2011 Hyundai Elantra

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Date Posted: February 16, 2011
By Zack Spencer

Look out Honda Civic the all-new Elantra has you in its sights

 With soft touch materials and full of great standard features the Elantra is sure to be a winner
 The little brother to the Sonata
 Yet another example of Hyundai's ''Fluidic Sculpture'' design language

The Scoop

Over the last several years Hyundai has been gaining market share, most notably from Toyota and Honda, as Canadians turn to this Korean brand for value. The plan was rather simple. Make a well-designed car, pack it with goodies and sell it for less. It worked. Now with the introduction of the hot Hyundai Sonata and this new Elantra Hyundai doesn't just want to compete, they want to dominate. With almost 25 percent of all cars sold in Canada being compacts, this latest Elantra is a big deal. So big that they have huge plans for it, most notably the number one sales spot held by the Honda Civic for thirteen years. A mighty goal and one that Hyundai hopes to win.

The Skin

The Sonata made a statement when it was introduced last year. An inexpensive car doesn't have to be boring. The flowing lines we first saw on that car have migrated to the Elantra with very good effect. Hyundai calls their design language ''fluidic sculpture'', meaning the car has the impression of moving when it is standing still. The sharply raked front headlights and grille flow easily back over the car to a high rear trunk deck. This part of the car obscures the view out the back, making parking tricky. Kids might also have limited views out the side windows because of the sloping roofline. People up to six feet tall can easily sit in the back seat. The Elantra starts at $15,849 and gets 15-inch wheels. To get 16-inch wheels the GLS needs to be ordered at $19,799 and the top Limited gets 17-inch wheels for $22,699.

The Cockpit

The same amount of attention paid to the exterior has also been focused on the inside. The dramatic looking centre console has elegant looking dials and buttons, framed by sweeping lines and a design that looks more expensive. The seats are comfortable and the way all the pieces fit is as good as any in the business. The soft-touch dash flows up and away from the driver, making the reach to the radio a bit too far. This is really only a problem on the base model, which doesn't get radio controls on the steering wheel. The base model comes nicely equipped with power windows and doors, height adjustable driver's seat and a USB port. For $17,999 the GL gets Bluetooth, air conditioning and heated front seats. This is where Hyundai is smart. To get heated seats on a Civic, Corolla or Mazda3 a buyer will have to fork well over $21,000. Clever packaging.

The Ride

The exterior and interior are all icing on the cake when it comes to this new Elantra, I'm most impressed by the power and handling. The new 1.8L engine called ''Nu'' puts out 148hp but is much lighter than the engine it replaces, making the Elantra feel very lively. The responsive engine is matched to either 6-speed manual or very effective 6-speed automatic transmission. Even though the automatic can be shifted manually it didn't require the extra work, it was so willing on its own. Another high point is standard disc brakes at all four corners providing aggressive braking, something not usually found in this class. Cornering is sure footed thanks to the lighter weight, making the Elantra a lot of fun to drive. The only shortcoming is the rather vague power steering that never really gives a solid sense of direction.

Verdict

The top selling cars in this segment are the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 with the Chevy Cruze and new Ford Focus also making moves into this hot segment. If you are looking for the fun factor, the Elantra has the goods to play with the hot handling Civic and Mazda3. The powerful engine feels better than the similarly powered Mazda3, it just has better pull at lower speeds. The interior blows the Corolla out of the water and competes nicely with the very stylish interiors found in the new Focus and Cruze. Overall the Elantra has fun, function and style and takes a bit from all the competitors to maybe make it the best all around compact car. With sold pricing and a growing brand appeal, the plan to topple the Civic for top spot might be a stretch but let's check back in a few year, it could be a different story.

The Good, The Bad

Good:

Hyundai has class leading fuel numbers, with just 4.9L/100km on the highway

Bad:

Hyundai has to improve their steering feel.

The Lowdown

Power: 1.8L 4-cylinder with 148hp

Fill-up: 6.8L/4.9L/100km (city/highway)

Backup: 4-year/80,000km

Sticker price: $15,849

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