2012 Hyundai Elantra GL Sedan Road Test Review

Frik Els - CAP staff
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It's hard to see what could have beaten out Hyundai's Elantra for North America's 2012 car of the year.

It's not that the Elantra does not have more than enough capable competitors out there: The Mazda 3 remains the most fun to drive in the segment. The Chevrolet Cruze is the one of the best packages the domestic brand has put together for a long time. The Honda Civic proved long ago why it remains at the top of sales charts and the Volkswagen Jetta is always a contender in this segment. The Ford Focus is an accomplished all-rounder and the Elantra's Kia Forte sibling does a good imitation job.

But once you factor in fuel economy – and fuel economy must be close to the top of the list of considerations for buyers in this sector ¬– the Elantra wins hands down.  

You can get around the city for only 6.9 litres per 100km and can cruise the highway sipping just 4.9 litres per 100km in an Elantra starting at $15,849 (the GL trim reviewed here has an MSRP of $19,299). These impressive figures come courtesy of a 1.8-litre four-cylinder with dual continuous variable valve timing and a six-speed transmission (automatic and manual).

You need $3,000 more than the Elantra base model goes for to get that in the Cruze because it only achieves these numbers with the aid of turbo boost. Only the Fiesta's fuel consumption is comparable, but the Elantra is more of a Focus competitor and the latter quickly becomes more expensive if you try to match the Elantra's standard specs. The Mazda3, even in its SkyActiv guise, only comes close in terms of frugality and the new Civic did not end up being the game changer Honda had hoped.

For me the Elantra also wins hands down when it comes to styling. Its coupe-like looks stands out and it has a distinct family resemblance to the Sonata, the first model to signal the Korean manufacturer's radical new design direction.

It looks sporty and graceful at the same time without over emphasizing either characteristic. The Elantra has also been on roads long enough to prove that it is not a design that will fade in attractiveness quickly.

The sweeping lines of the exterior are repeated inside with an instrument cluster, dashboard and centre console that is comparatively subdued compared to the 747-cockpit-like configurations – buttons, dials, levers and LEDs everywhere you look ¬– found in many of its Asian competitors.

The overall quality of the materials used is good for the class in which it competes with little that seems overly prone to scratching or scuffing. Or the worst-case scenario in my mind – plastics made so shiny and bakelite-hard as to give the appearance of not being prone to scratching or scuffing.

It's easy to find a good driving position thanks to a standard height-adjustable driver seat with good travel and a telescoping steering wheel in the GL trim. As a result headroom is generous. Heated rear seats are found in the GLS, while heated side mirrors are standard across the range.

The GL also supplies technology in spades considering its segment, with satellite radio, iPod, USB and auxiliary input jacks, a trip computer, cruise control, and Bluetooth hands-free phone system. Layout of climate and audio controls is good, although the steering wheel controls are less than ergonomically placed. Some engine noise and tire roar do penetrate the cabin, but nothing that would see you adjust the volume on the sound system.

The cabin is more spacious than the Elantra's body shape would suggest, with ample small item storage compartments. Trunk space comes close to that of mid-size sedan offerings, although loading a larger suitcase would be cumbersome due to the small opening (there had to be some compromises to attain the coupe-like styling). Another downside of the swooping roofline is somewhat restricted rear visibility, although again not as much as you'd expect.

The Elantra deals confidently with less than perfect pavement and the suspension supplies a supple ride. The tester's automatic gearbox was smooth and steering predictable, but at times the Elantra lacked the necessary oomph from a standing start and when overtaking. That could be because of a lack in the torque department – 131 lb-ft versus adequate, if not exactly racy 148 hp.

The Hyundai Elantra sedan is a compelling package in a highly competitive segment. It's been good to see the Korean company's rise in the North American automotive market over the last few years and the Elantra is sure to contribute to its success in the future. After all, it's great for the consumer if there is a company that is keeping other manufacturers on their toes.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sedan, Hyundai, 2012, Elantra, $10,000 - $19,999, Compact,

Organizations: Hyundai

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