Wednesday, December 8, 2010

2011 Hyundai Elantra Test Drive

2011 Hyundai Elantra Test Drive
Hyundai’s impressive product push continues unabated. John wasn’t even breathing hard as he greeted me effortlessly cruising up the hill. Designer of both cars, Cedric d’Andre, describes the design language they call “fluidic sculpture” that characterizes the current generation of Hyundais. Character lines move around the car drawing it tightly into a graceful, aesthetic, efficient whole.
Interior design reflects the same design philosophy. Moving the cowl forward, increasing the wheel base by a couple of inches and designing in every space advantage they could conceive puts interior volume for Hyundai Elantra technically into the mid-size category. The 60/40 split rear seat makes for efficient expansion of the large trunk. Even with the front seats fully back most rear seat passengers will be comfortable. It’s amazing how roomy they’ve made this “compact” car.

The Hyundai Elantra felt great on the highway and on level roads but once off I-8 and into the mountain two-lanes I felt like we needed a bit more power. Driving dynamics are excellent. (Hyundai has its own Steel plant and 400 metallurgists working on new uses for the hard metal.) A great deal of effort went into making Elantra quiet. What the Hyundai folks are most proud of are the mileage numbers posted confidently by Elantra. The basic car with six-speed manual transmission and no extras (it’s reasonably well equipped without extras) comes in at under $15,000.

Obviously, the new Hyundai Elantra styling is the big story. Base models start at $15,625, making the Hyundai Elantra one of the least-expensive compact sedans on the market, and undercutting the Kia Forte -- a distant mechanical relative of the Hyundai Elantra -- by $65. At the high end of the scale is the $20,775 Elantra Limited, which includes leather seats (heated in front and in back!), a sunroof, alloy wheels, and an automatic transmission.

The "Hyundai Elantra" 148 hp 1.8 liter engine provides a perfect blend of power and fuel economy. Overall, I'm quite pleased with the new Elantra. How does the Hyundai Elantracompare to the big dogs in the segment?

With the 2011 Hyundai Elantra, the company is attempting to take that box of compromise and shake it all about. Hyundai's taking the fight to the compact side of the sedan spectrum with the new Elantra, the latest in the reinvention of its model range. The Elantra's visual presence suggests confidence. Although similar to the outgoing Elantra in width and length, the 2011 Hyundai Elantra chops nearly 2 inches out of the height and instead adds it to the wheelbase. The subdued aggression of the nose, the long wheelbase, sharp character lines — this is definitely not a toylike small car.

Styling nits to pick? The "2011 Hyundai Elantra" simply looks terrific in the metal.
Also of note — rear seat heaters. Yep, and they're standard on the Elantra Limited.

Hyundai is quite proud of the Hyundai Elantra 29 city/40 highway mpg, taking great pains to point out that those fuel economy numbers apply to all Elantras regardless of transmission, trim level, wheel size or even paint color. No premium need be paid for a special high-efficiency version as with the Cruze Eco or Fiesta with the Super Fuel Economy package. Not so the Hyundai Elantra. Although it delivers fully class-competitive power, the Elantra's engine still relies on revs to tackle large hills or freeway merging situations. A six-speed manual is standard on base models, but the six-speed automatic is optional on the GLS and standard on the Limited.
The front suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and there's a twist-beam rear suspension. This compact rear suspension allows for ample cargo volume of 14.8 cubic feet.
Surprisingly, Hyundai fitted monotube dampers to the Hyundai Elantra rear suspension rather than cheaper twin-tube dampers. The fundamental goodness of the Elantra's chassis is, er, good.
Two Trim Levels, Many Choices

Like the Sonata, the "Hyundai Elantra" will be offered in two trim levels, GLS and Limited. Optioned smartly, the Hyundai Elantra is more than just a lot of car for the money.

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