Hyundai just released some pricing info and specs on the surprisingly decent looking Elantra “Touring,” which is essentially just a 5-door hatch version of the professionally mediocre Elantra sedan. What really sticks is the EPA fuel economy, rated at 23 city and either 30 or 31 highway with the manual or automatic, respectively. We’re still talking about a four-cylinder “compact” car here, and despite the weight of size and safety equipment, I am surprised. Hyundai’s own Sonata — with another 40 horses vs. the Elantra — has virtually the same EPA ratings. Sure, we like to trot out the Corvette as an example of a high mileage powerful car, but there are at least a dozen other examples of cars with way more power (and metal) than the Elantra touring and better fuel economy. My 2004 Honda Accord V6, which was a rather portly cruiser, returned 31 mpg on the highway. And yet, the Elantra isn’t unique. Saturn’s Astra, with a 1.8 liter engine, only musters 24/32. The Mazda3 is in the same league. Some of the more efficient cars in this segment can deliver 35 miles per gallon highway – cars like the Corolla, Focus, Civic, and Cobalt XFE. But solely from a fuel economy standpoint, I have a hard time justifying even these better ones, when their bigger counterparts like the Camry, Fusion, Accord, and Malibu offer reasonably close numbers, especially on the highway. It leaves me wondering why, when the Fusion gets 32 mpg highway from its four cylinder, we don’t have a Ford compact car with a gasoline engine that gets 38 mpg highway. But them’s the breaks.
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