Hyundai, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2012 Hyundai Elantra GLS – Road Test

I’ve never been a fan of budget-priced cars and have always done my best to stay away from them if I could afford a better one — even if it cost more money. That changed when I set my eyes on the all-new 2011 Hyundai Elantra. Even the ugliest of chicks will have construction workers doing a double-take, and whistling at her (car) when she drives by.

This is a looker from every angle. I have two questions:1) Why did it take so long for a budget-conscious vehicle to look this good, and 2) Until now, why have cheap/reasonably-priced cars been so ugly?

It doesn’t cost more money to design a good-looking car, so why are the Nissan Versa/Juke/Leaf so ugly that they give Stevie Wonder the shivers? How many people have become violently ill when a Citroen drives past? Don’t tell me it’s all about cost, because the smaller and cheaper all-new 2012 Hyundai Accent (coming soon) looks just as good as the Elantra!

First Impressions
Looking good is one thing, being good is another… is the Elantra just good looking on the outside and plain-Jane on the inside? Nope, like a perfect woman – it’s not just beautiful on the outside, it’s just as attractive inside too. Sliding behind the wheel, you notice how nicely balanced everything looks. A lot of car interiors are designed so that everything is symmetrical and you find a button or knob in an odd spot and wonder “What were they thinking when they decided that was where they should put that button there?” In some instances, you’ll get the trunk release button in amongst the radio buttons just because the designer wanted to fill a little hole.  Not so with the Elantra – everything has a place and it’s logical and well-positioned. I love the heating/AC button -it’s so simple and logical to use, why hasn’t someone thought of it before?

Iain Shankland,

Adjusting the tilt and telescopic steering, the seat positioning and the mirrors – I was ready to drive off in under 20 seconds. The material on the seats, dashboard and the doors is much better than I was expecting. I knew from driving Hyundai’s in the past that they are just getting better and better with each model that they release, but the Elantra is a budget-priced car, so I expected them to cut some obvious corners to save money, but I couldn’t find anything that stood out as cheap. The switches and buttons feel like they’ve come out of a more expensive car – not a Lexus, but something considerably more expensive than a $15-20,000 car.

Somewhat impressed, I set off for the drive home. That’ll give me just over 90 minutes to see if this care will sink or swim in the cutthroat world of highway driving – usually an ordeal at the best of times in a “cheap” car.

  • Will the engine noise at 120 km/h be so unbearable that I’d wished I brought earplugs?
  • Will my back be aching so badly from the crappy seat that I’ll need to visit a chiropractor when I get home?
  • Will I be terrified of all the big trucks that I end up stranded in the middle lane as everyone blows by me?  The next 90 minutes will tell the story.

Iain Shankland,

Once I got home, those questions all had the same answer – No! The response from the gas pedal was surprisingly good. I didn’t expect to be blazing a trail all the way home – but I did. At 140 km/h the Elantra is shockingly quiet – never mind the fact that it was relaxing and not terrifying driving it at those speeds in this “cheap” car. The steering is quite light – a little bit more boosted than I like, but very liveable. The response from prodding the go-pedal caught me off guard – it’s only got 148 hp and 131 lb-ft torque coming from the 1.8 L engine, but it uses it extremely well. Entering the highway, I was expecting to floor the throttle and hear a whole lot of noise and a whole lot of going nowhere. Instead, what I got was a bit of noise and a whole lot of scampering up to 130 km/h lickety-split. Even at full-throttle, the interior is far quieter than you’d expect from a car in this class. The 6-speed automatic certainly helps keep the revs down and in-turn the noise, but whenever I needed to stab the gas pedal, it reacted immediately and there was never any worry that I’d changed lanes and was going to get rear-ended while waiting for the transmission and engine to communicate.

After leaving the highway, I thought I’d give the SHIFTRONIC transmission a bit of a workout. When I drove the Sonata a couple of months ago, I loved the transmission and rarely left it in full automatic mode. The Elantra transmission is just as good, but I preferred the Sonata for one reason – you pull the shifter to the left to engage the SHIFTRONIC, whereas in the Elantra you push it to the right. It’s a small thing, but I found it more comfortable and natural to use, and that’s probably why I used it all the time. Leaving the Elantra in full automatic all the time was never a handicap because shifts were always smooth and quick.

At the end of my journey, I found the driver’s seat to be quite comfortable. There is no lumbar adjustment unfortunately, but the seat is still very good – again, compared to vehicles in this class – it’s exceptional. In addition to having the front seats heated, the Elantra also give rear occupants some bum warmers – something you’d only expect to see in far more expensive vehicles. One thing of note was that the rear seats stay on all the time if the button has been pressed, but the front ones go off when the car is has been switched off. We had been driving the Elantra for almost a week with the rear seats on and only found out about it when we had rear passengers. For me that’s a worry, because how much life are you going to lose from the rear heaters when they are left on inadvertently?

Rear entry and exit are very good considering the sharp drop in the rear roofline. Once in the back seats there is plenty of headroom, shoulder and hip room for two people and as expected it’s a bit of a squeeze for three, but still somewhat roomy. There is no hump on the floor, so sitting in the middle isn’t akin to a torture chamber should someone be relegated to that position. I found the foot space under the front seats a little tight, but I got no complaints from any rear passengers about that.

Iain Shankland,

The trunk is bordering on huge for a car of this size. With 420 litres (up from 402 in the previous model), many mid-sized cars don’t have this type of cargo capacity – there’s even a little bit more room under the floor by the spare tire. The rear seatbacks fold almost flat and split 60/40 for even more room, with the release levers located conveniently inside the trunk. Of note, the trunk lid of the GLS can be opened using the fob or the lever down by the driver’s seat, but there is no button for opening it at the back of the car – it seemed odd not being able to do that even though there was a spot for a rear button (I suspect there is one on the Limited model).

Storage spaces in the Elantra include under the centre armrest, a covered area in the centre console for iPods/MP3 devices next to a 12-volt outlet, USB and auxiliary ports and two small slots on either side of the centre tunnel with a 12-volt outlet on the passenger side, an average-sized glove box and door pockets.

Driving around town and in the city, the Elantra is in its element. Visibility is very good with virtually no blind spots at all. The steering weight that I mentioned earlier is perfectly suited to city and parking lot speeds. The turning radius is impressive and parking the Elantra quickly and easily was something that really stood out. With more than enough power under the right foot, taking off from traffic lights always left everyone else in the dust – even though you weren’t even trying. The 0-100 km/h test of 9.1 seconds is very deceiving compared to when you are actually behind the wheel – you always felt that it was much faster than that, yet on the highway you always feel like you’re going slow – until you look at the speedometer and discover 140 km/h in a 100 km zone isn’t really slow after all.

Iain Shankland,

Depending on the model of Elantra you choose, there’s a different audio system that … Standard on L and GL trims is a 172-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with six-speakers and iPod®/USB/auxiliary input jacks. Stepping up to the GLS and Limited, XM Satellite Radio® (includes real-time NavTraffic) is added. Another option is the  Limited with Navigation, and you get a 360-watt system with external amplifier, touch-screen navigation system that includes a high-resolution 7.0-inch display with voice-activation via a headliner-mounted microphone, an integrated rear-view camera and users can even upload personal pictures from a USB storage device or CD to be displayed on the system’s home screen. In the tested vehicle (GLS) we found it acceptable, but not inspiring.

Standard Features
When you look at all the standard features in the new Elantra, you have to wonder how any other car manufacturer can compete with Hyundai in this price bracket. A lot the features are only available in cars costing many thousands of dollars more, and some features aren’t even available in cars in the next size/price bracket. Standard Features include: 172 watt AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 stereo with 6 speakers, iPod / USB / AUX connectivity and steering wheel controls, Air conditioning, Power windows and door locks, Trip computer, Six-way adjustable driver’s seat, Cruise control, Heated front seats, Heated rear seats, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, Tilt / Telescopic steering wheel, Leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob, 16” alloy wheels, Dual heated power exterior mirrors, Fog lamps, Power sunroof.

The 2011 Elantra comes with the following standard safety features: Advanced front airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, and roof-mounted curtain airbags (6), 4-wheel disc brakes, Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA), Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control System (TCS), Keyless entry and alarm system

In “economy” cars there is always the fuel consumption high on the reason for purchasing one, and in that department, the Elantra excels. The official government numbers come in at 4.9 L/100 km highway on all models – giving it a Best-in-class fuel economy is standard, not unique to a special eco model (Ford Focus) and it’s also more powerful and fuel-efficient than Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Chevrolet Cruze. In my driving from home, back to Hyundai in Markham, I got 5.0 L/100 kms – but I was blasting along at 135 – 140 km/h.

Hyundai are very proud the Elantra and provided some charts to prove it against its immediate competition – including the “Car of the Year” – check it out….

Iain Shankland,
*Estimated fuel consumption

The Elantra is considered a small-sized car but it’s total interior volume beats the 2011 Civic sedan, 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, 2011 Ford Focus, and 2011 Toyota Corolla. Surprisingly, it even surpasses the Acura TSX (3,033 litres), Nissan Maxima (3,115 litres), and VW Passat CC (3,095 litres) in total interior volume. Elantra’s trunk volume of 420 litres also bests Civic and Corolla.

The Conclusion
If the Elantra has to be summed up in one word it has to be – awesome.  It’s ability to dart in and out of traffic – you just point and go – it’s uncanny. The last time I had this much fun driving to Toronto I was in a sports car. If you can’t afford to buy the Sonata, then don’t even hesitate about getting an Elantra – it’s 90% of the Sonata at a lower price point and just as much fun to drive. It’s way more sporty than you’d ever imagine it to be, yet smooth and civilized for those people that want to drive conservatively. Would I buy one? No – and only because of one reason: I’d lose my driver’s license within a month… and my wife said she’d lose hers too … we’d just be having too much fun!

Looks, fit and finish
A blast to drive

So-so stereo system

Immediate Competition:
Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Kia Forte, Mazda3, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla, VW Jetta

By The Numbers…
Please visit your local dealer for the latest prices and incentives.
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Powertrain:       1.8 L, 16-valve CVVT DOHC I-4 engine, 6-speed Automatic Transmission w/SHIFTRONIC manual control; FWD
Horsepower:       148 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque lb-ft:     131 @ 4,700 rpm
0-100 kph:        9.1 seconds

Wheelbase:        2,700 mm
Curb Weight:      1, 207 kg  (M/T)
Cargo Capacity:   420 litres (14.8 cu.ft)
Towing capacity:  N/A

Fuel Consumption:
City: 6.9 L/100 kms  //  Highway: 4.9L/100 kms  //  Combined: 6.0 L/100 km
My average for the week was 7.9 L/100 km during pretty aggressive driving and 5.0L/100 km highway @ 135-140 km/h.

Pricing for the 2011 Hyundai Elantra GLS
Base Price: $15,849 (GL)
As Tested: $20,999
Destination & Delivery: $1,495

All Hyundai’s come with a 5 year /100,000 km comprehensive warranty and a 5 year/100,000 kms Powertrain warranty. Roadside Assistance is 3 years/unlimited kms.

Iain Shankland,

Copyright © 2012 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland/ Hyundai

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