
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