2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring
2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring Expert Review:Autoblog
Hyundai has been batting a thousand of late, with new vehicles like the Genesis sedan and Genesis coupe shaking up their respective segments and leaving class leaders looking over their shoulders. The equally new Elantra Touring hasn't created as much buzz as its rear-wheel-drive brethren, but the five-door hatchback competes with a host of vehicles available in the sub-$20,000 range, all of which are screaming for attention from an increasingly picky buyer who demands something practical, affordable and efficient for his dwindling dollars.
In order to be heard above the noise, Hyundai chose to import one of its existing models from abroad rather than developing a new Elantra model from scratch. They chose the i30, designed in Germany and currently on sale in Europe, Australia and South Korea. The Elantra Touring is very much a direct port of the i30 and actually has little in common with the four-door Elantra sedan, save for its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and transmission choices. Rather, its closest mechanical cousin is the Euro-only Kia cee'd.
It would seem, then, that the i30 was not originally developed with U.S. customers in mind. Will the resulting Elantra Touring be a hit here, or has Hyundai finally foul tipped a ball? Follow the jump to find out.
Photos Copyright ©2009 John Neff / Weblogs, Inc.
One thing the Elantra Touring has over its four-door namesake is style. The two vehicles share no body panels and one wouldn't guess the Touring model is actually an Elantra based on the four-door's styling. The Touring is actually shorter than the sedan (176.2 inches vs. 177.4), but its wheelbase is two inches longer. Combined with a roof that terminates into a steeply sloping hatch, the extra space between the axles makes the Touring look longer and larger.
The Touring's sheet metal is also more attractive thanks to a strong character line running the car's length with a concave sweep up to the windows. This line emanates up front behind the large headlights (dig the blue angel eyes on the projector lamps) and combines with some pinched metal running up to the A-pillar to create distinct front fenders and a raised hood. The thin grille sports a chromed corporate 'H' with pride and small chrome eyebrow accents set off the fog-lights in each corner of the front fascia.
Hyundai has fitted the Elantra Touring with vertical tail-lamps out back, similar to the units you'll find on vehicles such as Volvo wagons and the Honda CR-V. They contribute to safer stops in traffic since their tops can still be seen above high hoods. The rest of the back is clean and the near non-existent rear bumper contributes to the posterior's slick surfacing. Some might call this car's styling mundane, but we see it as safe and sophisticated, the off-brand suit of the sub-$20k set.
Some might expect the Elantra Touring to have a spartan interior made of recycled pop bottles and leatherette seats. Remember, this is actually the i30, a vehicle originally made for Europeans who don't believe an economy car must feel like a cheap car. The Elantra Touring has things other vehicles in its class don't, like a soft-touch dash, solid metal shifter knob and an information display between its tach and speedo. Go ahead, poke the dash – it'll give. Do that in some competitors and you'll sprain your finger.
The controls are logical and fit the Elantra's no-nonsense demeanor. The stereo's on top and the HVAC controls are below (just two knobs and a few larger buttons), with the the four-speed automatic sprouting from the floor. The transmission lacks any manual shifting, but you've got only four forward gears anyway and there's a short-throw five-speed manual available for control freaks.
We particularly like the Elantra Touring's large, legible gauges that frame the aforementioned VW-like information display, as well as the best Hyundai steering wheel we've yet to grip. The meaty rim filled our hands nicely and the redundant controls for the stereo and cruise control are all flush and contained within the wheel itself. We're also fans of Hyundai's new center stack display for the radio. The big blue screen is as easy to read as a children's book and displays the time and outside temperature when the radio is off. There's also a full complement of connectivity ports in the center armrest for your iPod or MP3 player, as well as a gutter for your cables so the lid can be closed without trapping the device inside. Up front, amenities are rounded out by two accommodating cup holders between the seats and one in each door, as well as a large storage compartment atop the dash to hide personal items from public view.
Of course, the Elantra Touring's biggest selling point can be found behind the front seats. The second row offers 36.4 inches of leg room and further back you'll find a class-leading 24.3 cubic feet of storage space with the rear seats in their locked and upright position. The rear floor is flat and wide with additional storage hidden underneath, and by pushing the 60/40 split rear seats down, you're able to access a full 65.3 cubic feet of cargo-carrying capacity. The rear seats don't fold completely flat, but that shouldn't stop you from using the Elantra Touring like a tackle box.
Buyers interested in an Elantra Touring who visit Hyundai's website, however, are greeted with the question "What sort of driver are you?" Click the box that says "I love driving" and you're allowed to learn more about the vehicle. Click the box that says "For me, driving is just transportation," and you're refused entry. Before you begin excluding buyers just looking for decent transportation, you should be absolutely certain your vehicle can hang with the likes of the Mazda3 five-door, this segment's standard bearer for the fun-to-drive quotient. Despite the "Touring" in its name, this Hyundai doesn't compare with the Mazda in terms of driving enjoyment.
To begin with, the Elantra Touring's 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine brings only 138 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque to the party. Not only is that far below what's required to make this a credible sport-compact, it's barely enough to get around when the Elantra is loaded with passengers and cargo. Couple that with our tester's four-speed automatic and you'll need a set of spurs and a good whip to get the Elantra Touring going. Hyundai also can't claim exceptional gas mileage in the absence of stirring performance, as the EPA rates this hatchback at 23 mpg city/30 mpg highway. The new 2010 Mazda3 five-door, equipped with its 167-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, is right there with 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway.
A lack of power can be overcome by a rigid chassis, willing suspension and focused steering when going for entertainment honors. Again, we found the Elantra Touring lacking in these aspects, despite Hyundai telling us that the suspension and steering are tuned more sportingly for the U.S. The independently sprung MacPherson strut front suspension and multilink rear felt soft. The ride was floaty and susceptible to cross winds, while the handling feels tippy, with noticeable body roll despite the presence of stabilizer bars front and rear. Couple this with steering that's numb and disconnected regardless of speed -- fine while perusing for a parking spot but less so when trying to follow a line through a corner -- and the Elantra leaves us wanting for the Mazda3's direct connection to the road.
We've read other reviews of the Elantra Touring that fall right in line with Hyundai's marketing message and conclude the car is a surprising performer, but just wasn't our experience. Perhaps that's because most of those reviews were based on models with the manual transmission that features a B&M short-throw shifter and 17-inch alloy wheels versus the 16 inchers on our tester. We can't comment on how those differences might contribute to an impression of sportiness, but we give our tester high marks for including standard disc brakes at all four corners.
The final aspect of the Elantra Touring is its price, an area in which Hyundai traditionally trounces its competition. Not so much for this car, which starts at $17,800 with a five-speed manual transmission and $18,600 with the four-speed automatic. Add to that our tester's optional floor mats for $95 and a $695 charge for delivery, and suddenly owning an Elantra Touring will require over $19,000. Sure, you get the best warranty in the biz and the added security of the Hyundai Assurance program, but that price point won't get buyers into the showroom like the $14,120 base price of the Elantra sedan.
If we were Hyundai, we'd focus all of our marketing efforts on the Elantra Touring's practicality, the fact that it can swallow as much as a CUV while still averaging 30 mpg on the highway. It's a tool -- in the literal sense of the word -- free of flash and there to assist at the grocery, hardware store or getting to Grandma's house. In this respect, the Elantra Touring is an attractive candidate in the sub-$20k class. However, Hyundai is advertising the Elantra Touring as a driver's car, which is like asking a member of the grounds crew to bat clean up. If you appreciate the unsung skill of the guy that keeps a well-manicured diamond, you'll likely appreciate all of the basic things that the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring does so well. Just don't expect that guy – or this car – to send one sailing over the fence.
Photos Copyright ©2009 John Neff / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Stylish, roomy, great warranty, good value.
The Hyundai Elantra is a compact car with handsome styling, a notable complement of safety features, commendable driving manners, a responsive and fuel-efficient powertrain, a strong warranty and above-average value for the money.
The 2009 Hyundai Elantra comes in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback versions, the latter a sporty model called the Elantra Touring.
The Elantra competes against the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Mazda3, Ford Focus, Chevy Cobalt and other compact cars. The Elantra offers lots of interior space for the class and, by several other measures, it holds its own against those cars. Hyundai claims the Elantra warranty, of five years or 60,000 miles, plus 10 years or 100,000 miles for the powertrain, is the best in its class, which gives buyers peace of mind.
Fuel economy is quite good. A 2009 Elantra sedan with the optional four-speed automatic transmission is EPA-rated at 25/33 mpg City/Highway.
Elantra's spacious cabin can seat up to five. We found the front seats very comfortable. The back seats offer ample hip room and adequate legroom, though it's more comfortable with four than it is with five people. Storage compartments galore add to its practicality and convenience.
The Elantra can cruise down the highway at 80 miles per hour all day without straining, and it's quiet at high speeds. The ride is good, although a bad freeway with relentless sharp bumps is more than the Elantra can accept without passing on some of the annoyance to those in the front seats. We found the brakes excellent and the cornering good.
For 2009, a sporty new Elantra Touring model joins the line-up. The Touring is a five-door configuration, with styling that's different than that of the sedan, and on a longer wheelbase. It's a sportier, yet more functional alternative that, by virtue of its sports suspension and more responsive steering, is fun to drive and, at the same time, delivers the versatility and utility of a five-door body style. In fact, it has more interior volume than any other five-door vehicle in its class. Elantra Touring comes standard with Electronic Stability Control, unusual for this class.
Other changes for the 2009 Elantra are minor. For 2009, the audio system has a larger display and improved XM Satellite Radio reception, and there have been enhancements to the instrument cluster design and suspension.
The 2009 Hyundai Elantra comes in four-door sedan and the five-door Touring, with the sedan available in the base GLS version or the upgrade SE. All are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 138 horsepower, and there's a choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
The GLS ($14,120) is the most basic and comes standard with power steering, power locks, windows and keyless entry, power heated mirrors, tinted glass, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat with access to the trunk, and 15-inch wheels with full-size plastic wheel covers. The Popular Equipment Package for the GLS ($1,750) includes things that many car buyers might consider necessary: Air conditioning, 172-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system with XM Satellite Radio, cruise control, foglamps, in-glass antenna and illuminated visor vanity mirrors. The Popular Equipment and Sunroof Package ($2,650) adds the power sunroof.
The SE ($17,020) is the upgrade model and includes all the options in the GLS Preferred Package, plus a telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, 16-inch alloy wheels with wider profile tires and a trip computer. A Premium Package ($1,150) includes a power sunroof and heated front seats. The Premium and Leather Package ($1,950) adds leather seating surfaces.
Cleaner-running PZEV versions (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) are sold in California, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine; they have the automatic transmission and are available in GLS ($15,120) and SE ($17,820) trim.
Elantra Touring ($17,800) is equipped like the SE sedan. Touring also features a cooled glovebox, under-floor storage in the rear and cupholders in the rear armrest. The rear seat is split 60/40 and folds down to provide more space for hauling larger items. A Premium-Sport Package ($1,500) adds 17-inch alloy wheels with P215/45VR17 tires, the power sunroof and heated front seats.
Safety features on all Elantras include anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), front airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, roof-mounted side-curtain airbags, seat-belt pretensioners, adjustable head restraints, LATCH (for child safety seats), front active head restraints, and tire-pressure monitoring. The SE sedan and the Touring models also include standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control and Brake Assist; the ESC system is not available with the base GLS model.
The fourth-generation Hyundai Elantra sedan was designed by Americans in Hyundai's California Studio, and is a good-looking compact.
The Elantra received a lot of careful design work, and could pass for being seamless. At the front and rear fascias the seams are so tight that the body appears to be one piece, until you look very closely. That quality fitting also reveals itself in the smooth opening and closing of the doors.
The Elantra sedan's good looks move this Korean compact car toward the world of the stylish. Its sculpture is clean, with a high beltline running along at the body-colored door handles. It's got a subtle face, with trapezoidal headlamps having rounded edges, leading down and into a cup-shaped grille with three simple chrome bars. At the bottom of the fascia is a long, slim air intake with two bars. It lacks definitive fender flares because it doesn't need them; the Elantra doesn't shout to be seen. The wheel covers, which are silver plastic on the GLS, look good from a distance.
The Touring model, even taking into account its five-door configuration, looks much different. At the front, the headlights have a more stylized shape that wraps up and over and around the corners. Below the edge of the hood is a thin opening with the Hyundai emblem in the center, and then below that is a large trapezoidal opening that is flanked by prominent foglamps. At the rear are large, vertical taillamp units that should be easy to see by just about anyone, thus enhancing safety. There are also fairly thick pillars at the rear corners that might inhibit outward vision of some drivers.
The Hyundai Elantra is a larger, roomier car than the Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. Cabin volume is 112.1 cubic feet, among the best in the compact class.
Elantra sedans ride on a 104.3-inch wheelbase, while the Touring five-door has a 106.3-inch wheelbase. Not surprisingly, the interior volume of the Touring is larger, at 125.5 cubic feet total, and a generous 65.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down.
The front seats are quite comfortable, with good bolstering, and the standard cloth is smooth though unexciting. There's an especially large dead pedal to support the driver's left foot. The Touring model's seats have a premium cloth.
The blue backlighting of the gauges has a youthful spirit, and arcs of the speedometer and tach are thin blue lines, with red needles pointing the way. The radio control knobs are blessedly simple, like radio knobs should be. But we didn't care for the trim on the dash; imagine a silver plastic golf ball.
In the rear, the 35 inches of leg room is a bit more than the Civic and Sentra, and a measurable amount less than the 2009 Corolla, but the Elantra has good hip room. It also offers a large trunk. For carrying cargo, the rear seatbacks fold down to allow a pass-through into the trunk. However, the opening isn't vast like the Nissan Sentra's.
Storage compartments are abundant. There's a neat box inside the top of the dash, and a sunglasses container in the headliner. The fixed door pockets have built-in bottle holders. Below the three climate control knobs there's a small companion to the glovebox and, below that and forward of the shift lever, there's also an open storage area. There are two cupholders behind that, and a double console under the driver's elbow.
Generally, the interior is notably quiet, for a compact car. While driving on a really, really windy day, there was noticeable wind noise against the windows, but that's to be expected.
The Hyundai Elantra offers spirited handling with predictable response and calm confidence. The Elantra rides softer than the sportier Nissan Sentra or Mazda3. The ride is good, although after a couple hours on a bad freeway, the sharp bumps might wear on those who are perhaps more tender. Overall, it's a good fit for someone who just wants good transportation without attitude.
The brakes are excellent. We really used them hard a few times, and they didn't cause the car to dart or weave while they sharply, and evenly, brought down the speed.
The five-speed manual gearbox worked well. Out on the freeway, 80 miles per hour doesn't feel like 80, which is always a good sign, especially for a compact car. The tachometer showed 3500 rpm at that speed, and it's not in the least bit buzzy. It feels long-legged for such a small car, as if it could cruise cross-country with smoothness and ease.
There's plenty of oomph in the four-cylinder engine, which makes 138 horsepower. Our test model had the five-speed, and the engine revved right up to the redline of 6500 rpm. And, with a sufficient supply of torque, 136 pound-feet, it also accelerates easily at low rpm. We felt that the throttle was perhaps a bit sensitive upon initial acceleration; with the manual transmission, it required a deft touch with the throttle to pull out from a standstill without giving it more gas than it needed.
Fuel economy is 24/33 mpg City/Highway with the manual gearbox, 25/33 mpg with the automatic. The Touring model, which weighs about 200 pounds more than the sedan, is rated at 23/31 mpg with the manual and 23/30 mpg with the automatic.
The Hyundai Elantra offers a roomy interior for the class, a good package of safety equipment, and a strong warranty. The styling holds its own in the class; it looks very clean but doesn't try to draw attention to itself. The seats are comfortable, the brakes are excellent, and the cornering capability is good, making it enjoyable to drive. The engine offers the latest four-cylinder technology; it can power the Elantra to 80 miles per hour without much effort and delivers good fuel economy when driven conservatively. With a price that's lower than most other compact cars, the Elantra is a worthy competitor in the class and offers a very good value for the money.
Sam Moses contributed to this NewCarTestDrive.com report.
Hyundai Elantra GLS ($14,120); SE ($17,020); Touring ($17,800).
Options As Tested
Popular Equipment Package ($1750) with air conditioning, 172-watt AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 with six speakers and auxiliary jack, cruise control, in-glass antenna, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, and fog lights; carpeted floor mats ($95).
Hyundai Elantra GLS ($14,120).
More on the Elantra Touring
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