There was a time when a car buyer had to compromise comfort, space, built-quality, refinement and a cool-looking design to get a fuel-efficient, compact vehicle. Well, not anymore.
Korean automaker Hyundai has changed all that. A few years back, the world's fifth-largest car manufacturer set the goal to achieve at least 40 miles per gallon (mpg) of gas for every one of its vehicles, paving the way to becoming the undisputed leader in outstanding overall fuel economy among top auto brands.
They are achieving this while putting out some nicely built, good-looking vehicles with great, hot designs such as the Tucson sport-utility vehicle, the Genesis Coupe, the Sonata sedan and the new Elantra, plus a few more surprises planned for later in the year.
These include the all-new Veloster sports coupe and the Accent i-25 subcompact, along with turbo and hybrid versions of the Sonata.
ELANTRA RAISES THE BAR
At the heart of the fully redesigned and ultra-stylish 2011 Hyundai Elantra is an efficient 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine paired with a new six-speed automatic transmission that gets the job done beautifully, with power to spare.
The new powertrain enables the Elantra to return the impressive Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel estimates of 29 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway, without the need of a hybrid powertrain or manually switching to an "eco" mode.
The all-new aluminum cylinder block and lower crankcase create a 30% lighter engine compared to the previous generation.Dual continuously variable valve timing (D-CVVT) optimizes intake- and exhaustiveness timing with stable combustion for maximum performance at any speed.
The new Elantra GLS generates 148 horsepower and 131 foot-pounds of torque. It carries a very favorable manufacturer's suggested retail price of $20,995, including excise taxes. Best of all, the basic model offered on the island is better-equipped and offers more goodies than the same basic model offered in the mainland U.S.
The Elantra competes in the growing and popular compact segment with stiff competition from the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Kia Forté, Mitsubishi Lancer, Chevrolet Cruze, Volkswagen Jetta and new Ford Focus.
Having lost the "econobox" shape associated with compact cars, the new Elantra bucks convention with a style that breaks free of the traditional vanilla looks with which this segment has been associated for so many years.
Its striking resemblance to the larger midsize Hyundai Sonata is no coincidence, as both share Hyundai's "fluidic sculpture" design theme that has helped the automaker garner rave reviews.
This new offering from Hyundai was designed in Southern California, and integrates a sloping coupe-like roofline and an increased wheelbase to give it a sporty, low profile with an appealing wedge shape that looks like forward motion.
The basic Elantra comes standard with high-end features that some compact competitors don't even offer as an option, such as fog lights, a tire-pressure- monitoring system, four-wheel disc brakes with antilock brake system (ABS), and 17-inch alloy wheels.
ROOMY, COMFY INTERIOR
Despite being a compact, the new Elantra is so roomy inside that the EPA now considers it a midsize car in terms of interior volume.
The Elantra's inviting and comfy interior impresses with its high-grade fit and finish and quality of materials that rivals those found in more expensive vehicles. Inside, the curved center stack and stylized climate controls provide a bit of fl air, while the modern and sporty-looking instrument cluster is easy to read either in broad daylight or at night.
Audio and climate controls are within easy reach of the driver. Cargo volume hasn't been overlooked, with the Elantra providing 14.8 cubic feet of generous trunk space.
As in most compacts, the limited rear headroom, while adequate for most average-size people, might pose a challenge for taller passengers.
HIGH ON SAFETY
Despite its low price, safety features are high on the list for the new Elantra. These include three-point seat belts and adjustable, dual-active head restraints for all passengers, seatbelt height adjusters for front passengers, dual front airbags and roof-mounted side-curtain airbags.
Four-wheel disc brakes ensure the Elantra will stop on a dime, with a brake pedal that doesn't feel too soft or too hard.
Electronic stability control (ESC) sensors measure the degree of deviation from a driver's intended path when a turn is less or more than intended, and applies appropriate braking force to individual wheels to help regain control.ESC also includes a traction-control system (TCS) that reduces wheel spin when accelerating.
Additional safety features also help this compact entry stand out in its field. ABS helps prevent the possibility of wheel lockup under hard braking, and rapidly pulses the brakes to help retain steering control as you come to a stop.
Brake assist helps detect emergency braking and ensures the maximum braking force is immediately applied to minimize stopping distances.
Electronic brake-force distribution balances braking forces at each wheel when the car is loaded. This helps the driver maintain confident control in difficult braking situations.
FULL OF TECHNOLOGY AND CONVENIENCE FEATURES
Technology and convenience features that drivers of more expensive cars have come to expect are also found in the basic model of the new Elantra.These include integrated Bluetooth connectivity that enables hands-free phone use with steering-wheel controls and connections for iPod.
The Elantra also comes standard with power door locks and windows (with driver's auto down), dual electric side mirrors, rear-center armrest with cupholders, dual illuminated vanity mirrors with extensions, 60/40 rear split folding seat, color- keyed door handles and side mirrors.
Everything that makes a compact car more than you bargained for can be found in the new Elantra.All this is wrapped in Hyundai's industry-leading 100,000-mile, 10-year powertrain warranty that has many automakers still counting time and mileage in much smaller numbers.
The Elantra offers plenty of value for the money and niceties seldom found in the compact class, even rivaling the offerings of much pricier sedans. The next time you complain about the high cost of gasoline these days, make sure you have the Hyundai Elantra and its 40- mpg fuel average on your list of options.
The 2011 Hyundai Elantra has proven you don't have to sacrifice comfort, quality, safety and good looks to obtain great fuel economy.