2011 Hyundai Elantra Road Test Review

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Hyundai's design renaissance is no longer a secret. If awards were given for the most improved styling of a product line, Hyundai-and indeed its sister brand Kia-would easily be at the top of the podium.

And now we have the 2011 Hyundai Elantra, whose gracefully fluidic lines immediately recall those of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata introduced earlier this year. Hyundai calls the design language "Fluidic Sculpture," and designer Cedric D'Andre's Elantra is easily the most successful execution of it to date.

Another thing the Elantra has going for it is an exceptional level of available equipment. To enhance the gracefully organic interior design, two audio systems are offered. A 172-watt AM/FM/Satellite/CD/MP3 audio system with six-speakers and iPod/USB/auxiliary input jacks is the base system. All you could really do to improve upon all of that is add more power-so the upgrade is an externally amplified 360-watt system with the same capabilities.

The available touch-screen navigation system employs a high-resolution seven-inch screen and voice-activation. With Nav, the XM Satellite Radio interface is integrated and features channel logos, and real-time NavTraffic and XM Data services capability. A rearview camera, along with leather, heated rear seats, and proximity sensing keyless entry with pushbutton start, are available as well.

With its exceptional design and outstanding feature set, the 2011 Elantra seems poised to be a runaway hit. The Hyundai is also quite comfortable and rides smoothly. However, more discerning drivers will note Hyundai's continuing issue with road noise infects the new Elantra too. Constant tire roar-regardless of the surface of the road-is debilitating over long drives and may dissuade some potential buyers.

In the mechanical department, with the six-speed automatic transmission, the 131 ft-lbs of torque produced by the 148-horsepower 1.8-litre inline four is more than enough to get the small car moving. However, with the six-speed manual, its free revving nature is immediately revealed. The 1.8 loves to wind, and produces usable thrust throughout the rev range. That the engine also delivers a U.S. EPA equivalent rating of 5.9 L/100km on the highway (4.9 by the Canadian standard) with either transmission is another bonus.

This, when coupled with the Elantra's willingness to attack corners, practically screams for a more performance oriented six-speed manual "SE" version of the car. In fact, all the Elantra needs to be a delightfully fun car in the vein of an old Alfa Romeo sedan is a slightly lowered ride height, a stickier set of tires, a more robust pair of sway bars, a set of progressive springs, and more dynamic shocks.

Yes, we realize we just prescribed practically a whole new suspension system for the car, but the Elantra's basic platform would show those substitutions to great advantage. Drive the 2011 Elantra briskly on a mountain road-as we did-and you'll see the car absolutely wants it. If you buy one and incorporate those changes, you'll have a nicely equipped, great looking little sedan that is an absolute joy to drive.

We know that isn't right for everyone though, and if you favour day-to-day driving over the occasional canyon-carving crusade, the Elantra is more than well up to that task too. The base 2011 Hyundai Elantra's pricing starts at $17,344 with destination-a fully loaded Elantra Limited Premium with Navigation comes in at $26,194.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sedan, Hyundai, 2011, Elantra, $10,000 - $19,999, Compact,

Organizations: Hyundai

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