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2011 Hyundai Elantra: Breaking the Paradigm of Econoboxes

First we had the Sonata and now we have the Elantra.  The Sonata was the direct hit to the gut but the Elantra is the uppercut that no one saw coming.  Gunning for the respect of Hyundai naysayers, the Elantra delivers the quality, fuel economy, and price tag that will change minds and make believers.

While other automakers have raised the price of their new c-segment vehicles to make them in America with a profit, Hyundai has changed the game again.  Hyundai seems to be bucking the trend these days of lofty price tags.  The Elantra is a stylish value package assembled in the good ol’ U.S. of A. that needs to be at the top of your test drive list.

When I first saw the bottom line of the Elantra Limited, my eyes were stunned.  $22,700 for an Elantra?  Was this the end of the world?  Did I need reading glasses?  The answer is no and no.  At first glance, the price is a bit of a shocker.  But take a look at the Chevrolet Cruze, which can easily top $25,000 for an LTZ and the Ford Focus Titanium, at a cool $28,000.  Neither of which can hit 40 MPG at that price.  The Elantra starts at $14,830 if you don’t need all of the goodies.

The Elantra Limited I tested packed a navigation system with a gorgeous high resolution display, rear view camera, and heated rear seats.  Yes, heated rear seats.  The rear seats are actually quite roomy, too.  With me at 6’3″, my wife coming in at 6’1″ and a baby in the rear, there was plenty of room to spare.  It must have something to do with the 43.6 inches of legroom in the front seat.  The center stack has an hourglass-like figure that gives the illusion of being in a larger car.  Hyundai has also managed to design a manual climate control system that looks sophisticated and modern.  The steering wheels offers all of the redundant switches one could need to control the navigation system or your iPod.

The most impressive feature on the Elantra is not one that is obvious to buyers.  While other automakers are using expensive technologies like dual clutch transmissions, turbochargers and direct injection, Hyundai has used traditional means to hit 40 MPG without the need for a special trim package to obtain the much-coveted 40 MPG mark.  What does this mean for the consumer?  Hyundai can offer the Elantra at a very attractive price by not baking in the cost of expensive fuel saving technologies.  40 MPG is on the standard equipment list.  This means more money in your pocket at the pump and off your monthly payment.

The Elantra has a smooth ride and is well isolated from wind and road noise.  The steering can be a bit vague at times as I often found myself making odd sudden corrections at 70 MPH.  The six-speed transmission is buttery smooth and the 148 HP 1.8L engine has more power than the turbocharged Cruze.  The all aluminum 1.8L four cylinder hit 33 MPG in mixed driving.

I must not be the only person who thinks the Elantra is a worthy contender because supplies are very limited at dealers and the plant in Alabama is cranking them out as fast as they can.  It’s definitely an attractive vehicle since it sports version 2.0 of Hyundai’s fluidic styling on the exterior and interior materials (minus the headliner) that make you feel like you robbed the bank.  If you’ve ever thought small cars were punishment for saying you haven’t quite arrived at that point in your life where you can afford the luxo boat, the Elantra is a car you won’t be embarrassed to be seen in.  It makes a statement that you value style and saving money at the pump.  With the instability in the Middle East and fuel prices on the rise, that 40 MPG as standard equipment sure looks like a winner for everyone.

2 Comments

  • Jonathan Brown| February 25, 2011 at 8:32 pm Reply

    Dave!

    Excellent writeup on what looks and sounds to be quite an impressive car. I really enjoyed reading your insights and perspective on what amounts to a new leader in the segment..

    Its not so much the Ford or chevy brands that need to be worried but rather the japanese competitors who are so soundly beaten by this new Elantra.

    Very good looking car!

    Thanks

    JB

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