By on May 6, 2011

You’re an old fart. Or at least you think like one. You want a simply designed car that’s easy to see out of, capable of toting a bunch of stuff, solidly constructed, and fun to drive. Meanwhile, cars keep going in the opposite direction, with sci-fi styling, shrunken windows, oversized and overcomplicated instrument panels, cramped rear seats, and marshmallow suspension tuning (e.g. the Honda Civic reviewed a few days ago). But before giving up hope you might want to check out the Hyundai Elantra Touring SE.

What is the Elantra Touring? One clue: originally developed for the European market, it’s badged the i30 Estate in the UK. “Estate” is Brit speak for wagon. An i30 hatch is also offered over there, but hasn’t been imported. Compared to that car, the lengthier i30 Estate / Elantra Touring (106.3 vs. 104.3 wheelbase, 176.2 vs. 168.5 overall length) is a wagon. But, with the proportions of a hatchback and an upward curve abbreviating the rearmost window, it’s not a wagon to American eyes. Interior space is comparable to that of a compact crossover, but without the 65-plus-inch height of a crossover. Instead, with a roofline 59.8 inches above the pavement, the Elantra Touring pushes the upper limits of a conventional car. Of the cars offered in the U.S., the Scion xB and Toyota Matrix come closest to direct competition, but they’re shorter in length, taller in height, and don’t feel nearly as much like a conventional car from the driver’s seat. The Elantra Touring is in a size class by itself, which is both a strength (no direct competition) and a weakness (few people know to look for one).

Compounding the challenge: as a Euro-market car, the Elantra Touring was only loosely related to the 2007-2010 US-market Elantra sedan, and has little in common with the redesigned 2011. Trying to market two disparate cars using the same nameplate tends to result in one of them getting lost. Even up against the previous Elantra sedan, which itself failed to attract the attention of many American car buyers, the Elantra Touring struggled to break through. Now that the look-at-me 2011 Elantra has arrived, the Elantra Touring is hopelessly eclipsed, at least until it’s also redesigned. So it should come as no surprise that for each of the Elantra Tourings sold (about 1,500 a month), over ten sedans fly off the lot. And the ratio would be even higher if dealers had more sedans to sell.

Design is a factor. Though subtly attractive in SE trim from the rear three-quarter angle, just about any other perspective leaves the Elantra Touring looking somewhat homely, especially compared to the highly styled 2011 Elantra sedan. Styling for the next generation Elantra Touring, which has already been approved, will much more strongly resemble the new sedan. This should be good for sales, but if you prefer an exterior with absolutely no controversial aspects you should get the current Elantra Touring while you still can. Just be sure to get the SE trim, which includes 17-inch alloy wheels. The GLS, with its hub-capped 15s, appears hopelessly dowdy.

Inside, the Elantra sedan is again more highly styled, with racy curves and novel switchgear, while the Elantra Touring’s simpler, more conventional design is easier to live with. The HVAC and audio controls are close at hand, large in size, and few in number. A USB connection and satellite radio are included, while Bluetooth is available as a $325 accessory. Aside from the somewhat flimsy lever for the adjustable lumbar, everything feels robust. The textured, padded upper doors and instrument panel are a nice touch. Too much black? Too bad—it’s the only interior color option. Best think of it as sporty and easy to keep clean.

If you want to pretend you’re piloting a rocketship, go elsewhere. The Elantra Touring’s driving position is high enough for excellent forward visibility but low enough that it still feels like a regular car. The windshield is more upright than that in the Elantra and the instrument panel is low and compact by current standards. The shifter resides in the conventional location rather than up on the instrument panel, as is often the case with tall hatches. Contrary to recent trends, the windows are tall. Consequently, the feel from the driver’s seat is very different from that in the Elantra, Focus, Civic, and so forth. I hope this driving position is retained with the upcoming redesign, but the odds aren’t good.

The Elantra Touring SE’s heated leather front seats, though not luxurious, are comfortable. A hard to find feature at any price: headrests with a fore-aft adjustment. The rear seat is comfortably high off the floor and includes significantly more legroom than the average compact hatch. Cargo? The Elantra Touring holds about as much as the average compact crossover and significantly more than the average compact hatch, though the specs (65.3 cubic feet vs. 45 or so, with the rear seat folded) might overstate the practical difference. Sadly, the front passenger seat does not fold forward. This would have improved an already highly functional package.

The only engine option remains the 138 horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder that powered the Elantra from 2004 through 2010. This mill feels spirited at low speeds, revs smoothly enough, and growls pleasantly while doing so, but even aided by a manual transmission lacks punch at the high end when saddled with 3,080 pounds. Hyundai’s new 2.4-liter four with 176 to 200 horsepower would be a welcome upgrade, but won’t happen before the redesign, if ever. The lighter (by about 260 pounds) 2011 Elantra sedan gets by with a 148-horsepower 1.8-liter. Could be worse: the most powerful engine offered in the UK is a 124-horsepower 1.6.

The Elantra Touring SE’s firm shifter, while not as precise or as slick as the best, feels better, even much better, than those in other Hyundais. Credit the standard short-throw linkage supplied by B&M and some TLC from Hyundai’s engineers. The main problem: it only gives you five gears to choose from (and the automatic has only four). With a sixth gear, the engine wouldn’t have to spin well over 3,000 rpm on the highway. Between the old engine and ratio-challenged gearbox, the EPA ratings are only 23/31, compared to 24/35 for the slightly heavier Sonata sedan and 29/40 for the Elantra sedan. I observed high 20s and low 30s on the trip computer in casual suburban driving, but suspect this was optimistic.

True to its European roots, steering in the Elantra Touring is also firmer than that in the typical Hyundai. The system’s feel isn’t as tight or precise as in a Mazda3 or Mitsubishi Lancer, but (unlike in the Elantra sedan) heft builds naturally as the wheel is turned and the car changes direction readily. The stability control intervenes sooner than it ought to, but not too aggressively. This nanny can be turned off safely—the car progressively understeers as it approaches its limits.

The Elantra Touring’s ride can become busy, even jostling over especially bad pavement, but remains smooth most of the time. Even over the rough stuff the car isn’t knocked off its line. Body motions are much better controlled than in the Elantra sedab and noise levels are fairly low (though the engine, spinning at 3,500 rpm, starts to intrude at 80 on the highway).

Lost in evaluating each of these aspects separately: though not an outstanding performer in any particular area, Elantra Touring SE is simply fun to drive. The primary controls aren’t the most nuanced, but they share a direct, firm, natural feel, and the systems they’re connected to react with a refreshing immediacy. Among non-turbocharged compact hatches, only the Mazda3 and (perhaps) the Mitsubishi Lancer are more enjoyable.

The Elantra Touring SE lists for $20,340 (including $95 for floormats). Aside from the $800 automatic transmission (not recommended) and $325 Bluetooth accessory there are no significant options. Similarly equipment a Mazda3 and it lists for about $3,600 more. Even after adjusting for feature differences (the Mazda has automatic climate control, and power driver seat, and so forth) using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool and the gap remains over $2,000. A Toyota Matrix S is about $2,400 more before adjusting for feature differences, and about $3,800 more afterwards. A Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback GTS? $3,100 more before the adjustment, $1,700 afterwards. A Kia Forte EX, on the other hand, is very close in price.

The Elantra Touring has a smaller, less powerful engine than any of these alternatives. Its trump cards: less gimmicky styling (compared to the Mazda and Toyota), an outstanding driving position, excellent ergonomics, and a higher quality, roomier interior. The Hyundai might not triumph in any particular area, but no other car offers a similar combination of crossover functionality and hot hatch driving enjoyment. If you’ve been seeking this combination, we’ve found your car.

Hyundai provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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115 Comments on “Review: 2011 Hyundai Elantra Touring SE...”


  • avatar
    BlueEr03

    You mention the Forte in the review, but don’t elaborate. As an overall vehicle, how would this compare to the new Forte 5 door?

    • 0 avatar

      The Forte is quicker, but the Elantra Touring feels more solid, has much more room in the second row and cargo area, and for reasons that aren’t all easy to convey I found it more fun to drive.

      I reviewed the Forte SX sedan here:

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/review-2011-kia-forte-sx/#more-371348

    • 0 avatar
      red stick

      I bought a 2010 Elantra Touring SE six weeks ago and cross-shopped the Forte Hatchback SX. The 2.4 liter engine and six-speed transmission were lovely, but the rest of the car felt cheaper, not to mention less roomy, the only available interior color was black, the seats were covered in a lint-grabbing material that reminded me of terry cloth, and when I felt the headliner to see what it was made of it gave about an inch (!) and seemed to be backed by the material used in egg cartons.

      The 2010 ET, apart from being a pretty good bargain, was available with a cloth interior (tan) and the roof rails are black, not the painted silver used on 2011s that looks good on gray, not so much on other colors.

  • avatar

    A note on a car not mentioned in the review: the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen. The Jetta SW provides similar cargo room, but much less rear seat room. It’s also no longer possible to get uplevel features with a manual+gas powertrain in the Jetta.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Michael,
      I was about to mention the Sportwagen. What uplevel features are now missing from the VW that the Elantra SE has? We bought a gas manual Sportwagen S a year ago, but I recall the being impressed with this Hyundai during the shopping process. If the two hadn’t been so close in price, we may have ended up with the Hyundai instead. As it was, the VW felt like a richer vehicle.

      • 0 avatar

        Leather, sunroof, alloy wheels that aren’t a $1,350 dealer accessory. The MSRPs are similar, but compared to the Jetta SW S the Hyundai Elantra Touring SE includes about $2,000 in additional content. The $16,745 ET GLS is a closer match. I haven’t driven the gas Jetta SW, but have driven the TDI. While I was impressed by the solidity and refinement of the SW TDI, the chassis tuning prioritizes ride over handling. VW doesn’t offer a sport suspension on the car.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Forgot about leather and sunroof. I’m not fond of either, so it never blipped on my radar. The dealer worked with us on the alloys, they were nowhere near $1400.

      How is the Elantra Touring selling? I don’t see many here and that is a shame. Small wagons like this are absolutely fantastic and underrated vehicles. Looks far better than the prior generation of sedan it shares its dashboard and powertrain with, too.

      • 0 avatar

        They sell about 1,500 a month. Not sure how many Jetta SWs are sold, since VW only reports the number of Jettas, and most are sedans. VW sells about 2,000 Golfs and GTIs a month.

      • 0 avatar
        EEGeek

        VW reports Sportwagen sales separately – 3050 in April 2011, vs. 13905 Jetta sedans. What they don’t do is break out gas vs. diesel, but I’ve seen reports that roughly 85% of JSW sales are diesel.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks. I was looking at figures from a few months go, covering all of 2010. Either Automotive News failed to break out SW sales, or this has changed since then.

      • 0 avatar
        econobiker

        “How is the Elantra Touring selling? I don’t see many here and that is a shame.”
        As of July 2011 dealers were only getting one or two per dealership and they were selling like hotcakes. The Tourings won’t stay on the lots for more than a couple of days…

    • 0 avatar
      lawmonkey

      My partner was dead set on a Jetta SW TDI – I had him test drive a Elantra Touring, and while he like the Elantra Touring (and the price differential), wasn’t quite sold.

      The clincher was the sales guy who knew next to nothing about the Elantra Touring. My partner asked him why the Elantra was better than the JSW, and the salesman said “Well, it’s really an excellent car. Hmm. This car has an excellent warranty.” Hyundai needs to rise above the warranty hook, as recent products have shown they can.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    I agree that this vehicle is a great value, but I found it a little hard to get in and out of (at least compared to something like the Soul, or even the Fit). Since I’m prone to occasional back issues, this is something I need to consider five to eight years down the road. Otherwise, this car would be high on my ‘next commuter’ list.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The ergonomics and cabin design that Michael, well, doesn’t like play big part in that. The taller roof, taller chairs, distant dash and such make for a vehicle that’s human-, if not driver-, friendly.

      If you’re prone to back issues and like accessibility, the best I’ve found are the Nissan Cube and Kia Rondo. The latter really is an unappreciated entry in this market.

      • 0 avatar

        The cube and Rondo are about five inches taller, so well into crossover territory. Sixty inches is about as tall as a vehicle can get before it no longer sits and handles like a conventional car. So it’s a matter of the relative importance of accessibility and handling.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        I would say that floor height, and not roof height, are the metric for crossoverhood.

        The Matrix, Cube and Rondo have low floors and easy step-in. So does the Elantra Touring. The Tucson, Sorento and suchlike do not.

      • 0 avatar

        Good point. For driving feel, seat height and center of gravity are key. For getting in and out, both seat height and floor height. I’d love to have these stats for all cars, along with distance to the IP and the base of the windshield. I’ve considered having owners make measurements and submit them, but it’d probably be hard to get precise, reproducible measurements.

      • 0 avatar

        Unfortunately Kia told me the Rondo is no longer available in the US.

        John

  • avatar
    Wraith

    When does the next gen Touring arrive? MY13?

  • avatar

    Michael, this seems more like a modern Protege5 than the Mazda3 ever did. What say you?

    • 0 avatar

      Pretty much what I was thinking, in terms of a simple, straightforward design and the driving position. Also in terms of engine performance, or lack thereof. The Elantra Touring isn’t as agile as the P5, but it’s much smoother and quieter. And roomier, of course.

      The hardest part for me: it’s not as stylish as the P5. But if I was replacing my P5 this would be a top contender.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      It did remind me a lot of my Protege5 when I looked at them, very similar in concept. Not nearly as fun to drive, the engine wasnt quite as willing to rev, and the suspension, while better than other Hyundais, wasnt as fun as the P5 was. The P5 was a little more low slung too, it was designed before the crossover wagon got popular.

  • avatar
    gessvt

    Michael –

    I always enjoy your in-depth reviews, but what’s almost as enjoyable for me is your ever-changing backdrops. As an ex-Detroiter with family still in the burbs, I look for familiar areas in the background. This time is no exception.

    First picture, I’m guessing is from Livonia or Redford, possibly Rosedale Park, or from the downriver area.

    For those that don’t know about the Purple Rose Theatre, it’s located in Chelsea, MI and owned by actor Jeff Daniels. He’s a big Michigan backer, and he’s got a lot of pride in his theatre. I saw Escanaba In Da Moonlight there, and it was incredible.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Not tuned for the US.

    Well liked in the UK even with the 1.6. Since sales are so slow in NA do you really think they’ll bother with the next here? I was slam dunked at the 3500 rpm on the highway. Even my soon-to-be-gone Versa with CVT only turns 2200.

    • 0 avatar

      The 3,500 was at 80. I think the Versa spins over 2,200 at this speed, but still well short of 3,500. High 2s, perhaps? Engines simply aren’t efficient over 3k.

      • 0 avatar
        Strippo

        My Miata spins at 4000 at 80 mph, and I drive at that speed about 45 minutes a day. And no, it doesn’t make me the least bit irritable, so don’t ask.

        (Can you guess why I’m thinking a Chevy Cruze Eco might be my replacement commuter?)

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        This engine’s torque peak is at 4200rpm according to their website. I don’t follow that “engines” aren’t efficient at over 3K rpm. If true, this would set the engineering world back on its heels!

        The only drawback is noise, far as I can see.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Yeah don’t many CVTs try to keep the engine near it’s torque peak for greater efficency?

      • 0 avatar
        Banger

        [b]Educator(of teachers)Dan[/b]: [i]Yeah don’t many CVTs try to keep the engine near it’s torque peak for greater efficency?[/i]

        In our experience, not unless you’re on the throttle pretty good. Our Nissan Cube with CVT trans tries to keep you just loping along at near-idle speeds unless forced to rev. Which makes for pretty stellar city mileage, if you can keep your foot out of it between stoplights and just let it glide up to speed slowly. I don’t drive it much, but if memory serves, the tach will basically sit pegged at around 1,250-1,500 all day long at speeds below 35-40 mph unless a hill climb or passing maneuver requires more throttle from my right foot.

        At 65-70, our Cube is in the mid 2,000s depending on terrain. As a person who has had two small pickup trucks with 4.10 rear gears and a single-cylinder 650cc street bike, I can attest the high revs get old on the highway. And they’ll get you in trouble if you don’t watch your speed, because they gain speed faster on the highway, being in their peak torque range up there and all.

      • 0 avatar

        Peak specific output and peak fuel efficiency are two very different things. Fuel efficiency is highest at low rpm for all gasoline engines, and drops off rapidly once past a point in the 2-3k range. This point might vary from engine to engine, but I don’t think it’s ever near 4k for the displacements found in cars.

        This is why we’re on our way to transmissions with 8+ gears.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Peak BSFC consumption occurs at peak torque so an engine is most efficient at WOT at the rpm where peak torque is generated.

        IF the EPA would have allowed it that was the way the Volt was going to work once you depleted the charge. The ICE would fire up and operate at WOT at peak torque the power that wasn’t used to propel the vehicle would charge the battery. Once the battery was sufficiently charged the ICE would shut down until the battery reached its’ minimum state of charge again. You’ll find that a version of this is used by people competing in fuel economy “races”. Fire up the ICE run at WOT peak torque to a predetermined speed shut off the ICE and coast down to another predetermined speed and repeat.

        Gasoline powered ICEs are very inefficient at part throttle as a lot of power is used up fighting against the restriction of the throttle. One of the reasons the Prius gets as good as hwy MPG as it does is because it uses the miller cycle engine which reduces that pumping loss. One of the reasons diesels are more efficient no pumping loss caused by the throttle.

      • 0 avatar

        You’ve got most of the dots here, but don’t appear to have connected them.

        The problem, as far as I can tell, is that when cruising on the highway a car doesn’t need nearly as much power as the engine produces at WOT at the torque peak. So the throttle must be nearly shut at 4,000 or so rpm. Run the same engine at 2,000 rpm and the throttle will be opened much farther.

        There must be problems beyond the throttle with operating an engine far below its potential output at a given rpm. There are some throttle-free gasoline engines, and the transmissions in these aren’t programmed to keep the engine near its torque peak. These operate by limiting valve lift–perhaps there are also pumping losses associated with very small valve openings.

        Any such losses will easily cancel out the difference in specific output between the torque peak and lower rpm, since many engines these days have wide, nearly flat torque curves.

        The EPA wouldn’t have been the only problem with running the Volt’s engine at WOT–there were also customer concerns. Most people don’t find an engine at WOT and the peak torque RPM pleasant to listen to.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I believe you mistook points for dots, my response was to your statement “Fuel efficiency is highest at low rpm for all gasoline engines, and drops off rapidly once past a point in the 2-3k range”. Which is not true.

        You are correct that in a conventional car the engine has to be able to make more power than it needs to maintain a cruising speed on flat ground, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to accelerate to that speed or climb hills. So you get the necessary evil of reducing it’s power output to a small fraction of it’s peak in some manner. So yes you are correct that in a conventional car reducing the rpm so it takes a larger throttle opening to produce the required HP is more efficient because it reduces the pumping losses.

        You are also correct that the consumer is adverse to an engine operating at WOT and peak torque. GM did cite that concern driving some of the operating characteristics of the Volt. However if they got a car that got 2 or more times the mpg which could be obtained using a proper series hybrid configuration, there may be some that would warm to the idea.

        In the late 80′s and early 90′s Ford did produce experimental vehicles similar in usable interior room to the Taurus of the time, that returned about 100MPG from it’s 1.0L turbo diesel when in what we now call charge sustaining mode. It was also capable of running in pure EV mode for up to 100 miles*. Unfortunately the Explorer took off and Ford sold the rights and patents relating this series hybrid and the parallel hybrid technology they developed during the first fuel crisis of the 70′s to Toyota with the right to license back that and any developments there of. Ford was more focused on taking advantage of the historically low adjusted gas prices that were fueling the SUV boom.

        The EPA pretty much stopped the Volt from using a similar method as they and thus GM were to focused on “zero (remote) emissions” operation. The thought was that the average consumer couldn’t be trusted to select a mode of operation that produced the lowest overall emissions. Way to difficult for the consumer to say hey I’m just making a short trip I’ll use EV mode, not switching back to EV mode after that indicated battery life was up far enough to get home, or just choosing to always operate it in charge sustaining mode and not ever plug it in. The extended operation at WOT peak torque does present the problem that emissions in general are a little harder and more expensive to control.

        So yes you are correct that in a conventional car lowered rpm, to a point, can produce better MPG than higher rpm, but the gasoline engine is more efficient at WOT peak torque.

      • 0 avatar

        You seem stuck on a theoretical possibility that doesn’t exist in practice. If an engine could be sized to produce exactly the amount of power needed to maintain the cars speed at the torque peak at WOT, then an engine would be most fuel efficient at its torque peak. The problem is that, outside of a hybrid behaving in a way people would find objectionable, this never comes close to happening.

        In practice, engines are much more fuel efficient at 2,000 RPM than they are at a 3,000+ torque peak.

        Torque curves in engines with variable valve timing are fairly flat; the difference in efficiency between the torque peak and 1,000 rpm below the peak is usually minimal, and nowhere near 2x.

        Must say that this is also the first time I’ve ever seen anyone imply that Toyota relied on Ford technology to create its hybrids. Patents issued in the 1970s would have expired by the time the first Prius was sold in the U.S.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        I have a novel idea: Is there a way or method to determine a given car’s “ideal” maximum cruising speed? What I mean by “ideal” is the driving speed that will result in the greatest MPG. Of course, this will be different for all cars taking into consideration of a given car’s weight, drivetrain, aerodynamics, etc. Put it on the EPA sticker alongside the City/Hwy rating.

        Just a thought that’s been on my mind for some time.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        @Zackman, there must be. I went to college with a guy whose father was a high school math teacher. We made fun of him cause his dad determined that 53 mph was the most efficent crusing speed for his Chevy Beauville van. He proceeded to drive 53mph from Ohio to Florida and back. (What profession did this young man chose? Information Technology Network Administrator.)

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I’m sorry you have a problem accepting the facts. You stated that all gasoline engines were most efficient at low repm and the fact is that a gasoline engine is most efficient at peak torque and WOT. You may have meant that a conventional gasoline powered car is more efficient at rpm but that is not what you said.

        I’m also sorry you aren’t aware that Ford did sell all of it’s patents and data generated for their various experiments with Hybrid technology. That is the reason that the Escape Hybrid uses a transmission that is produced by Toyota’s Aisin subsidiary as it was part of the original agreement. Ford’s Patents for a parallel hybrid system from after the first energy crisis may have expired or were about to expire when the were sold to Toyota but the data generated from those experiments was still valid and useful. The series patents were fresh. The fact that Toyota ended up going with a parallel system integrated into a planetary transmission rather than post transmission that was ultimately found to infringement on a patent held by another company does not change the fact that Toyota did get a jump start by purchasing patents and data from Ford.

        I wish I could find the text book from a Hybrid service class I took years ago so I could post the info on Ford’s Mark Hybrid. They pulled the 460 and replaced it with a Pinto 2.3 and fitted a post transmission electric motor. It did succeed in doubling the the MPG. The problem was that the computer needed to run it pretty much made it into an almost 5000lb 1 passenger vehicle that would have cost near 40K in 70′s dollars.

    • 0 avatar

      I was clearly talking about real-world MPG while cruising on the highway, not some theoretical exercise. In the real world, for the reasons already discussed, reducing engine speed on the highway improves fuel economy, even if this moves the engine farther from its torque peak. If the Elantra Touring were geared to spin 2,500 rpm at 80 mph rather than 3,500, it would be much more fuel efficient, even though the engine’s torque peak is at 4,600 rpm.

      Can you provide a single authoritative source of your history of Toyota’s development of its hybrid technology? I cannot find any mention of any reliance on Ford research anywhere. This article paints a much different, more complicated picture of the relationship with Aisin:

      http://www.cars.com/go/news/Story.jsp?section=news&subject=recent&story=080805storyaDN

      • 0 avatar
        colin42

        Scoutdude

        Why do you think an engine is most efficient at torque peak? Michael is correct that lower speed improves fuel consumption – this is simply due to lower pumping work, due to a more open throttle and lower mean piston speed which results in lower friction.

        In normal mid operating condition i.e. <70% throttle the fuel is adjusted to run at stoichemetric however as you advance towards WOT the fueling goes into open loop (rich combustion) which allowes more power by using the excess fuel to cool the key components such as exhaust valves or catalysts.

        How do I know this? 9+ years of engine performance development in both Diesel & Gasoline

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Micheal, not always. For example the Crown Vics I’ve had with the HPP package that includes the 3.23 gearing always beat the MPG of non HPP Panthers I’ve had that came with 3.08 gears. Cruising at 90 mph back in the days of the R&P daytime speed limit in Montana the HPP cars would pull down a consistent 26.5 MPG with the AC cranked while the non-HPP cars would get 25.5 MPG. Around town the difference was about .5 MPG better on the 3.23 geared cars. When I swapped the 28.4″ stock size tires on my Marauder for 27″ tires which has the same net affect as swapping out the 3.55 gears for 3.73s it made no difference in MPG. Now my friends that went to 4.10s and stock or shorter than stock tires do report a loss of about 1 MPG on the hwy. And yes on mine and friends cars the computer has been reprogrammed to correct the speedo/odo and most have moved the upshift points up too.

        Like I said I’ve got, or had, a text book that lays the Ford – Toyota Hybrid connection out and includes pictures of the Mark and Econoline they did at the same time. Unfortunately since I moved a few years ago I’ve never been able to locate it, I think my wife may have thrown it in the recycle bin since it was a soft cover book.

        In about 1990 C&D or R&T had a short blurb on Ford’s then current series Hybrid experimental car and in 1993 or so I saw an article on Ford selling their patents and research to fund what became the Expedition.

        Colin42, If you have worked in gas and diesel development then you’ve no doubt seen comprehensive dyno data sheets. If you look at the BSFC, (Brake Specific Fuel Consumption) or the amount of fuel burned per HP produced you’ll always find that despite the richer ratio the torque peak is always where the BSFC is at it’s lowest. The emissions that result from that rich ratio is what causes the problem as you are not switching between running slightly rich and slightly lean which is what is required for standard 3-way catalytic converters to do their job.

        How do I know this, I’ve been a professional technician for over 25 years, keep up on training (hence the text book from a 20hr class on Hybrids and servicing them safely, where I got to play with a disassembled 1st US gen Prius e-CVT) and general going-ons in the automotive industry, and built a number of “hot-rods”. Including MegaSquirting an International V8 where I had to determine exactly what A/F ratio I wanted it to run at a given operating condition.

  • avatar
    cackalacka

    It’s a shame that tasteful and practical aren’t stylish.

    In 20 years, this car will still look good. I’m not sure if you can say that about the last car you reviewed (Focus) and I’m damn sure you can’t say that about the one before that (Civic).

  • avatar
    don1967

    The Touring is a bit of hidden gem; easily the most “European” Hyundai ever sold on these shores. Plus, with a timing belt and available four-speed slushbox, you get that 1990s nostalgia at no extra cost.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, there is a lot of room around the engine. So it shouldn’t be too hard to get to that belt.

      The Tucson was also developed primarily for Europe, and this comes through in its suspension tuning. It’s the ix35 over there.

      • 0 avatar
        Ian Anderson

        First hand knowledge here- I was around the shop with my dad’s mechanic when our 2000 Elantra wagon (with essentially the same engine and trans, 2.0L Beta and 5 speed manual) went in for a timing belt. There is a good bit of room to do the timing belt around the engine.

        Can’t wait for Hyundai to finally retire the old (yet durable/reliable) Beta block for the new Elantra sedan’s 1.8L Nu or the Sonata’s Theta. Then the car might justify itself over the aforementioned Elantra wagon.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for confirming.

        I think this car is too heavy for the nu, at least in 1.8 form. Is the 2.0 in the Tucson a theta? If so, that seems most likely, though a 2.4 would be sweet.

      • 0 avatar
        Ian Anderson

        No problem! And the 2.0 in the Tucson is a Theta (World Engine descendant). The 2.4 would be sweet in this car.

      • 0 avatar
        don1967

        The 2.4 would be the sweet ticket. But something tells me the next-gen Touring will go on a diet, and get the 1.8 Nu with a shorter-ratio version of the 6-speed gearbox.

  • avatar

    I love love love this car and almost bought one a couple months ago when we were in the market. Ultimately we decided that it was just a smidge too small and underpowered for our preferences (we take a lot of highway trips) so we got a used Mazda6 wagon (manual transmission) instead.

    My impressions are similar to yours, and an improved motor may have been enough to cause us to pull the trigger. I’d sure love it for Hyundai to bring over their diesels.

    I should add that the dealer I shopped at in the northern VA area was offering the SE model for $16900, and that was before any haggling (though I got the impression he wasn’t going to haggle much; it was the best price I’d seen anywhere). At that price it’s a screaming deal.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      +1. You can get these for well under MSRP without even trying.

      • 0 avatar

        This is interesting because I searched Autotrader and dealers are still asking about $16k for 2009s. Of course you can ask whatever you want, but there’s usually at least one dealer asking a reasonable price.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, at the time I was shopping I was seeing #’s like $18k+ on Autotrader for new SE models, so I was pretty surprised when I sauntered down to my local Hyundai dealer and they threw out the $16.9k number. I guess it just goes to show that not everything can be researched on the internet (though I usually fall into that trap).

      • 0 avatar
        johnny ro

        The internet reveals that near Boston you can walk in with a Boston Globe advertisement that says “$14,900 buys 2011 Elantra Touring” to Leominster Hyundai and ask, what’s up?

        Who knows what they would say.

        Recently (OK I might have been mildly drunk) I said I would pay that much for a factory fresh Mk1 Golf if provided with Euro green plaid interior/black interior. Mk1′s rust too much, now that I am sober.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Same around here… I see them for $15k in the paper, but thats for the GLS with the little wheels and no leather.

        IIRC the SE package was like $1000-1200 more… I think it was OTD for like $17k for the SE I was looking at. But that was over a year ago so who knows what its like now.

    • 0 avatar

      The SE lists for $3,500 more than the GLS. The difference at invoice is about $3,100, so I’d expect the difference between them to be about that amount unless there’s a larger incentive on the SE.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        That sounds right, I was looking at them about a year and a half ago, I didnt remember the details. Only that I preferred the SE, and didnt like the low power compared to the GTI.

  • avatar
    hyundaivirgin

    Thanks for the review. That’s my car! In the same carbon gray mist, too, the best color for it IMHO. Only two differences in opinion: The GLS is still fun to drive and I think the wheels look better proportioned, and the trip computer in the Touring is pretty accurate in my measurements (unlike say the Prius). Indeed the car averages 28 in city driving, 31 in freeway driving, so well above the EPA numbers.

    My sister got a Jetta Sportwagen TDI (which I also considered) the same week I got the Touring. Two weeks later, hers went back to the dealer for an engine problem, where it sat for another two weeks while the parts came from Germany. She paid about $7000 more for the privilege. Also TDI is overrated as a green thing; after accounting for the higher carbon density of diesel, the TDi is only slightly better than the Touring.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      VW’s reputation is validated again. Their dreams of world domination will be hindered by such realities.

      She should ask VW why they don’t offer the same warranty as Hyundai, for a supposedly superior car.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      @virgin… I do like this car, and I am glad you are so happy with your purchase. But the GLS wheels do not look like a better proportion. The SE rims make the car look perfect, the little wheels look silly. But you will like buying the cheaper tires when you replace them. And the TDI is less about being green and more about getting better fuel economy.

      @gslippy… They dont have to, people still line up for the Jetta SW.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      How did she drop $7k? VWs come with 3/36 warranty.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        I suspect the implication was that she paid $7K more than the cost of hyundaivirgin’s Elantra.

        TrueDelta’s price comparison engine shows a difference of $2100 with the Jetta’s base 2.5L engine and $5100 with the TDI, with comparable features.

      • 0 avatar
        johnny ro

        Range is an important consideration to some, as is immense drivability, i.e. tractor torque. I would prefer 2.0 TDI in my Audi buts its not offered here. “Americans won’t buy it.”

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Of course, part of the reason she paid more was that the Jetta SW is a hot seller, and the Elantra has to be heavily discounted to move. Another reason was because the TDI is both desireable and more efficient. Whether you like them or not, the VW is more of a premium brand than Hyundai, and if hyundaivirgin tries to sell his car he will find that out.

        None of the Mk5 VWs have proven to be unreliable, just like the new Hyundai’s have overcome thier early quality issues… which is the entire reason Hyundai has to offer such a warranty. VW doesnt feel its needed, and they are doing pretty well worldwide, so I guess they can make that decision. The TDI engines can have some problems, especially with the HPFP, and you can bet if she had to wait 2 weeks for parts, she got to drive a loaner or a rental the entire time. I personally would be more than happy to park my car for a couple weeks and drive someone elses.

        And VWs come with a 4/50 bumper to bumper warranty, and all service is included on 2009+ models.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        @mnm4ever:

        I’m not so sure the Sportwagen outsells the Elantra Touring. I think sales volume of the Jetta and Elantra are similar, and so possibly the Sportwagen and Touring are similar as well.

        Perhaps someone with real numbers can verify or debunk my assertion. My research capability on sales volume is limited. :(

        But the Sportwagen certainly does have a certain cult following (demand) that the Touring lacks, so VW doesn’t work hard to move them.

      • 0 avatar

        @mnm4ever: VW has a 3year/36k warranty, as far as I can tell: http://owners.vw.com/vww/vw_service/limited_warranty_coverage.html

        I love the Jetta SportWagen; how it looks, drives, feels, etc. unfortunately VW’s reliability problems (notably with the TDI) caused me to look elsewhere. I would have considered the gasser model if you could get the manual transmission on anything but the base model (I really wanted the sunroof, alloys, and a few other features).

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I didnt say the SW outsells it, actually you are probably correct. But VW doesnt have to discount them much, there are enough buyers out there who want them, and specifically WANT the Jetta SW. I wouldnt buy a new Jetta except the SW, I dont like what they did with the new style Jetta, and the SW is still the same as the Mk5.

        The Elantra Touring is selling more often to people who are bargain shopping, thus the deep discounts. Few people bargain shop at the VW dealer, they simply cost too much… VW buyers WANT a VW (whether thats a good idea or not is still up for debate!)

        Im not saying its a bad car, I like it a lot, I even like the styling more than the VW. I just get tired of all the VW bashing. :)

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        @Aaron – sure enough, looks like you guys are right, they must have changed it. My 2008 has a 4/50 with no service, and the 2009 I was comparing it to had a 4/50 with service included. I never looked at 2010+ models. Now according to your link, its 3/36 b2b and 5/60 powertrain, (unless you get a Toureg then you get 10/100 pt?!).

        I would be happy if they would just do 10/100 on the DSG and basic powertrain, everything else I could live with at 3/36!

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        “But VW doesnt have to discount them much…”

        Well, can’t say that about the new Jetta and the soon to be available new Passat.

        And isn’t it better (esp for people who tend to hang onto their autos) to get the savings up front (upon purchase) rather than trying to recoup it at resale?

        The buyers of the new Elantra are going to see higher resale value down the road than owners of the old Elantra, but they also didn’t get the savings from MSRP.

        As for VW reliability, it’s improving, but even AutoBild still ranks VW’s reliability near the bottom (Audi’s reliability, otoh, has improved).

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        @bd — Well, if we were talking about the new Jetta or the Passat then your comment would have a point… but we are not.

        And NO, I dont think its better to get the savings up front. As GM has proven time and again, deep discounts and rebates lower the perceived value of the product and in the end hurt long term value as well. Plus, the main reason they have to discount them to sell them is they are simply not attracting buyers on thier own merits.

        And who the heck is Autobild?? Most of the industry rankings place them right about average.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        mnm4ever: “Whether you like them or not, the VW is more of a premium brand than Hyundai, and if hyundaivirgin tries to sell his car he will find that out.”

        Maybe true in China, but that’s certainly not true in North America. Charging a premium price is not the same as being a premium brand.

        VW is charging a premium price at the huge cost of market share. If VW is to sell even close to the total units sold by Hyundai, VW cars would need to be discounted beyond belief.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The word mnm4ever is looking for is niche, not premium by any stretch of the imagination. VW used to try to compete with the quality car companies in the volume segments in the US, but they simply couldn’t. The MKII Golf and Jetta sold in real numbers on the strength of their designs, but the customers mostly wound up with a learning experience instead of a desire to buy a MKIII or MKIV.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I respectfully disagree with both of you. As I said before, “whether you like them or not”… VW is a more premium brand than Hyundai, thats obvious. They are not a Lexus or BMW, I get that… maybe they can be called mid-luxury or whatever. Hyundai and Kia are economy brands. VW charges higher prices than comparable products that the Korean brands have, they use higher quality materials, and generally have a higher quality feel to them.

        Where it gets fuzzy for most of you is because you try to relate “premium” and “quality” to long term durability and reliability as well as functionality. They are not the same thing. Land Rover is absolutely a premium brand, you cannot dispute that. Yet a Jeep Wrangler can do almost anything a Range Rover can do, and will not cost you your first born child to keep running over 100k miles. Just because you dont think VW is worth the price of entry, or thier products are enough of a step up from a comparable Hyundai vehicle, doesnt change the fact that VW prices and markets themselves as a more expensive and higher quality product. And just because you doubt the long term reliability of a VW and think a Hyundai will run as well as a Toyota for 200k miles, doesnt have anything to do with how they are priced and marketed new, or resale values down the road. The Korean cars biggest issues are reliability concerns and resale values, they still sink more than other cars. Any guess on how thier current lineup will fare 5-10 yrs from now is pure speculation at best. They are improving, no doubt, but it will take time for the general non-car-guy public to buy in.

        I like the new products that Hyundai is selling, I like where they are going, and I think they are giving the Japanese and the Germans a run for thier money. EVERYONE’S vehicles are much better than they were 10 years ago. There is much less of a difference is feel between a luxury brand and a “normal” car these days. And as you probably remember, I own a VW. But I would never buy a new VW, I simply do not think they are good enough from a product perspective to justify the asking price. But I feel the same way about a Lexus over a Toyota and an Infiniti over a Nissan. I also do not aspire to a BMW, I wouldnt want to own one either, unless it was a mint 1980s E30.

        But Hyundai hasnt yet made a car I would add to my shopping list, but I value performance and driving dynamics over comfort and cheap maintenance. Maybe when they drop the DI 2.0T into the Gen Coupe, but we will see if that happens.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        mnm4ever, you still don’t get it.

        Let me put it in a simpler way. Say, I introduce a new premium brand “WSN” car that costs $1M per copy (and it’s really a re-badged Geely with aftermarket turbo). And as expected, it doesn’t sell well. Do you regard “WSN” as a premium car? Of course not. Simply because the intended “premium” image is not accepted by the market.

        Thus, my case is that, to be a premium brand, you need to:
        1) Charge a premium price, AND
        2) Sell enough copies (or have significant market share) at that price

        Note that I didn’t talk about reliability here. Mercedes has poor reliability ratings, but it can charge a premium price and hold a top 3 place in market share for mid-large luxury cars.

        VW is a totally different story, it can ask whatever it wanted, but nobody is buying (relative to the units sold by Toyota/Honda/Ford/GM/Hyundai).

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        @wsn, you are the one not getting it. By your logic, then Rolls Royce and Maybach are not premium brands because they dont sell a significant volume. The volume or cars sold and the market share dont have anything to do with whether a product is premium or not. And it definitely has nothing to do with whether or not a car is higher or lower in quality/premium feel or not.

        A Fiat 500 is a more premium car than a Toyota Yaris, that has nothing to do with price, volume, or even profitability. Although they are similar products, Fiat is targeting a more premium customer, a more premium buying experience, etc. It could very well be a dismal failure, the car could very likely be a total POS that falls apart like the Fiats of 1982, that doesnt change the marketing position or strategy of the company. Hyundai vs. VW is the same thing, VW is marketing a perception of a more premium product that Hyundai, which markets on value.

        Your concept of rebading a Chinese car and selling it for $1m is not only a terrible analogy, it still doesnt even prove your point. If you did that, yes, you would be marketing a premium car, you just would be doing a terrible job of it, because your product isnt any better. In the real example of VW vs Hyundai, the VW products are nicer products. The interior fit and finish is better, the switchgear is better, the driving dynamics are better. Compared to the “old tech” ET, the TDI drivetrain is better as well, although the newer Hyundai products have caught up in that department (DI 2.0T engine, etc). VW cars are more premium than Hyundai cars, yet less premium than Lexus, BMW or Mercedes. Doesnt matter who sells more cars, or even who wishes they sold more cars.

        And as far as market share is concerned, VW is still profitable, consistently profitable. They sell enough, they just want to sell more. But after the dismal reliability of the Mk4 generation cars, they will have a long haul to getting thier cars up there. And once again I will stress that I dont even like most of the VW products and I agree that they charge too much for them. The only vehicle they make that I like is the GTI, and I bought one used because they are too expensive when new for what they are. Doesnt change the fact that they are marketed to be considered a more premium, near luxury option for buyers out there.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        mnm4ever: “@wsn, you are the one not getting it. By your logic, then Rolls Royce and Maybach are not premium brands because they dont sell a significant volume. The volume or cars sold and the market share dont have anything to do with whether a product is premium or not.”

        Get your facts straight first. Rolls has the largest market share at its price point for sedans. Ferrari has the largest market share at its own price point for sports cars. They are both premium. Maybach sold fewer cars than RR, and is indeed regarded as less prestigious than RR.

        The ones that don’t sell are just wannabes. Like VW. It’s targeted at $20~30k compact/midsize sedans and is one of the worst selling brands.

        I agree that VW is profitable. That’s why I said in my 1st post that “maybe in China”, as that’s where the profit is coming from. In NA? No.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Your WalMart marketing theory is flawed. Just because VW doesnt put their product on blue light special like Hyundai doesnt mean anything. You continue to insist that the quality of a product is directly related to sales volume and market share, and that is simply not true. In the US in particular, consumers are basically morons who shop on size, price, and how impressive a car is to thier friends. They do NOT value the same attributes as people from other countries. But arguing about it with you is pointless, since you are relating facts that have nothing to do with each other… your logic is flawed.

        In a global economy, it doesnt really matter which country the profit comes from. VW is a European company and they sell very well in Europe. They are in most cases hitting thier sales targets here as well. VW does not price its products in the same ballpark as Hyundai. They are more expensive, and they attempt to present a higher quality product; better materials, better fit and finish, different driving dynamics. Thats why they are a more premium product. Thats why the Passat costs over $40k, and the similar in size Sonata barely tops $30k. The Jetta SW costs more than the Elantra T. The Golf costs more than the Accent, etc, etc. Seriously, how can you compare the sales volume of the two companies??? Sure, if VW priced thier exact same product line to compete with Hyundai, they would sell more, a LOT more. If Toyota did it, so would they, if Honda did it, they would too. Thats the entire point here. VW is trying to be more profitable by selling thier cars for more money, thereby creating a premium near-luxury line of cars, sort of like Volvo or Saab. Are they doing a good job??? Who cares??? Thats not the point. Personally, I think its a bad idea, I think VW should have kept on being the low-priced German car competing with the Japanese and domestic brands. But they cant really do that since their costs are so high, so they are going a different direction.

        Why dont they sell more? Because the people who want to impress thier friends by BMW and Lexus, and the people who want a basic transportation car buy Toyota or Honda, and the people who dont want to spend that much money on a car buy Hyundai or Kia. You want performance? Well all they offer is the GTI, and its close to $30k with basic options… or you can buy a Mazdaspeed3 for $24k loaded. Or a WRX for $30k that will beat the pants off the GTI. Its the same reason Volvo and Saab arent selling, thats a tough market. But that doesnt mean that Volvo isnt more premium than Hyundai.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        mnm4ever: “In the US in particular, consumers are basically morons who shop on size, price, and how impressive a car is to thier friends. They do NOT value the same attributes as people from other countries.”

        1) Even though I don’t agree with you that American consumers are morons, for time being, to save some arguments, let’s say they are. I merely said VW is not a premium brand in the US. The very words “premium” and “brand” are subjective to the consumers. “In this nation of morons, VW is not a premium brand.” Are you satisfied with how I put it?

        2) As for opinions of other countries consumers, they may be right. But we don’t need to argue it here, because I have indicated in my 1st post clearly “Maybe true in China, but that’s certainly not true in North America”. I have limited my scope of discussion to the nation of morons. If you feel the need to elaborate how much of a premium VW is in China, please write something and open a new thread.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        And if you were to have read and comprehended my original comment, I said “the VW is MORE OF a premium brand than Hyundai”. I also clarified for you, several times, that my point was the the VW products are considered MORE premium than Hyundai products, not that they are equivilent to BMW or Mercedes or Lexus. Maybe my use of the word premium as an adjective was confusing you??

        As for my mention of profits coming from other countries, once again you are trying to mix facts that have nothing to do with each other. Your main arguement to my point was that since Hyundai sells more cars in the US than VW, that makes them more of a premium brand. You were relating the level of quality and percieved “status” by market share and profitability. This doesnt add up at all, and my arguement to your point was to mention that in this global economy, it doesnt matter where profits come from. I honestly have no earthly idea if Hyundai really does outsell VW, in this country or other countries, nor can I tell you if VW makes more money in China than Hyundai. I dont care, that fact means nothing to this discussion.

        Since you were kind enough to restate your original point in clearer terms, I will do the same: “In the US, in current market conditions, VW products are considered to be MORE premium than Hyundai products.”

        If thats not clear enough, I dont think I can make it any simpler.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        mnm4ever: “In the US in particular, consumers are basically morons who shop on size, price, and how impressive a car is to thier friends.”

        mnm4ever: “In the US, in current market conditions, VW products are considered to be MORE premium than Hyundai products.”

        If both statements are true, then VW products are considered to be MORE premium than Hyundai products by morons. Last post on this thread.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        How does the new Jetta 2.0L Base, probably the cheapest and least luxurious compact car in the US, fit into the VW as a premium product fantasy? $14,995 doesn’t exactly throw it up against Lexus and Mercedes.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        @wsn – YES, you finally got it.

        @CJ – Oh man, I gotta do this again?? Apparently using the word “premium” was a mistake here. What other word can I use? Better? Nicer? Fancier? More impressive??? I clearly said that I am not trying to say VW is a “Premium brand”, compared to Lexus or Mercedes. I said they were considered MORE OF A PREMIUM PRODUCT than Hyundai. So the stripper Jetta 2.0 would be competing with the stripper $9995 Accent. And its nicer (though, not by too much IMO).

  • avatar
    mshenzi

    Cross-shopped this, a Jetta wagon, 4 door Golf, and Mazda3 hatch last year. My experience squared with this review. For my purposes the Elantra Touring ranked fourth, but if my budget had been tighter it would have been a different story. The power, road feel, and subjective interior quality weren’t at the same level, but seemed solid for the noticeably lower price point.

    Checked out a Matrix, too, but found it startlingly far behind all the above in almost every way. Wanted to try to the Lancer sportback, but the dealer didn’t have one in stock; the dealer also looked so fly-by-night that it was off-putting.

  • avatar
    JMII

    My parents are old (sorry I’m 40 now so you do the math) and I told them to check out this car as it seems perfect for them. Easy to load, easy to get in and out, good visibility, reasonable price and mileage. They didn’t seem interested, the Sonata SE is leading the pack on choices to replace my mothers aging Saturn Coupe. The only deal killer here seems to be the four speed auto attached to a weak engine. My mother wants “sporty” and this wagon doesn’t have enough. My parents do a lot of highway driving (grand kids you know) so a buzzy highway ride would be a major turn off.

    • 0 avatar
      red stick

      The four speed auto and the engine are fairly well-matched. There’s plenty of grunt around town and pickup is nice, so keeping up with or even leading traffic is not a problem. Weak is a relative term–the 138 hp on tap here is close to the 140 in the admittedly lighter Civic or the 148 in the base Mazda3.

      Not mentioned in this review is that the ride on the SE’s 45 series tires is relatively firm. I enjoy it, but if I were your parents’ age I might be looking for something a little more . . . coddling.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The four-cylinder Rondo has a similar powertrain and works quite well. The gears are pretty sanely spaced and fourth is well done for the highway.

      It has the bonus of not hunting for gears like a truffle-sow hunts for mushrooms. Many 5ATs and just about every 6AT I’ve tried does that a lot.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Our 2001 Elantra (family shared vehicle) keeps on going at 155k miles, acquired by us at 138k. Its 4-speed AT is very long-legged, and very pleasant to drive on the highway. More gears would be nice, but I’m impressed with that transmission’s durability. Mine has a spin-on fluid filter and drain plug for easy maintenance.

    The 01 is geared to spin at about 3000 rpm at 80 mph.

  • avatar
    SV

    Sounds like a great car. Personally, I’d be tempted, but it’s just so darn bland – the Focus looks better and appears to have a much better combination of fuel economy and performance, and I doubt I’d ever find a need for the i30′s extra cargo space. Though the Focus too is stuck with just a 5-speed, and on top if that I hear Ford’s manual shift feel is apparently lacking (compared to Honda anyway, but then they’re the standard in that respect)

    My ATX Mazda3 runs at 3500rpm too. It’s bearable, but one of the things I’m looking for in my next car is more highway refinement.

    • 0 avatar
      red stick

      80 mph with the 4 speed auto is at 3250, so 75 is just a hair over 3000 rpm. It’s certainly livable, but then my 1991 Sentra SE-R spun at 4000 rpm at 80 mph, so it all depends on what you’re coming from.

      On the other hand, my last highway tank at 70-75 mph returned 32.1 mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      SV

      Hmm, I remember turning 3500 at 80 pretty specifically, but maybe it was 85 or something ;). I was also driving into the wind at the time, if that matters.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    If in July – August 2012 when I’m car shopping there’s one of these suckers (with a manual trans) left in inventory somewhere in this country that hasn’t been sold and the dealer’s willing to let it go for peanuts, I don’t think I’ll be able to resist. (Says the former owner of a 1997 Escort wagon. My lady doesn’t like wagons, but if it’s dirt cheap, how could she deny me?)

  • avatar
    anchke

    A neighbor owns one of these. I like that he keeps it polished and spiffy. As MK said, in person it looks better from some angles than others. Here in New England, even with a Hyundai dealership within two miles, I rarely see this particular Hyundai model on the road. It’s a car that makes no apology for being practical, and the “old fart” (haha) at the wheel is in no danger of looking like a clown or a wannabe. Nothing wrong with that, I say. My neighbor who owns one said he raced a Porsche into the city the other day and lost, but narrowly. It was in peak commuting traffic, which, for many cars, is their default use, so what the hell.

  • avatar
    Johnnyangel

    This review hit the target for this old fart (take it from one who owns a last-year Panther wagon), and for all the reasons so astutely stated up front. But I guess neither the i20 nor the Ford Transit Connect passenger version, which I also like, will fit the bill unless fuel economy can be bumped up. Too bad that powertrain improvements will most likely be accompanied by overwrought styling, as Michael writes.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    This was one of the cars I cross-shopped as well. Sadly, if you get a base (GLS) with a stick, you can’t get cruise. Base cars with auto can get cruise in a package, and the SE comes with cruise.

    You were *this* close to selling me a car, Hyundai.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who faced this. It’s silly that they put an MP3 jack, and I think even bluetooth integration (could be wrong about that) into the base model but not cruise control. A dealer around here had a demo base GLS for sale; it was the last 2010 they had on the lot and they were asking the absurdly low price of $12k! I could have overlooked the other shortcomings of the GLS but the lack of cruise (and my perhaps-unjustified distaste for an aftermarket cruise system) caused me to think twice. I use cruise constantly when I’m driving.

  • avatar
    Dave W

    My wife and I seriously considered this car as a replacement for our 2002 Elantra hatchback. 2 things stopped us. Like our Elantra, it really should get better mileage for the performance it offers. And for some reason you can’t get cruise control as an option on the low end manual. Essentially what happens is cruise control became a $4000 dollar option. Admittedly it’s a nice car all optioned up, but not $20k worth of nice to us. When I need to replace my work hauler I’ll look hard for a used one, but new it wasn’t worth it to us.

    I thought it was weird that the only way we could get ABS the on our hatch was by buying the sunroof. But making the only way you can get cruise control is to buy every bell and whistle is just crazy, especially since it was offered as a stand alone option on the automatic. Their marketing at the time was pushing it as an enthusiasts car, but their price structure showed that they saw the manual as only for bottom feeders.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Hmmmmm…as usual with the Korean makes, it reminds me of another car with nearly identical attributes and styling. Oh yeah, my 2008 Saturn Astra XR 5 door, of course stolen directly from Europe. As usual, the Hyundai offers a pale substitute of the Opel; haven’t sat in a Korean model yet where the doors didn’t ping close and leaving me with that weird feeling while driving, that something is just..not..right. Will say this is far and away better than the POS the Elantra used to be.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Michael — How about the number of driver’s seat adjustments? Hyundai dealers list “8-way adjustable” driver’s seat, but I don’t believe that – there is likely no “cushion tilt” adjustment – what did you find?

    I really wanted one of these back in ’08 (when my ’97 Camaro died), but it wasn’t released until the fall, so I had to settle for the SE sedan (which is a decent car, mind you). But I do miss having the hatch, and I think that the Touring is more sophisticated in appearance to the ’08 sedan.

    • 0 avatar

      Only height. They must be including either the lumbar or the headrest fore-aft to get to eight.

      I’m a big fan of manual tilt, but once standard even on the lowly Accent it has become rare everywhere. Except the Chevrolet Cruze, where it’s on both front seats.

  • avatar
    CraigSu

    You are correct when you state the Hyundai is not a wagon. My Volvo 245, otoh, is definitely a wagon. And since I will turn 50 later this year, I probably fit your Old Fart demographic.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Really wanted the wife to take a look at this versus the new Elantra sedan…but she’s smitten with the styling of the new Elantra, and we already have a small, wagon in the household, my 2004 Lancer Sportback Ralliart. I like the simplicity of the Touring, but as this next car was promised to be her choice, it most likely won’t be on our short list…now if somebody could do a thorough comparo between the Elantra, Focus and Cruze…

  • avatar
    PartsUnknown

    Great review. This car is on my short list, if it’s still around when my Accord lease is up.

    One note of correction from the review: a black/tan combo is an available interior color, depending on the exterior color chosen. The Atlantic blue with tan leather would be a nice combo.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    From a guy who likes reading this stuff, but sometimes has to fight the glazing tendencies of my eyes when reading about concepts that I haven’t learned about I liked the review. I also like how you had the Elantra Touring backed up to the Taurus X (or was that a Freestyle – I know you’ve stated multiple times, but my memory is blanking right now) to show just how similar they are in terms of size, if you discount floor height differences.

    On a slight side-note, how close are the underpinnings between the new Elantra sedan and the Forte sedan? I’m honestly curious, and I’m not trying to be a pain. I’m trying to figure out how the mileage can be that different between the two when I thought they were at least platform mates. I have the base model Forte and my mileage has been creeping up as I’ve been breaking the engine in and last tank was 29.xx hand calculated.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    It´s funny that this car and others like are considered odd in the usa.

    The Hyundai I30(Elantra) and its sister car Kia Cee´d are among the top sellers here in Sweden.

    It´s very good value for money, good quality and got enough space for the majority of the people.
    Get it with a diesel and it´s also a good highway cruiser.
    But it´s not the most exciting car.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    They should change over to the newer 6 speed automatic to try and narrow the 9 MPG gap with the sedan. The interior also needs some work as it looks far too plain and drab.

  • avatar
    metazai

    I have a 2011 GLS with 5-speed manual and I am quite satisfied. Handles well, good gas mileage (whatever the RPM) and incredibly roomy inside for the size.

    As to being drab, I have no problem with drab as long as it goes hand in hand with reliable and well-built, and I have every indication that it is well-built . . . it’s certainly been reliable in the time I’ve owned it. And the lovely electric blue color saves it from being *totally* drab. =+)

  • avatar
    Bond26

    The hub-capped 2011 GLS “hopelessy dowdy?”

    No way. It’s pleasantly austere without the pretentious sport wheels and the bling, bling. I love this car, and I found it at a very affordable price – before they shrink it next year and make it less affordable.

    It’s too bad Hyundai did not make this more available the last couple of years – instead of near the end of its current product run.


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