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Thursday, January 27, 2011 • HERITAGE MEDIA/WESTERN REGION

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While driving the Elantra, you must remember that it’s an inexpensive compact car, because its looks belie that.

Hyundai’s 2011 Elantra bigger, better and prettier By David Schmidt Journal Register News Service

Hyundai’s new-generation Elantra comes four years and four months after the launch of the previous model— that’s pretty aggressive development. Few manufacturers are still launching truly fresh vehicles in that short a timeframe. In fact, most are back to the longer spans that ruled prior to the early 2000s. The Elantra will be built in the firm’s Alabama plant, so the three best-selling Hyundai models sold here will be built in the U.S. Eventually the plant will export production elsewhere. Last year, Hyundai sold 200,000 Sonatas. Consumer clinics showed an 84 percent purchase consideration among participants, meaning that 84 percent of those who drove the Elantra said they’d consider buying it. That’s even higher than the Hyundai Sonata’s response in similar research, and sure enough, Sonata sales leaped. Of course, Hyundai officials are hoping the same thing happens with this new Elantra. Mike O’Brien, vice president of Product Planning for Hyundai Motors of America, says that the Elantra competes with the Corolla, Civic, Focus, Cruze, Sentra and Mazda3. Hyundai’s concept was to move the Elantra from a traditional, more conventional vehicle towards a more sporty, modern one in the mix. The design certainly reflects that. The car has more presence, and it’s more aggressive and appealing. If it looks like a miniature Sonata, it’s not by accident. But like most compacts, when they change, they get bigger. The Elantra is two inches longer, with a 106.3-inch wheelbase. With 110.4 cubic feet of interior space, it’s technically a mid-sized sedan, but Hyundai still considers it a compact. Competitors range from 102.9 cubic feet of space for the Honda Civic to 110.5 cubic feet for the Nissan Sentra. The Elantra’s engine is a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder that comes in two versions, the standard ULEV engine, which generates 148 hp. and 130 lbs-ft of torque, and the PZEV engine, which meets the tougher environmental standards but allows you only 145 hp. and 130 lbs-ft of torque. Its got dual variable valve range control for more torque without making the engine bigger and less efficient. On the base GLS model, a 6-speed manual gearbox is standard, with the standard 6-speed automatic in the Limited available as an option in the base car. This new 6-speed manual is benign, smooth and easy to shift. The gearing is properly set for good efficiency rather than crisp acceleration. The automatic shifts up and down smoothly and is well geared for normally varied driving. It does let you keep the revs up, which is valuable in a car with only 148 hp. Having said that, this car isn’t underpowered

compared to its competitors. There’s a MacPherson strut suspension in front, coupled torsion beam axle in the rear. Body stiffness is up 37 percent over the previous model. The Elantra comes standard with stability control and management, and 4-wheel disk brakes feature anti-lock along with emergency brake assist and distribution. The handling is better than you expect it to be, and quite different between the Limited, with its 17-inch alloy wheels and tires, and the 16-inch-steelwheel-clad GLS model. The Limited sports Continental tires, and the GLS has Hankook tires, so there’s plenty of reason for the difference. Interestingly, the difference isn’t necessarily that the Limited is better than the cheaper GLS. I found the GLS to handle more smoothly, with less intrusion into the driving process. The Limited was twitchier in cornering. Turn-in was abrupt, but that handling would probably result in faster cornering, if that’s what you’re looking for. I have to comment on the electric-assist power steering: I found it imprecise, requiring more corrections than I’d like to see. How you turn into a corner seems jerky and the steering feels like it wants to wander rather than maintaining the same arc through a curve. But although it feels like these corrections are necessary, if you really pay attention, the car doesn’t wander off-line as far as it feels like it is. As the electric steering is light, with lots of assist, it may just be something that goes away as you get used to it. Is this a condemnation? No, not really. Were this a sports car or performance sedan, it might be. But in a car that’s chosen for other-than-performance reasons, it’s not a dealbreaker. Plus, I generally only drive these cars for a day or a week, so if you own one, you’ll become used to and familiar with the steering feedback and probably not even notice it. Pushing through the foothills east of San Diego was fun. Keeping the car in third gear helped with braking and turning in more smoothly in the series of quick lefts and rights that climb and descend what (in the East) would be considered mountains. With the added ability to shift the car’s balance with the throttle, everything worked more effectively, meaning smoother acceleration and braking as well as more precise steering. While driving this, you must remember that it’s an inexpensive compact car, because its looks belie that. The exterior has the chic, stylish look of big sister Sonata. The interior design is modern and sophisticated. I liked the air conditioning and heat knob, which is two circular knobs inside of each other. The materials actually reflect the market segment, but it’s still pretty.

The interior design is modern and sophisticated. The upscale stereo system is decent, something well appreciated in this class. The navigation system is as good as most, and the differences between them are becoming even less noticeable. The seats are comfortable and have the normal range of adjustment. Hyundai’s idea is to give the Elantra large-car features, and that means more interior space, more storage, and garnish that’s a plus in the compact segment. So there are heated rear seats, leather seating, a 360-watt stereo system, Bluetooth with audio streaming and a 7-inch screen for the navigation system all available. The nav system even includes a rearview camera for safer backing. There are only two trim levels, the GLS and the Limited. Naturally, the less expensive GLS is the volume model, giving Hyundai the opportunity to gussy up the Limited. Prices begin at $14,830 for the base GLS with manual transmission and 16-inch steel wheels. If you get the Limited model, it includes 17-inch wheels and starts at $21,980. The package with the navigation system costs you about two grand on either model. An impressive accomplishment for the new Elantra is to have received a significant upgrade to their three-year residual rates, important for lowering the lease price. In 2010, that rate for this car was 48 percent of original value, and for the 2011 model, it leaps to 63 percent, one of the highest around. The car is already in showrooms. Go look. If you have any questions, comments or ideas, please send them to

The navigation system is as good as most, and the differences between them are becoming even less noticeable.


Thursday, January 27, 2011 • HERITAGE MEDIA/WESTERN REGION The interior design is modern and sophisticated. While driving the Elantra, you m...