Award:Honorable Mention for FE and Design
Introduction: It looks like we?re starting to see the collaborative efforts of Hyundai and it?s newly acquired partner, Kia. The Elantra has been completely re-designed this mocel year and it certainly shows. From grille to trunk, and inside the car, this is an entirely different vehicle ? and much improved. The only carry-over is it?s thrifty 2.0L, 4-cylinder and transmission choices.
On the Outside: The exterior sheetmetal makes this car look like a sophisticated compact sedan (albeit a midsize). Front-end cues feature integrated fog-lamps and styled headlamps. A large chrome grille accents the aerodynamic look. From the rear, rear lights remind me of the new Lexus IS. The overall shape is very sculpted and soft. Wheels are well-styled and compliment the design. The trunk looks to cut-off abruptly, but is merely an illusion ? its capacity is larger than previous.
I?m really stretching here to find problems with this car, but perhaps the rounded edges make the rear-half look mild, whereas a frontal perspective re-affirms a more aggressive design. I say, ?Take a look and see what you think.?
On the inside: What a nice surprise! I was fully expecting to have the Spartan, no frills interior that other compact Korean vehicles have provided. Instead, a carefully crafted dash, driver-oriented center stack, and electric-blue accents (even in the power window switches) gave the indication that some attention was spent on design and implementation. First, however, I found the driver?s seat (despite its height adjustment) to be quite uncomfortable. Honestly, that was the biggest complaint of the whole vehicle. Additional feature content that made for a convenient driving experience included: 2-power points, auxiliary music input, 6-disc in-dash changer with MP3 capability and a decent sounding stereo. Blind spots were minimal and interior space is noted to be larger many than others in its class. The steering wheel offered cruise buttons and was properly weighted. Cup holders were all over the place and supported larger items. On higher trim levels, leather seating and additional options are available.
The drive: Here is where the Elantra separates itself from it?s more basic Kia Spectra twin. The ride is much softer and absorbs road undulations with some fuss ? crosswinds and those lumpy roads require a bit more steering input. Steering is crisp and precise with it's electronic steering rack, despite the softer ride. Before heading out on the road, I had visions of nearly all Hyundais tested before: a disconnect among the front and rear suspension, body of the car, and consequently the driver. But that wasn?t the case at all. City driving was enjoyable with turns and curves presenting no challenge. The tilt wheel felt to be properly weighted and sized. Quite simply, the sedan felt light on its feet and fun to drive. Once you finally reach the limit, slight understeer is the norm. Once back to the highway, it cruises along with some softer presentation. Body roll is more evident but didn?t hamper the drive in the least.
The engine and transmission seemed to be less harsh in this model than in the Spectra. Still present is the pillow-soft shifts, which is a bit much for a 4-cylinder sedan: upshifts simply slide into place. A firmer gear-change would give the impression of more power. Otherwise, no other complaints from me! The engine is perfectly suited for American driving. Low-to-Mid range torque for city driving and highway merges are complimented by its very efficient high speed operation. As a result, the engine gets a bit wheezy at high-RPMs ? but with good fuel economy, who cares? If you need it, it will quickly accelerate using its torque curve.
Safety: Standard on all Elantras are ABS with EBD, with front and side-curtain airbags for all passengers ? which make this an excellent value from a safety standpoint.
Efficiency: I know I?m reaching here, but with a mixed MPG of nearly 35, what could be achieved with a smaller engine? I can easily see a 1.6L base engine handle the task well, and completely blow away the 2-liter?s FE. But, here in-lies the rub: to make it in the American market, Hyundai?s aim has been to out-option similar models at a lower price. This would include the 2.0L as standard fare (although a 5-speed manual is available, the SULEV is auto only).
Conclusion: In conclusion, I give an honorable mention to this new model. I wouldn?t hesitate in recommending this car to buy, rent, borrow, or what-have-you. Of all vehicles tested, 34.6 MPG is the best tested to date. Granted, driving style was borderline conservative-to-average, but with highway speeds of 70+, some stop and go highway jams and spry city operation, this car does it all -- efficiently and with some class.
Model: 2007 Hyundai Elantra
Class Size: Mid-Size
Trim: SE Automatic
Transmission: 4-Speed Automatic with LUTC
Engine: DOHC, 16-valve, 2.0L Inline-4 cylinder, rated at 138 HP, and 136 lb-ft torque
Curb Weight: 2747 lb.
GasSavers Tested Mileage: 34.6 MPG (ScanGauge Verified)
Gallons Consumed: 8.0
Speed Avg: 57 MPH
Time: 4.9 hours
Ambient Outside Temp: 25-45F
FE Conclusion: Right on the mark with the EPA.
For the Hypermiler (New): Expect better results with the 5-speed and a SULEV is available (probably in certain States). With basic techniques, 40+ tanks can be achieved. Engine-off operation yielded heavy steering (electric) and an annoying feature of turning the headlights off on key turn. A simple mod can probably help with the lights.