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2011 Hyundai Elantra: First Look
It's love at first sight. Really.

By Malcolm Gunn

Hyundai has gone and done it again.

As if stunning new-car buyers with the ultra-sharp Sonata wasn't enough, the hotshot Korean automaker has just introduced its fifth-generation knock-your-socks-off Elantra sedan.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Korean automaker's model lineup, the Elantra slots between the entry-level Accent and the larger Sonata in Hyundai's pecking order. It was last updated for the 2007 model year and charmed buyers with a combination of generous interior space and extensive standard comfort and safety features.

2011 Hyundai ElantraThose stellar attributes led to a significant uptick in Hyundai converts, despite the fact that the car's nondescript sheetmetal and underwhelming fuel economy numbers garnered tsk-tsk finger wagging from some quarters. Whether it was stung from such admonishments, Hyundai's all-new 2011 Elantra, which should reach dealers in high volumes by early 2011, addresses both fuel economy and style while improving on several areas where it's already perceived as being dominant.

Hyundai's California design studio gets the credit for creating the Elantra's silhouette. The stylists were obviously pretty satisfied with their work on the 2011 Sonata since they clearly stuck to the same basic pattern, albeit in a somewhat smaller scale. However from a purely subjective standpoint, the Elantra's pronounced front-fender openings work wonders for appearance. Also, the nose is more attractive, with less chrome and a lot more detail displayed in the three horizontal bars between the lower air intake and the single bar and logo below the hood. If the front end looks familiar, check out Honda's hybrid CR-Z for comparison.

The swoops and swirls theme that's visible along the Elantra's flanks and rear end also show up on the ultra-modern dashboard. Compared to the outgoing model's ho-hum gauge pod and control panel, this one's a genuine work of art.

The end result of Hyundai's artistic handiwork is an Elantra that's only acouple of centimetres longer, but gains five centimetres between the front and rear wheels and is lower by nearly the same amount. The result is greater front and rear passenger legroom, while also giving the car a more planted appearance. From a technical standpoint, the Elantra retains its official mid-size status, even though overall interior volume has decreased ever so slightly. In its defense, Hyundai can point to a slightly larger trunk that was already considered voluminous.

What has also increased is the output. The Elantra's all-new 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine is smaller than the previous 2.0-litre unit, but the 1.8 puts out 148 horsepower, a gain of 10 over the 2.0. It's also about 34 kilograms lighter and is rated at 6.8 l/100 km in the city and a seriously impressive 4.9 l/100 km on the highway, the latter value with either the standard six-speed manual transmission, or optional six-speed automatic. That's a significant improvement over the 2010 model's 8.4/6.0 city/highway numbers.

For 2011 there are four Elantra trim levels, starting with the just-the-basics $17,350 (including destination charges) L edition. Stepping up to the $19,500 GL includes air conditioning, keyless entry cruise control and heated front seats, while the $21,300 GLS adds a power sunroof, heated back seat and fog lights.

At $24,200, the Limited tops out with climate control, leather seat covers and 17-inch wheels (15-inchers are standard).

Limited buyers can also order push-button start, a 360-watt sound package, touch-screen navigation system with rearview camera.

Of course one standard feature not to be left out is Hyundai's impressive five-year/100,000-kilometre bumper-to-bumper warranty. That deal sweetener is in addition to the Elantra's inspired styling, roomy cabin and a fuel economy rating that outpaces nearly every other non-hybrid compact car on the road.

Dial in a competitive price tag and the Elantra would appear to have mass-transit appeal written all over it.

What you should know: 2011 Hyundai Elantra

Type: Four-door, front-wheel-drive compact sedan
Engine (hp): 1.8-litre DOHC four-cylinder (148)
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; six-speed automatic (opt.)
Market position: Compact sedans connect with first-time buyers who want inexpensive, fun to drive cars. The Elantra fits the bill and has been a sales thorn in the sides of the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla plus domestic brands for years.
Points: Sonata-like styling should yield plenty of Elantra lovers; All-new powerplant earns high marks for fuel economy and provides a bit of extra power, despite being a little smaller and lighter than the previous 2.0; Non-standard air conditioning detracts from low price point; Will new coupe or wagon derivatives be spun from Elantra's platform? Stay tuned.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
L/100 km (city/hwy):  6.8/4.9 (AT)
Base price (incl. destination): $17,350

By comparison:     

Ford Fiesta
Base price: $15,000
New sedan and hatchback models are fun to drive and thrifty to operate.

Base price: $16,600
Sporty sedan and wagon offer decent power and excellent road manners.

Chevrolet Cruze
Base price: $17,000
Compact sedan is a big step up in style and content, compared to Cobalt.

Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!

Posted April 3, 2021. © TM


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