Auto Review: Hyundaia Elantra

Hyundai Elantra
Auto Review By Jim MacPherson.

Hyundai's introduction of its luxury cars, the Genesis and the Equus, might make you believe that the company is turning its back on more affordable cars. The Sonata, introduced last year, and the new Elantra sedan should allay those fears. The Elantra sedan has grown modestly and is one inch longer. The wheelbase is two inches longer. Of more importance, inside space measures 95.6 cubic feet, enough for the car to be EPA rated as a midsized.

The Elantra looks like a Sonata that shrank a little in the wash. It has two trim levels. The base version is the GLS, the model Hyundai loaned us for this review. Also available is a more luxurious Limited version.

Both versions are powered by a new 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with much of the latest technology, such as continuously variable valve timing. A six-speed manual is standard in the GLS; a six-speed automatic is optional. Our review vehicle had this automatic, which is standard in the Limited. All models feature front wheel drive.

Our zero-to-60 run required just 9.8 seconds and was marked by smooth and well-timed shifts from the automatic. If the fully automatic function is not to a driver's liking, sequential shift manual control capability is included.

Full throttle acceleration produces more engine noise than in some competitors and there is just a touch of vibration, too. However, all is quiet and smooth while cruising.

The ride is firm enough to be busy over the area's worst roads, but it is supple enoughto provide above-average riding comfort. Road noise is a minor factor at cruising speeds.

The front seats are comfortable and supportive, with more than enough room for six footers. In the back seat, room again suffices for six footers. The trunk is roomy but its opening is a little small. Loading a 60-quart picnic cooler required tilting it at awkward angles so that it would clear the opening.Handling is secure, stable and predictable. Feel through the electric power steering system, however, falls short of ideal. It is heavy on center, with resistance often falling just as logic and experience suggest that it should be increasing.

That electric power steering system, however, is just one of many steps that Hyundai has taken to push the new Elantra to the 40 mile per gallon highway EPA level. Few cars equal, much less exceed this performance. Most notable, the Elantra achieves this performance with either transmission and with no fuel-enhancing options required. Hats off to Hyundai.

Roomy, comfortable and steady on the road, the new Hyundai Elantra does more than reconfirm the company's commitment to building affordable cars. It gives competitors a big reason to worry.

Starts at: $14,945
Engine: 1.8-liter
HP: 148
Torque (lb-ft): 131
EPA: 29/40

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