Hyundai Elantra GLS makes the affordable stylish, sporty
2011 Hyundai Elantra GLS Review:
Hyundai’s Elantra delivers on all the essentials most families are looking for in a midsize car, and then tacks on a few extra – like style – for good measure.
The tested base Elantra GLS with a six-speed manual gearbox offers value, comfort and style – inside and out. As for the extras, it’s darned good on gas despite its growth into midsize dimensions. And if you insist your car be built in the United States, Elantra is assembled in Montgomery, Ala.But what you really want to know is that the tested 2011 model packs a 1.8-liter, 148-horsepower engine into a car riding on a comfortable 106.3-inch wheelbase. Yet it weighs only 2,661 pounds. That means it delivers 29 mpg city and 40 highway, according to the EPA. I got 33.6 mpg in a fairly even mix of city and highway driving.
The 2011 model starts at just $14,830, adds $720 for delivery and even with the popular equipment package of $1,250 and a couple of other options, ends up at $16,930, a premium midsize value for families.
That said, Hyundai has figured out it has a sales winner and has put the features from that popular equipment package – including air conditioning, cruise control, 16-inch tires and a telescoping steering wheel – onto its base GLS model for 2012, but upped the entry price to $16,445. You pay a little more, but the value is still there because most buyers want those extra features anyway.
So how’s it drive? Extremely well.
The tested silver sedan was light enough that the engine felt peppy as I slipped it easily through its gears. Clutching is light and the shifts, while moderately long, are slick and easy. If you must have an automatic, you’ll pay $1,000 extra for the convenience.
Handling is good. This isn’t a sports sedan, but because it is light it feels sporty. Turn-in into corners is precise with minor steering wheel play. It isn’t quite as sporty as Ford’s Focus, but better than Honda’s Civic. Hyundai found the sweet spot between the two segment leaders.Ride is good, with MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear suspension. Bigger bumps are still felt, but many of our rough roads and streets barely faze the Elantra.
Braking comes from four-wheel discs and is excellent. Traction and stability control are standard.
I was surprised at the interior’s quietness. Many auto writers have cited this as an area where Hyundai can make improvements, but Elantra’s interior noise level was pleasant enough for me.
But what would turn my head first is the exterior and interior styling. Elantra is well proportioned, with a bullet-like profile and strong styling creases on the hood and side body panels.
That active styling carries over to the interior, where the dash is simple, elegant and sporty – possibly the best I’ve ever seen. The test car featured a black-over-gray textured dash that melds into the door trim, which includes matte silver accents. The accents also are used on the steering wheel, dash controls and center stack, where there also is a small black plastic panel behind the shift lever.
Buttons are well laid out and simple to see and use. They fan out in an attractive wingspread layout atop the stack, with a modest radio screen. There are big buttons, a volume control knob and XM radio included.
Elantra’s main gauges are attractive, with blue backlit rings behind the tachometer and speedometer, and the digital trip computer readout between them.
Just above the radio screen is a smaller blue digital readout that includes the clock and outside temperature readings. Hyundai also delivers a tilt/telescope steering wheel with cruise control and trip computer controls on the hub.
Climate controls are easy to use, with big temperature and fan knobs and large buttons to direct the air where you want it.
The seats are a gray cloth, and generally comfortable and well contoured. The driver’s seat has a pump handle on the side to raise or lower it. Folks felt comfortable in the Elantra. Head and legroom are generous front and rear, enough that you can carry four adults comfortably.Fit and finish feels and looks good inside, the entire car feeling tightly built. Note that the rear seats fold down for increased cargo room, but the trunk already offers a generous 15 cubic feet, which is what many full-size cars have offered for years.
Elantra comes with all the other interior features you’d expect these days, such as power windows and mirrors, remote key fob and all the iPod and electronics hookups.
Elantra is a fine midsize family sedan with superior styling inside and out, high value and good driving characteristics. It may be the best all around affordable car I’ve driven in ages.