The Truth About Cars » Elantra http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 11:23:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Elantra http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com New Or Used : Go Fetch! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/new-or-used-go-fetch/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/new-or-used-go-fetch/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 12:38:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=773737 Yummy Food + Fire Hydrant Red = A Dog's New Best Friend

Yummy Food + Fire Hydrant Red = A Dog’s New Best Friend

We own a pet supply delivery business and use two vehicles. A 1995 Toyota Tacoma with 360,000 miles, and a 2004 Chrysler Pacifica with less than 20,000 miles.

Guess which one has given us more problems?

In fairness, the Pacifica wasn’t intended to be used for our business. However my dad no longer finds the Tacoma to be comfortable for the 150+ mile daily journeys, and the Pacifica has us a bit scared thanks to multiple high cost repairs.

We are wanting to save money on fuel, and have the ability to trade in a vehicle (or both) to save money on insurance, fuel, and downtime. With my dad’s age, he wants something much more comfortable than the truck.

We’ve looked at various models of Prius, Scion xB (1st Gen), Transit Connects, and lately have thrown in an Insight (2nd gen) and Escape Hybrid. He doesn’t like German (due to threat of high repair costs), though I’ve tried to convince him a diesel could be an option. Other than that, he has no brand loyalty.

Total cost should be under $10,000 – and we are able to do driveway fixes. The fewer miles the better. It does not need to be comfortable for passengers. We do haul about 300 to 400 pounds of product in our travels. So we want something that can handle that load without any issues.

Steve Says:

I would start with the seat. No, I am certainly not joking about that.

With all that driving, you will eventually prioritize that throne over all other considerations. Even those you already mentioned. What is different now versus nearly 20 years ago is that the Toyota/Honda quality dominance is no longer an absolute when it comes to cars. Every manufacturer can offer a durable product these days. However seat comfort seems to run the gamut. Some cars are wonderful. Others I can barely stand.

There are also so many vehicles that offer sold fuel economy, that it will be hard for me to say that one vehicle will equal out to more dollars and cents than another over the course of time. All that traveling for a mature person requires a supremely comfortable seat, a well constructed interior (a.k.a. avoiding Tonka level plastics)  and an overall environment that will allow for low stress.

My top pick for a $10,000′ish wagon like vehicle with good fuel economy? A Hyundai Elantra Touring wagon.  Like this one.

These models have plenty of room inside. A nice smooth suspension, plenty of good lumbar support… well, I’m not the review guy. So visit here, here and read the comments left by several owners and renters.

I’m sure there are other folks here who will recommend everything from a Dodge Magnum to a (gulp!) Ford Ranger. But if I were looking for a roomy economical transport vehicle for about $10,000, a late model Elantra Touring would represent the bullseye within a bullseye.

 

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Sonata Quality Issues Drag Down Hyundai, R&D President Returns http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/sonata-quality-issues-drag-down-hyundai-rd-president-returns/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/sonata-quality-issues-drag-down-hyundai-rd-president-returns/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:54:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=756401 2011 Hyundai Sonata

Just as J.D. Power ranks Hyundai fifth from dead last over quality issues regarding the 2011 Sonata, the automaker’s research and development president, Kwon Moon-sik, returns to the fold three months after quitting over a number of quality issues within the product line.

Automotive News and Reuters report Hyundai holds 27th overall on J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study, with 169 problems per 100 vehicles surveyed. Though nothing was specified for the 2011 Sonata or the 2011 Elantra — the other car from 2011 that brought down Hyundai’s rank — the industry overall developed issues with engines and transmissions tied to advanced fuel-efficiency technologies, including turbocharging. The sedan’s issues are magnified due to its groundbreaking design and said technologies, shaking up the otherwise conservative midsize sedan segment on its way to becoming Hyundai’s top-selling vehicle.

Meanwhile, Hyundai chairman Chung Mong-koo has rehired R&D president Kwon Moon-sik to help right the ship as the next generation Sonata prepares to make its debut in South Korea next month, as the automaker said in a statement:

Given his expertise, experience and leadership skills, we reinstated president Kwon to enhance quality and R&D capability from scratch.

Hyundai also said they expect their dependability ratings to improve next year when the 2012 models are evaluated, though it was “very disappointed” the results of this year’s study, and is “examining every component of the score to determine root-cause solutions” for improving their product line and services.

Kwon, along with two other R&D executives, quit three months earlier over quality issues — such as those affecting the 2011 models — that led to massive recalls in the United States, South Korea and other market. He was also one of the top aides to Chung’s son, Chung Eui-sun. His replacement, Kim Hae-jin, will return to heading powertrain development.

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Review: 2014 Scion tC (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2014-scion-tc-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2014-scion-tc-with-video/#comments Tue, 17 Sep 2013 16:23:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=517425 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Many assumed that with the new FR-S hitting the dealers, it would only be a matter of time before the front-wheel-drive tC was sent out to pasture. However with an average buyer age of 28, the tC is isn’t just the youngest Toyota, it’s the youngest car in America. With demographics like that, product planners would be fools to kill off the tC and so the “two coupé strategy” was born. The last time we looked at the tC, the FR-S had yet to be born, this time the tC has been refreshed in the FR-S’ image. Which two door is right for you? Click past the jump, the answer might surprise you.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Let’s start with the nitty-gritty. Starting at $19,695 and barely climbing to $20,965, the tC is 25% cheaper than an FR-S. This pricing delta is why (in my mind) the tC’s sales numbers haven’t fallen since the FR-S was released with 2012 slightly above 2011. If you think of the tC as the budget FR-S alternative, the two-coupé strategy starts to make more sense. From dealers I have spoken with it seems to be working. Prospective buyers that can’t quite afford an FR-S or are having troubles justifying the cost to themselves have been looking at the less expensive tC.

With strategy in mind, Scion decided to remake the front-driver in the FR-S’ image. Wise choice since the FR-S is one of the best looking modern Toyota designs. Because hard points remain the same on this refresh, tweaks are limited to new bumper covers, headlamps, tail lamps and wheels. I think the tC’s new nose suits the coupé surprisingly well since most nose jobs range from peculiar to downright Frankenstein. Similarly, the new rear bumper cover fixed the 2013′s tall and flat rear bumper cover by breaking it up with a black panel and a non-functional triangular red lens. What’s the lens for? That’s anyone’s guess.  To see how the two Scions stack up, check out my 5-second Photoshop mash-ups.

tC vs FR-S Front  tC vs FR-S Back

While some found the new clear tail lamps too “boy racer,” I think they work better on the tC and with the tC’s target demographic than the old units. As is obvious by the photos,the FR-S is quite low to the ground with a low slung cabin creating the low center of gravity it is known for. The tC on the other hand is mainstream economy coupé.

Since this is just a refresh, the tC’s major styling problem is still with us: the ginormous C-pillar and small rear window. Aside from my personal belief that the look is awkward, the shape has a serious impact on visibility creating large blindspots for the driver and not permitting rear passengers to see the scenery. The new tC’s new looks should be enough to get FR-S shoppers short on cash to give the tC a once-over before cross-shopping. Mission accomplished. Compared to the other FWD competition I rank the tC second, below the new Kia Forte Koup and above the somewhat bland Honda Civic.

2014 Scion tC Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Once inside the tC, FR-S shoppers are likely to be disappointed as there is very little FR-S inside Scion’s FWD coupé. Hard plastics in a mixture of black and charcoal hues continue to dominate the cabin, something I was OK with in 2011 because the competition was coated in hard polymer as well. Nearly three years later, the competition has upped the game with the 2013 Civic bringing soft injection molded dash parts to the segment followed by the 2014 Forte’s stylish new interior. It’s also worth noting that Scion continues to offer the tC in one interior color: black. Sticking with Scion’s model of streamlined inventory, all tCs have a standard dual-pane glass sunroof which is an interesting touch but I think I would trade it for upgraded materials.

Front seat comfort is strictly average in the tC.  Front seats offer limited adjustibility and little lumbar support (the seats do not have an adjustable lumbar support feature). tC drivers sit in a more upright fashion than in the FR-S thanks to the tC’s overall taller proportions but thanks to that large C-pillar, visibility is worse than the low-slung FR-S. The tC’s rear seats are a different matter. At 34.5 inches, the tC sports nearly two inches more rear legroom than the Forte Koup (2013 numbers), four more than the Civic and five more than the FR-S. Combined with a surprising amount of headroom, it is possible to put four 6-foot tall adults in the tC for a reasonable amount of time. Thanks to the hatch back design and a trunk that’s 50% larger than the Civic and more than 110% larger than the FR-S, you can jam luggage for four in the back of the tC as well.

2014 Scion tC Interior, BeSpoke Autio System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment & Gadgets

The only major change inside the tC is a new Pioneer head-unit. Instead of borrowing radios from Toyota, Scion has generally gone for consumer branded units that are designed for Scion but share nothing with the Toyota parts bin. The notable exception was the old Toyota derived navigation unit which was found in a few Scion models with an eye watering $2,250 price tag. For 2014 Scion is using a new Pioneer made system featuring 8-speakers, HD Radio, iDevice/USB integration and an integrated CD player. The software looks like a blend of Pioneer’s interface and something from Toyota’s new Entune systems. The over all look is less elegant and far more “aftermarket” than the well-integrated systems from Kia or even Honda’s funky dual-level system in the Civic. Sound quality however was excellent in the tC with well matched speakers and moderately high limits.

Should you feel particularly spendy, you can pay Scion $1,200 to add the “BeSpoke Premium Audio System” which is a fancy way of saying navigation software and smartphone app integration. Take my advice, spend your $1,200 on something else. The tC’s lack of infotainment bling is troubling since Scion positions themselves as a brand for the young. At 33 I’m still in the vicinity of the tCs target market (average age 28) and even to my elderly eyes, the entire Scion brand lags in this area. Yes, the idea is: buy an aftermarket radio and have it installed, but I can’t be the only one that wants a super-slick system with a large touchscreen, navigation and smartphone apps as the standard system. Anyone at Scion listening?

On the gadget front, the tC and the Civic are well matched but Kia’s new Forte is rumored to offer goodies like a backup camera, color LCD in the gauge cluster, dual-zone climate controls, push-button start, keyless entry, HID headlamps, power seats, etc. That leaves the Scion in an odd position having no factory options at all and competing only with relatively base models of the competition.

2014 Scion tC Engine, 2.5L Four Cylinder, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain & Drive

The tC uses the same four-cylinder engine found under the hood of the Camry and RAV4. The 2.5L mill has lost 1 horsepower and 1 lb-ft for 2014 (for no apparent reason) dropping to 179HP at 6,000 RPM and 172 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 RPM. Sending power to the front wheels is a standard 6-speed close ratio manual transmission and an optional revised 6-speed automatic that now features throttle matched down-shifts. If those numbers sound healthy, they should. I have a preference toward engines “symmetrical” power numbers (HP and tq are nearly equal) as they usually provide a well-rounded driving experience. That is certainly true of the tC, especially when you compare it to the 2.0L engine in the FR-S.

Boo! Hiss! I know, it’s sacrilege to say anything less than positive about a direct-injection boxer engine, but let’s look at the fine print. The FR-S’ 200 ponies don’t start galloping until 7,000RPM, a grand higher than the Camry-sourced 2.5, but the real problem is the torque. The FR-S has only 151 lb-ft to play with and you have to wait until 6,600 RPM for them to arrive. That’s 2,600 RPM higher than the 2.5. This has a direct impact on the driveability and the character of the two coupés. The FR-S needs to be wound up to the stratosphere to make the most of the engine while the tC performs well at “normal” engine RPMs. Hill climbing and passing are the two areas where the difference in character is most obvious. The FR-S needs to drop a few gears in order to climb or pass while the tC can often stay in 6th. Sure, the FR-S sounds great when singing at 7-grand, but you’re not always on a majestic mountain highway, sometimes you’re just on the freeway in rush hour. Thanks to a lower curb weight and gearing differences, the FR-S ran to 60 in 6.7 seconds last time we tested it, 9/10ths faster than the tC.

2014 Scion tC Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Don’t mistake me, the FR-S has higher limits than the tC pulling more Gs in the corners and having a very neutral handling RWD nature while the tC plows like a John Deere in the corners. What might surprise you however is that despite the nose-heavy FWD nature of the tC, in stock form, at 8/10ths on a winding track, the FR-S is likely to pull away. Some of that has to do with the tC’s improved suspension and chassis for 2014, but plenty has to do with the stock rubber choice on the FR-S. Scion fits low-rolling-resistance tired to the RWD coupé in order to improve fuel economy AND to make the FR-S capable of tail-happy fun with only 151lb-ft of twist. When it comes to the hard numbers we don’t have a skidpad in the Northern California TTAC testing grounds so I’m going to have to refer to “Publication X’s” numbers: FR-S 0.87g, tC 0.84g. Say what? Yep. regardless of the publication the tC scores shockingly close to the FR-S in road holding. Surprised? I was. More on that later.

How about the competition? Let’s dive in. The Civic Si is a bit more hard-core. Available only with a manual transmission, a wide demographic has to be removed from the comparison. However those that like to row their own will find a FWD 6-speed manual transaxle that is, dare i say it, better than many RWD transmissions. The shift feel and clutch pedal are near perfection and the limited slip front differential helps the Civic on the track. In the real world there’s less daylight between the two however with essentially the same curb weight, equal torque numbers and only a 20HP lead by the Honda. The result is a Civic that ties in my mind with a better interior and better road manners but higher price tag ($22,515) and a loss of practicality when it comes to cargo and people hauling.

2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I’m going to gloss over the Golf because, as I learned on Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the other. How about the Hyundai Elantra Coupe? It’s considerably down on power (148 HP / 131 lb-ft), has a cheaper interior and handles like a damp noodle. If you’re wondering why the Elantra GT had to get its bones stiffened, the Elantra Coupé is why. How about the GT? Like the Golf, it’s not quite the same animal. Altima? Dead. Eclipse? Ditto. The Genesis plays with the FR-S and the other bigger boys which brings us to the oddly spelled Kia Forte Koup.

The 2014 Koup has yet to be driven, but based on our experiences with the 2013 Koup and the 2014 Forte 4-door sedan, I expect great things. Kia has announced the Koup will land with an optional 1.6L turbo engine good for 201 ponies and 195 lb-ft of twist. I expect the chassis and manual transmission to still be a step behind the Honda Civic Si, but the interior and gadget count on the Koup look class leading. Unless Kia gets the Koup all wrong, I expect it to slot in around 20-23K. I also expect it to lead my list.

2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

That brings us full circle to the tCs fiercest competitor: its stable mate the FR-S. No matter how you slice it, the tC isn’t as good-looking. It may seat four with relative ease, but the interior isn’t as nice as the FR-S either. It delivers good fuel economy and is plenty of fun on the road, but the appeal of the tC is more pragmatic than emotional. Still, when the numbers are added up the tC delivers 75% of the FR-S’ looks, 85% of the handling and 90% of the performance for 78% of the price. Being the deal hound I am, that makes the tC the better Scion.

 

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • Well priced
  • Excellent handling (for a FWD car)

Quit it

  • Cheap plastics inside continue
  • The steering isn’t as precise as the Civic Si.
  • Lack of premium or tech options young buyers demand

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

Specifications as Tested

0-30: 2.8 Seconds

0-60: 7.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.8 Seconds @ 89 MPH

Cabin Noise: 76db @ 50 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 29.6 MPG over 459 miles

 

2014 Scion tC Engine 2014 Scion tC Engine, 2.5L Four Cylinder, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Exterior 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Exterior-002 2014 Scion tC Exterior-003 2014 Scion tC Exterior-004 2014 Scion tC Exterior-005 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Exterior-007 2014 Scion tC Exterior-008 2014 Scion tC Exterior-009 2014 Scion tC Exterior-010 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Interior 2014 Scion tC Interior-001 2014 Scion tC Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Interior-003 2014 Scion tC Interior-004 2014 Scion tC Interior-005 2014 Scion tC Interior, BeSpoke Autio System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Interior-009 2014 Scion tC Interior-010 2014 Scion tC Interior-011 ]]>
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Review: 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2013-hyundai-elantra-gt-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2013-hyundai-elantra-gt-video/#comments Fri, 02 Aug 2013 21:54:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=497508 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

By pure happenstance I ended up with an Elantra GT immediately after reviewing the 2014 Kia Forte sedan. As I said last week in the Forte review, the Elantra and Forte are related, but this isn’t a case of Korean badge engineering. It’s far more complicated. The Forte is the new kid on the block while the Elantra has been around for a few years. At this stage in life, Hyundai is trying to inject vitality into the Elantra name by adding new models. First we got the four-door sedan, then a two-door coupé followed by the Veloster which is just a four-door hatchback Elantra (yes, I know Hyundai calls it a three-door, but I know better). If you’re confused by door counts, the new Elantra GT is a five-door. Say what?

About “them doors.”  We all know a sedan is a four-door because a trunk isn’t a door. (Despite our exclusive Trunk Comfort Index testing.) Likewise we call the Elantra Coupe a two-door but toss a hatch into the mix and, hey-presto, your cargo portal is a door. How does the Veloster fit in? It has three regular doors (two on one side, one on the other) and a hatch. Thankfully Hyundai killed off the awkward looking Elantra Touring wagon leaving nothing to go head to head with the Mazda3 hatch, Focus hatch and Golf. That’s where the GT fits in.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Adding the GT to the lineup puts Hyundai in the unusual position of having more variants of their compact vehicle than any other brand in the USA, and that’s even if you don’t count the Veloster as an Elantra. Part of this is to give customers options the other brands don’t, but it is also to extend the life of the aging Elantra. In 2010 when the Elantra splashed on the scene it was new and exciting, but this is a fiercely competitive segment. In the past three years, the Civic, Forte, Golf and Mazda3 have all been redesigned bringing new and exciting shapes to choose from. In this light the Elantra’s front end is starting to look a old to my eyes, especially when you park it next to the aggressive new Forte. Speaking of that elephant in the room, that 2014 Forte 5-door looks all kinds of hot.

Park the GT next to an Elantra sedan and you’ll notice this isn’t a sedan with a hatch glued on. Instead, the GT rides on a 2-inch shorter wheelbase shared with the Veloster. Along with the reduced wheelbase, Hyundai sliced nearly 9-inches off this sausage slotting the GT between the Veloster and Elantra sedan in overall size. The shorter dimensions made parking the GT easy in tight urban settings even though the GT retains the Elantra’s 34.8-foot turning circle. Despite the platform nip/tuck the GT is the heaviest Elantra variant at a still svelte (well, relatively speaking) 2,745lbs with the manual transmission.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

I took me a few moments to figure out what was going on with the GT’s interior. At first glance the dashboard and controls are familiar, yet this isn’t the same dashboard the Elantra coupé/sedan, or the Veloster. Gone is the “hourglass” center console in favor of a HVAC controls that are larger and easier to use. Our tester had the optional dual-zone climate control system which rearranges the buttons and adds a large blue-backlit display. Although the steering wheel has simply been tweaked with satin “metal” trim, the rest of the interior trappings are a notch above the Elantra sedan and coupe and, depending on where your fingers brush, a notch above the Veloster as well. This is fortunate because with even the Civic going up-market for 2013, the GT could have left the gates at a disadvantage. Thanks to the plastic upgrades, the GT is firmly “middle of the pack.”

Even though the GT is notably shorter and slightly taller than the sedan, folks up front won’t notice much difference. The seats are still supportive and comfortable, but not as easy on the back as the 2013 Civic. You might think the wheelbase reduction would play havoc with rear accommodations but the back seats have slightly more room than in the sedan. Some of that room is thanks to rear seats with a more upright and comfortable profile and some of it comes at the expense of the front seats which get a one inch reduction in travel for GT duty. Getting in and out of those rear seats is easy thanks to large and fairly square door openings. With 23 cubic feet of widget space behind the rear seats and 51 with the rear seats folded, the GT is the most practical Elantra since the dowdy Elantra Touring was mercy killed.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior, Infotainment, Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

The GT may be new for 2013, but the technology is a few years old. Base shoppers may not mind the lack of progress because the standard 6-speaker audio system is one of the best standard audio systems in this segment. The 170 watt system comes with standard AM/FM/XM radio, a single-slot CD/MP3 player, Bluetooth speakerphone and USB/iPod integration. Sadly you won’t find SYNC-like voice command of your tunes or Pandora streaming, but the system has a natural sound and is easy to use.

High-rollers (like me) won’t be able to live without a touchscreen nav unit, but I was disappointed to find the GT doesn’t get the new 8-inch BlueLink system from the Santa Fe. Instead we find the 7-inch “last generation” system found in the regular Elantra. It’s not that the system is objectionable, it just lacks the snazzy new voice commands and smartphone integration ability you find in other Hyundai products. That new Kia Forte hatchback keeps popping in my mind because the 2014 Forte models get the latest Hyundai/Kia infotainment software with smartphone apps, 911 crash notification, vehicle diagnostics and full voice commands for your music library.

Hyundai Elantra GT 1.8L Engine, Picture Courtesy of Hyundai

Drivetrain

Under the GT’s short hood beats the same 1.8L four-cylinder engine as the Elantra sedan. Unfortunately this mill doesn’t get Hyundai’s direct-injection sauce so power is rated at a middling 148 ponies and 131 lb-ft. In an interesting twist Hyundai allows you to select the 6-speed manual or the 6-speed automatic regardless of your trim level. This puts the Elantra a cog ahead of the Civic and a few other competitors. When you factor the additional weight of the GT model over the sedan it’s obvious performance is muted. When weight goes up, fuel economy goes down and so it is with the GT. The Elantra sedan scores a respectable 28/38/32 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) with the manual or automatic while the GT drops to 26/37/30 with the manual and 27/37/30 with the automatic. Our real world economy ended up a few steps lower at 28.2 MPG overall, notably lower than the Elantra sedan’s 32.1 MPG score last time I had one.

I spent most of the week inside the 6-speed automatic GT but I was able to hop in a manual equipped version for a few hours because I was intrigued by Hyundai’s decision to sell a row-your-own option on all trims. The automatic is obviously going to be the most popular option and will suit most drivers just fine. Hyundai has continually improved the feel of their slushbox and is now among the best in terms of shift feel and programming. While I like the feel of this 6-speed over Nissan’s CVT, 131 lb-ft would more easily motivate 2,800lbs if it was routed via a CVT. Just sayin… The 6-speed manual still lacks the refinement you’ll find in the VW Golf and the clutch feel is a notch below the Focus that’s a moot point if you want all the tech gadgets and a manual transmission in the same hatch. This is your only option.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior, Picture COurtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The manual transmission is worth noting because the Elantra GT is much more of a driver’s car than any other Elantra, including the coupé. This is primarily because Hyundai significantly improved torsional rigidity when compared to its platform mates. Also tweaked were the springs and dampers for a tighter and more composed ride than its siblings. The changes are noticeable and make the sedan feel like a damp noodle in comparison. Hyundai seems to have found the right balance between sporty and soft when it comes to the ride with the GT feeling neither jarring nor marshmallowy soft. If road holding manners matter the most, the GT slots below certain Ford Focus models and VW’s Golf. On the rubber front we get 205/55R16 tires standard and an optional upgrade to 215/45R17s (as our tester was equipped) to improve grip. The larger rubber is part of the $950 “touch-and-go” package which nets you keyless-go, the larger wheels, aluminum pedals and a leather wrapped wheel and shift knob. Out on my favorite mountain highway the GT was a team player with more grip and composure than I expected. The steering? That’s another matter.

The Elantra GT gets Hyundai’s latest personalization option: adjustable steering assist. By pressing a button on the steering wheel you can select from three different steering effort settings on the fly. Yes, even mid-apex. Let’s get one thing clear: none of the modes will do anything to improve steering feel. In Comfort mode the GT is hopelessly over-boosted at speed but oddly doesn’t make give you feather-light steering in the parking lot. When in this mode it is all too easy to crank the wheel too far in a corner and end up constantly re-adjusting. Normal is a hair better. Sport is lifeless but firm. I spent my week in Sport.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I notice most reviews of the GT bemoan the “unusually loud” backup camera that pops out of the Hyundai logo on the trunk lid. Bucking the trend I don’t see a problem with this given the GT’s price tag of $18,545-$25,440. Similarly equipped the Ford Focus 5-door lands $1,800 more expensive and the VW Golf is $3,000lbs dearer. If however you factor in the Focus and Golf’s more powerful engines and better road manners, I’d call that difference much smaller. The smaller the delta becomes, the harder it is for me to look past the small things about the Elantra GT that bothered me during the week like the older infotainment software. If you can look beyond all of that, the 9.05 second 0-60 score is something you have to keep in mind because the Elantra GT is among the slowest hatches we have tested in a while.

Still, the GT is a cheaper option and that speaks to my budget-minded nature. But there are still two problems: the 2014 Kia Forte hatchback and the 2014 Mazda3 hatchback. The Forte’s newer underpinnings, more powerful engine, sexier sheetmetal and snazzier infotainment options are likely to be priced neck-and-neck with the Elantra GT. In addition to all that the Forte is likely to be the more engaging ride on the road based on our time with the Forte sedan. Then there’s that new Mazda3 with a two-engine lineup, available iLoop “almost hybrid” system, class leading 30/40MPG rating and a Mazda reputation for excellent road manners. Yes, those cars are still a few months off, but that just means the Elantra GT in the unfortunate position of being a value leader for a limited time only. What could Hyundai do to fix it? If they could jam their 270HP 2.0L turbo under the hood at a reasonable price…

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.06 Seconds

0-60: 9.05 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.84 Seconds @ 81.7 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 28.2 over 549 miles

 

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior, Picture COurtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior-003 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior-005 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior-006 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior-007 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior-001 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior-002 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior-003 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior-004 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior-005 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior-006 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior, Infotainment, Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior-008 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior-009 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior-010 ]]>
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Review: 2014 Kia Forte (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2014-kia-forte-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2014-kia-forte-video/#comments Fri, 26 Jul 2013 22:16:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=496635 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

When Kia started selling the ’94 Sephia in America, nobody was worried. Not the American car companies still adjusting to the market share lost to the Japanese competition, and not the Japanese who used cheap and reliable cars to take the market share in the first place. The laissez-faire attitude to the Korean upstart was understandable, the Sephia was a truly horrible car. In 1997 Kia filed for bankruptcy protection and the big boys patted themselves on their back for not worrying about the Asian upstart. When another unremarkable Korean company purchased 51% of Kia, nobody cared. They should have.

Through a convoluted set of financial arrangements, Hyundai and Kia are 32.8%  joined at the hip and the result is greater than the sum of its parts. The reason seems to be “internal” competition with rumors of Kia/Hyundai in-fighting constantly swirling. Apparently each believes that they should be king of the hill. This means we can’t talk about the 2014 Forte without talking about the Hyundai Elantra. This is not a case of Chevy/Buick/Oldsmobile badge engineering. Kia and Hyundai have access to the same platform, engine and other parts bins but they operate on their own development cycles. What that means to you is: these brothers from a different mother exist in different generations. The 2006-2010 Elantra was the cousin to the 2009-2013 Forte meaning the Kia was a “generation behind”. That’s changed for 2014 with the Forte being the new kid on the block and while the related Elantra won’t land until the 2015 model year at the soonest.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The old Forte was very “grown up” with lines that were clean, straight and unemotional. For the Forte’s first redesign, Kia  injected styling from Kia’s successful mid-sized Optima. Up front we see a larger and better integrated corporate grille. The shape is supposed to be modeled after the nose on a tiger, but I fail to see the resemblance. The larger and more aggressive maw is flanked by stylish headlamps with available LED day-time running lamps and bi-xenon main beams. Yes, this is a Forte we’re talking about.

From the side profile, it’s obvious this Forte is bigger than last year’s compact Kia. The wheelbase has been stretched by 2 inches, the belt-line has been raised and raked, and attractive new wheels have been fitted. Despite the growth, weight is down 280lbs vs the 2013 model and chassis stiffness has increased. Moving around the back you’ll find something unusual: a rump that doesn’t offend. It seems rear ends are difficult to design these days with cars like the Jaguar XJ and Ford Fusion having incredible noses and disappointing butts. Our EX tester came with the optional LED tail lamps further bumping the Kia’s booty.  Taken as a whole, I rank the new Forte and the new Mazda 3 the most attractive in the segment.

2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

While I spent most of my time in the Forte EX (that’s the model two of our readers requested), I snagged a base Forte from a local dealer for comparison. The reason I sampled both the EX and LX is because the top-line trim (and the base with the “popular package” swap hard plastic door panels for soft injection molded bits. I’m also not a fan of black-on-black interiors (as this was equipped) so I needed to check out the lighter options. Most LX models on the lot were equipped with medium grey fabric and two-tone dash and door plastics (black upper, fabric matching lower). Most EX models on the other hand were dressed in black like out tester. I found the darkness not only slightly oppressive, but also cheaper looking than the grey leather alternative. Either way you roll, you’ll find more soft touch plastics than the Honda Civic and more hard polymers than a Ford Focus. Is that a problem?

In the US, compact cars are all about value. Value means compromise and cutting the corners you can get away with. The trick to creating a winner is knowing which corners to cut and where to bling. (The rapid refresh of the 9th generation Civic shows that even the big boys can clip the wrong corners.) For 2014, Kia uses plenty of hard plastic but it is now located away from frequent touch points like airbag covers, front door panels, etc. The faux-carbon-fiber surround on the radio is a bit cheesy and the style is a bit boring, but our fully-loaded $25,400 model had a gadget list that could easily have been an option list on a BMW. Out tester had heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, HID headlamps, a cooled driver’s seat, 2 position seat memory, power folding side mirrors with puddle lamps, sunroof, keyless entry and keyless go, lighted exterior door handles and dual zone climate control. The extensive gadget list forgives the visible body-painted window frames in my book.

Front seat comfort is greatly improved over the outgoing model with thicker foam in the seat bottoms and backs, and a wider range of adjustibility. Kia claims best in segment front legroom and I’m inclined to believe them as passengers with long legs had no troubles finding a comfortable position. The rear seats benefit the most from the platform stretch with 36 inches of legroom and a seating position that didn’t offend my back after an hour. If rear seat room is what you’re after, that new Sentra still trumps with an insanely large back seat and seat cushions positioned higher off the floor than most.

2014 Kia Forte EX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

It’s obvious the Forte is a half generation ahead of the Elantra when you look at infotainment. LX models make do with four or six speakers and an attractive (but basic) AM/FM/XM/CD head unit with USB/iDevice integration and a Bluetooth speakerphone. The base system is competitive with base and mid-range systems from the competition, although Kia doesn’t include smartphone app integration, Pandora or other streaming radio options. Jumping up to the EX model ($19,400) gets you the latest “UVO 2 with eServices” system. The Microsoft powered 8-inch touchscreen system is bright and easily readable, and has improved USB/iDevice integration allowing you to select songs and playlists with voice commands ala Ford’s SYNC. Also included is an array of OnStar-like services including vehicle diagnostics, car locator and automatic 911 dialing when your airbags deploy. Unlike OnStar or Chrysler’s latest uConnectm, your phone must be paired and present for these services to work.

Adding navigation to the 8-inch system is only possible by selecting the $2,300 “Technology package” which also nets HD Radio, a 4.2″ LCD in the instrument cluster, HID headlamps, dual zone climate control, rear HVAC vents and LED tail lamps. The package is a good deal but $2,300 is a big pill to swallow. Making matters more expensive, you can’t check that option box without checking the $2,600 “Premium Package” as well. The premium pack adds a power sunroof, 10-way memory driver’s seat, leather, ventilated driver’s seat, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, auto dimming mirrors, keyless go, car alarm, and puddle lamps.

2014 Kia Forte EX UVO2 Connections, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

While most subcompacts make do with one engine, the Forte has two. LX models get a 1.8L four cylinder engine with variable valve timing cranking out 148 HP and 131 lb-ft. Not very exciting. Jumping to the EX swaps in a 2.0L mill with direct-injection. The larger engine bumps power to 173 ponies and 154 lb-ft. While this isn’t hot hatch territory, it is more oomph than you find in the Civic, Focus, Mazda 3, or Elantra.

Cog counts are higher than some of the competitors (I’m looking at you Civic) with the 1.8L starting off with a standard 6-speed manual and optional 6-speed automatic. That same 6-speed slushbox is the only transmission for the 2.0L EX. (Pay no attention to the EPA’s 2.0L/MT scores, we’re told that combo remains on the cutting room floor.) Raining on the Forte’s parade is mediocre fuel economy. The LX scored 25/37/29 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) with the manual, 25/36/29 with the automatic and the EX slots in at 24/36/28. Over 657 miles we averaged 32MPG which is slightly lower than the 2013 Honda Accord 4-cylinder.

2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior, 17-inch Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The last gen Forte was a great deal but it wasn’t exactly king of the track. As a result my dynamic expectations were fairly low as I got behind the wheel. I was pleasantly surprised. The new Forte’s chassis is noticeably more rigid on the road, a distinct improvement over the Elantra which can feel like a damp noodle on uneven pavement. Kia’s engineers have also worked most of the kinks out of the Forte’s suspension giving the 2014 model a well tuned ride that’s on the stiffer/sportier side of the spectrum. Electric power steering is here to stay, but at least the Forte allows you to adjust the level of assist via s button on the steering wheel. In the firmest steering mode, there *might be* the faintest whisper of steering feedback. Maybe. Either way, the Forte is a surprisingly agile companion on winding roads. The Forte’s new-found abilities made me wonder for the first time what a turbo Forte would be like.

I’m not saying the Forte is as engaging or exciting as a VW GLI, but this chassis finally shows some potential. The 2014 model is certainly the dynamic equal of the Focus and Cruze. I would be one of the first customers in line if Kia went out on a limb and jammed the 274HP 2.0L turbo from the optima under the hood. Such a move wouldn’t just blow the Civic Si and Jetta GLI out of the water, it would give the Focus ST a run for its money.

2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The feel of the Forte EX is down to the suspension, but the road holding is thanks to optional 215/45R17 rubber. Base Forte models get fairly high-profile 195/65R15s while mid-range models get 205/55R16 tires. The flip side of this tire choice is that mediocre fuel economy. 32 MPG is 1.5MPG below the Civic and 4.5 MPG less than the Nissan Sentra. Despite the wide tires the Forte ranks among the quietest in the class easily tying with the Focus and Cruze.

I prefer to think of myself as “financially frugal”  but at home that’s spelled c h e a p. It’s not that I want the cheapest car or the most economical car, I want the best deal. I can’t help it, the word “bargain” ignites a fire in my loins. The new 2014 Forte is that kind of bargain. Sure, it’s not as roomy as the Sentra, not as quiet as a Cruze, not as dynamic as a Focus and lacks the Civic’s reputation, but this new Forte is well priced, packed with features you won’t find on the competition, and I was unable to find a single thing to dislike. Kia’s compact car transformation from the Sephia, a car I wouldn’t make my worst enemy live with, to a car that I would recommend to friends (and have) has taken only 20 years. To copy a line, that makes Kia the fastest social climber since Cinderella. Since I care more about the driving experience and gadget list than fuel economy, this shoe fits.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.24

0-60: 8.24

1/4 Mile: 16.47 @ 85.2

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 32.0 MPG over 657 miles

 

2014 Kia Forte EX Engine 2014 Kia Forte EX Engine-001 2014 Kia Forte EX Engine-002 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-001 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-003 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-004 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-005 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior, 17-inch Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-007 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-008 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-010 2014 Kia Forte EX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Forte EX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-013 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-014 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-015 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-016 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-017 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-018 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-019 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-020 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-021 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-022 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-023 2014 Kia Forte EX UVO2 Connections, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-025 2014 Kia Forte EX Exterior-027 2014 Kia Forte EX Gauges 2014 Kia Forte EX Trunk 2014 Kia Forte EX Trunk-001 ]]>
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New or Used: Nagging Wife thinks I need a New Car! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/new-or-used-nagging-wife-thinks-i-need-a-new-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/new-or-used-nagging-wife-thinks-i-need-a-new-car/#comments Thu, 08 Mar 2012 13:09:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=434316

 

Zach writes:

Dear Sajeev and Steve,
My wife has recently started insisting (more along the lines of demanding) that I get a new(er) car.  While the junkyard gem 97 civic has only served me about a year, it has only cost me $1000 total.  With 270k on the odometer and counting, it is really starting to show its age but runs 80 down the road with cold air and no issues.  I drive 130 miles round trip everyday with practically all of it on the interstate.  The civic gets 34-38 mpg which is the part I like, but I am starting to question the reliability.

So now I am looking for a good commuter car.  The only option that I am dead set on is cruise control for the obvious reason.  While initially an 08 Impreza hatch grabbed my attention, 26 mpg was unacceptable for me.  So now I am left searching again.  I have test drove the Mazda2 and Fiesta and either would meet my needs as far as size goes.  They both seemed pretty peppy for all 100 hp.  I have plans to test drive an Accent but havent made it that far yet.

So now for the question, what else should I consider?  I have no issues with buying CPO or used.  We have an extra car in case something did happen to the civic so I am really in no hurry except for the nagging about how much dislike there is for the civic.

Needs:

  • Price <25k, preferably <=20k
  • Cruise control
  • Comfortable
  • Throw kids (7&9) in back in a pinch
  • good radio
  • >=35 mpg highway, city doesn’t matter

Wants:

  • heated seats
  • leather
  • bluetooth
  • hatchback
  • cheap/easy maintenance

Sajeev Answers:

I dunno what’s worse: the fact that there’s no proper successor to a 1990s Honda Civic (the 6th generation was the last I really cared for) or that your wife makes you feel that way. Then again, I understand how pressure from a loved one makes something as mundane as a new Civic be more like torture to own.  This V8 Luxo Barge fanatic finally gave into such pressure and decided a little four banger truck was all I needed.

Quite honestly, the latest Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra get the mileage you need, have the stuff you want and get pretty amazing mileage.  And they’ll be far more refined than an old Civic on the highway.  While I have problems with your need for leather (think of the depreciation!), these will be the right way to go.  But I am still feeling nostalgic for the good old days of Hondas, and wonder if we’ll ever get a light-ish weight runner like ye olde Civic ever again.

Steve Answers:

I would go at least one step up in size to a compact vehicle.

As Sajeev has mentioned, the Focus and Elantra would easily fit your budget and priorities. I have yet to drive the Ford. But the Hyundai seems to be an absolute gem of a new car with the exception of the leather seats (average) and interior materials (ditto). Compared to a 97 Civic though, it’s definitely a step up. I would consider the Elantra, along with the Cruze and Focus as leaders in today’s compact market segment.If it were me I would simply look for an older used car that attracts your interest. CPO’s are ridiculously expensive these days, and I always tell folks that it is the prior owner who ‘certifies’ the genuine condition of the vehicle. So find someone who is either tired of their vehicle, needs to  move, needs the money, or simply yearns for something else.
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900 Miles And Runnin’: Searching For Truth In A Rented Elantra http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/900-miles-and-runnin-searching-for-truth-in-a-rented-elantra/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/900-miles-and-runnin-searching-for-truth-in-a-rented-elantra/#comments Sun, 18 Dec 2011 18:13:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=422744

Sometimes the stars align. Last week’s article about the “Consumer Watchdog” Elantra fuel-economy press release had ruffled some feathers and aroused my personal curiosity regarding the Elantra’s alleged thirst. And then — wouldn’t you know it — I found myself with a chance to run South and visit a few friends. The time frame was short. Had to be there and back in 36 hours, covering about 435 miles each way. And the nice people at Enterprise were willing to rent me a 2011 Elantra for a two-day stretch at a total of $50.36.

This was my math: (900 miles/23.5 mpg) * $3.18 = $121.78. That would be the cost of running my Town Car. A mythical 40mpg Elantra plugged into the same equation would cost $71.55. Difference of $50.23. Clearly some sort of sign, right? Might as well rent the Hyundai and conduct a highly non-scientific test. Along the way, we’d ask the usual questions: How well does the Elantra hold up in rental service? Is this the class killer some people want it to be, or the mid-packer described in TTAC tests up to this point? Can’t this thing go any faster? What time is lunch?

Thursday, 1:59 PM EST, 7.8 miles: On the road just like I’d planned — and promised. My initial impressions of this 27,200-mile car hadn’t been positive. My personal experience with Hyundais of the past decade has been that they show signs of wear more readily than the equivalent Toyota or Honda, and this 2011 Elantra didn’t look to be an exception. The multiple rock strikes on the bonnet were all rusting and bubbling, the grey-fabric seats had obvious wear marks, the dashboard appeared to have some fade to it in spots, the cost-cut black paint had clearly suffered under Enterprise’s wash-it-with-a-wet-broom policy of car cleaning, and the carpet was wearing thin. On the positive side, the controls all looked and felt pretty new, including the steering wheel surfaces. Mechanically, this Elantra was in completely reasonable shape. I’d decided to mostly forego full-throttle escapades in favor of moving with traffic flow and keeping the little “Eco” light in the dashboard lit up. The old Car and Driver trick of lead-footing around Ann Arbor in a car for which they didn’t much care and then being shocked—shocked!—at the resulting mileage doesn’t have any place at TTAC, right?

Thursday, 5:15 PM EST, 209 miles: Making the run down Route 71 through Cincinnati to Louisville, the Elantra had reported an impressive 38.6 mpg running at an average 73 miles per hour. Needless to say, this is not very similar to the EPA test. My rental ride wasn’t a quiet car on the road, but it wasn’t unbearable, either. More annoyingly, my infamous 15,672-song, 160GB iPod, nicknamed “Kuang Grade Mark Eleven” for its ability to lock up pretty much every OEM iPod integration except for SYNC and UVO, had done a number on the Elantra’s USB port. Luckily, I could still use the port to charge ol’ Kuang while listening through the 1/8″ AUX jack. Sara Watkins was singing,

Wish I was in Nashville town
the sunny south you know

Actual Nashville forecast: 43 and rainy. My self-pitying reverie was interrupted by an odd Hoooooooooooooooooooooooooo noise. What the hell was that? A bad wheel bearing? It was coming from the front of the car, and it only showed itself at eighty-five miles per hour or above. Could feel it in the steering. I loaded the car a few different ways at speed to see if I could pop the noisy front wheel off… and finally I realized that the noise was being caused by a strong cross-wind. My feelings about the aerodynamic consequences of the Elantra’s mini-CLS styling were not positive at this point. On a hunch, I snuggled up to the back bumper of a tractor-trailer. This proven hypermiling technique is favored by insane Prius drivers who are willing to risk a solid airbag to the face in order to save a few pennies, but I use it as a cross-wind stability test since there is an area of strong buffeting about seven or eight feet off the trailer’s back door. Yup. The Elantra shook in these conditions like no other modern car I’ve driven. Another black mark in your copybook, Mr. Hyundai. Still, after more than three non-stop hours of driving I was neither fatigued nor annoyed. I’m still on your side, little fellow.

Thursday, 7:30 CST, 436 miles: An hour of murderous stop-and-go in Louisville had forced me to abandon my economy program and run between 85 and 95 for the Tennessee homestretch. Covering 430 miles in six and a half hours won’t exactly get me any props from Alex Roy, but that had included a rather leisurely stop for fuel and a quick jog around the gas station to keep my legs awake. The trip computer reported a solid 36.2mpg as I came to a halt south of Nashville, but the final verdict would be partially dependent on my total fuel fill numbers as well.

Friday, 1:30 CST, 468 miles: “I will see you tonight,” I told my son, and hung up. His bedtime is 9pm EST. Time to hustle.

Friday, 4:00 EST, 555 miles: Hustle, hustle, hustle, and I know I will need to be aggressive when I reach Louisville, too. This, combined with a little back-road goofing around for the amusement of my dinner companion, had resulted in what was so far the worst fuel-economy readout. I photographed it for posterity.

Even if that’s a few MPG optimistic, we are still talking about a car which easily beats 30MPG in damn-the-torpedoes driving. Time for the off-the-cuff comparisons. I like the Elantra after half a thousand miles, but it isn’t really a full-fledged freeway car in the American or European tradition. The equivalent Focus is far more confident and unshakeable at eighty or ninety, it feels more expensive and comfy inside, and it has a sniff of Euro-cachet about it. The Cruze is a boat by contrast. I’d rather drive the Cruze on a freeway trip but I’d rather own the Hyundai. My past experience with Elantras of the 2000-2002 vintage is that they are 100,000 mile cars, and that’s better than the Aveos I’ve seen. This one is probably at least a 150,000 mile car. It’s a pleasant traveling companion. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to keep an even temperature in the car, which forces me to twist the knob back and forth. Every time I do so, I imagine that my 1973 Gibson J-40, sitting in the backseat, is feeling the tiny but eventually deadly pinch of humidity change.

It occurs to me that Hyundai, as a company, could have used one more round of aggressive pricing. What I mean by that: The Elantra has always been cheap to buy, if not always cheap to own. This new car represents approximate parity with the class players, depending on how you weight your competitive chart. Had it been priced like the last Elantra, it would been an unbeatable proposition. Unfortunately, it seems to be pretty close to the Civic, Corolla, and Focus, if other TTAC reviewers’ comments on feature-adjusted pricing are correct. I would rather have seen them wait until the next round to announce that they are playing with the big boys. Oh, well. As Liz Phair sang, it’s nice to be liked, but it’s better by far to get paid.

Friday, 8:42 EST, 901 miles: Turns out that 34.0 is as bad as it got. Slow running in Ohio, combined with a relative lack of traffic, allowed the Elantra to bump back up to 35.7 overall by the time I sat down with my son to watch “Chuggington”. I’m neither sore nor particularly tired after the drive. LJK Setright once famously wrote that, for most reviewers, the faults of a car disappear after a hundred or so miles spent in the driver’s seat. After nine hundred miles, I am comfortable in the Elantra’s skin. A six-speed manual variant might serve my purposes well enough, although I would miss the Town Car’s imperial stability, perfect long-distance seating, peaceful isolation, and three-Mesa-Boogie trunk. I’d put it second place in my personal small-car pantheon, behind the Focus and ahead of the Cruze.

Saturday, 10:20 EST, 923 miles: The Elantra has taken 27.2 gallons total. It was slightly under a half-tank when I picked it up and slightly over a half-tank when I dropped it off. There’s nothing scientific about the resulting 35.5-ish MPG rating, but based on the way I drove it, the mileage and abuse the poor little car has suffered, and the entirely adequate performance from the engine and transmission, I’m giving “Consumer Watchdog” a thumbs down. Had I purchased this Elantra, I wouldn’t feel cheated in any way. They promised 40MPG under ideal conditions, and I’m getting 35-36MPG in conditions which were far from the test lab.

It’s an honest car, far from perfect, but worth a look when you go shopping. We will close with another set of lyrics from my second-favorite Nashville transplant, Miss Watkins:

You have kept my attention
And won my affection

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New or Used: Avoid “Titanium” Grade Depreciation http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-avoid-titanium-grade-depreciation/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-avoid-titanium-grade-depreciation/#comments Wed, 14 Dec 2011 16:37:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=422360

 

Shawn writes:

Hey Sajeev and Steve,

I recently asked the Best and Brightest for help regarding my friend’s car buying dilema, but now I’m in one of my own! I am looking to get rid of my 2006 Mazda5 GT, which has been quite problematic. I can no longer tolerate the frequent trips to the shop. Its got about 125,000km on it, and I’ve been getting offers ranging from $6000-8000 for it on trade. The cars I am considering are in the compact to mid-size class, but there are benefits to each car, and I can’t seem to make up my mind. I am seeking a car with decent fuel economy that is fairly engaging to drive. However, I DO NOT want a harsh ride. The GTA is filled with pot holed roads, and I know the stiff ride would get tiresome. Manual transmission is preferred, but not necessary. I do carry four people occasionally, so cross out any coupes. On the Mazda I’ve taken quite a hit in the residual value, so this time around, I am looking to buy something that is a couple of years old. That way, someone else takes the largest depreciation hit. Here is the list so far:
  1. 2007 or 2008 Acura CSX w/premium package and manual tranny: Essentially a Civic with a nicer front and rear end, leather, a bit more sound deadening, and the motor from the RSX. Really fun to drive, but the manuals that I’m seeing in the GTA carry a price premium… The 2008 that I test drove with 58,000km is going for $18,900. At this point, does it not make sense to just buy a brand new one for $23,000?
  2. 2008 Honda Civic EX-L w/ manual: The CSX, while it only has 15 more hp, does feel noticeably more powerful than the Civic. My main problem with the Civic is that it feels a little gutless on the highway. However, it does deliver great fuel economy. Going in the $15-17,000 range.
  3. 2007 or 2008 VW Rabbit: These are surprisingly cheap in the GTA… There are quite a few 2007 and 2008s with low mileage going in the $12-15,000 range. I don’t find this car as engaging to drive as the Acura, and the VW shifter just doesn’t compare to the Honda’s. I do love the “solid” VW feel, but I am concerned about the reliability of the Volkswagen. Fuel mileage is also disappointing. Jettas carry a price premium and I prefer the hatch.
  4. 2007 or 2008 Ford Fusion SEL: This is the lazy commuter choice. It was surprisingly good to drive, but I am not a huge fan of the looks, which I find to be a little bland and cheap looking. I would be looking at a 4 banger with auto in this case, because the manuals are just about impossible to find. Quite cheap as well, with low mileage examples going in the $13-16,000 range. Not the greatest on gas either.
  5. 2007 or 2008 Honda CR-V: In Canada, only the LX was offered with front-wheel drive. If you step up to the EX, you need to get AWD, which I am hearing is a little problematic. Apparently, there is a grinding issue in reverse? Either way, I had this car as a rental for a week when the Mazda was in the shop and found it to be quite easy to live with. The steering and brakes were just right and the car was roomy. Downsides? LOUD on the highway, and the ride is a little harsh. Fuel mileage is so-so. Holds it’s value really well, so we’re talking $18-24,000.
Lastly, 2012 Ford Focus Titanium: Ford has really outdone themselves with this one. I found that the car felt like it was worth the admittedly steep price tag. The car has a refinement to it that is not matched in the compact class, and I found the MyFordTouch to be pretty easy to use. Downsides? Rear seat legroom is a joke. Also, I am assuming that this car is not going to hold it’s value well, since most Fords do not. Probably best to wait a couple of years for a lightly used one?
Well, Best and Brightest? What to do? Am I forgetting something that I should be driving? I have intentionally left out the TSX and GTI as I do not want to purchase a vehicle that takes premium when regular is already at $1.38/L.  Help Sajeev and Steve!

Steve Answers:

I used to live in upstate New York which also has rather nasty roads. So I can appreciate your desire to couple comfort with sportiness.

Back when I lived there in the early 90′s, the car to bridge both divides was a Volvo. 240, 740, 940, etc. All those bricks were underpowered. But they offered excellent durability in a nasty climate and a feel for the road that was unique unto anything short of a Mercedes W124.

So what up today? It depends on where your comfort and sportiness intersect. Everything you mentioned would be brutal for me after 50k miles. I would opt for a midsize vehicle that can offer a nice thrust of acceleration, a healthy level of comfort, and a good feel for the road.

My choice? 2007 Honda Accord EX with Leather, V6 and a five-speed. If you can’t find a good one (and yes, that is a tough find in this market), I would just enjoy a four-cylinder version. The Acura versions are overpriced and the price for Subaru Outbacks and Foresters in the northern country makes them poor values compared to a new purchase of the same model.

If you are willing to buy new… ask Sajeev. That’s his domain.

Sajeev Answers:

I can see why you’d want the Focus Titanium, but depreciation on a top drawer compact (just about ANY of them) will be worse than a middle of the road unit. So you should steer clear of Titanium, wait a couple of years for them to show up on the used car market. A new Focus SEL is a wiser move, and you should also test drive the Hyundai Elantra and Sonata…just for funzies!

More to the point, anything can be fun with a touch of aftermarket suspension bits. Sure, the last-gen Focus is fairly hideous, but all the SVT/aftermarket goodies just bolt right up! Ditto a non-SS Chevy Cobalt with all the suspension bits from that “Hot One.”Relatively speaking, of course: none of these modifications will hurt the ride enough to upset your commute to work. Probably.

Well, that’s only food for thought. Also consider the Mazda 6, last generation. They aren’t the best on gas, but I truly enjoy driving them. You might too.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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Piston Slap: It Ain’t Easy Being on the Front Left! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/piston-slap-it-aint-easy-being-on-the-front-left/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/piston-slap-it-aint-easy-being-on-the-front-left/#comments Mon, 21 Nov 2011 15:49:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=419196

Matt writes:

Hello,

I own an 06′ Hyundai Elantra GLS hatchback and tire wear on the front left tire has been much worse than the other three, despite rotating the tires. The outside of the front left tire is worn down so that it is smooth and now I can see a secondary layer of rubber being exposed. At first I thought maybe there was something wrong with the alignment but I took it to three places, one wanted to charge me a $90 “diagnostic” fee so I walked and the other two couldn’t find anything wrong. One place mentioned that since I had directional tires I couldn’t really get a proper rotation and thats probably what’s causing the wear.

My best guess is between the directional design of the tire tread and the nature of my driving it has caused extreme wear on the outside of my front left tire. The other three tires look fine and seem like I could get at least another year out of them. Anyway, my question is should I just replace the front left with an inexpensive replacement and get the remaining life out of the other three or should I just replace all four with an asymetric set? Factors to consider are that I live in the Northeast so I do get snow but it is not a requirement that I be out on the roads when it is falling so snow tires are not important, just a decent set of all seasons. Also I am a student right now so the cheaper option is more appealing to me but not if it is a minimal one. I have about 35k on the tires right now and they are General Altimax HP’s.

Sajeev Answers

It has nothing to do with the tread pattern of your tires. Damn son, you don’t need to pass everyone around EVERY corner!

I’m serious! But it’s all good. Before balancing things out with proper rear anti-roll bars, my rear-wheel drive cars normally had more wear on the front than the rear. It magnified my desire to push my vehicles hard, but not hard enough to induce oversteer and raise the ire of my neighbors…and the local law enforcement. So perhaps I shouldn’t cast stones from within my glass house.

Front wheel drive vehicles are prone to extra front tire wear because those doughnuts have to both accelerate and steer the vehicle. It’ll abnormally wear out the best of rubber. Combined with your obvious lead foot and the Hyundai’s lack of a limited slip differential, the left front wheel takes more than its fair share of tire wear.

What to do? I would recommend more handbrake turns or lift-off oversteer, but that’s pretty terrible advice for a hoon like yourself. The short-term answer is to get one tire to replace the worn out one, as this isn’t an AWD vehicle that demands equal tire circumferences. That’s the easy part.

The hard part? Getting you to chill out when you’re behind the wheel.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Piston Slap: The Wheel That Won’t Budge http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/piston-slap-the-wheel-that-wont-budge/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/piston-slap-the-wheel-that-wont-budge/#comments Thu, 22 Sep 2011 16:34:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=411641

Matt writes:

Hey Sajeev. Looking for your wisdom, or perhaps that of the B&B. I’ve got a 2005 Hyundai Elantra with about 50k miles. Back around 40k, we had new tires put on it at Sears. Now I want to rotate the tires (yes, I know, I should have done this a while ago), but when I got to the very last wheel, I ran into a roadblock. The rear right wheel is fused to the hub! It seems to be rusted on. Poking around a few forums online, I got a couple of ideas:

  • WD-40
  • WD-40 and let it sit a while
  • Solid whack with a rubber mallet on the driving surface of the tire
  • Place some wood over the steel wheel and hit it with a hammer, rotating the wood around the tire so as not to damage the wheel
  • Loosen the lug nuts, drive it back and forth a few feet

None of this worked, and now I’m at a loss for what to do next. I tried those things about a month ago, and haven’t taken any further action. I fear that the good people at Sears may not be equipped to properly address the issue and that said lack may not stop them from trying. I don’t have a mechanic I trust* and don’t have a relationship with the Hyundai dealer. In the meantime, the wheels are back to their original locations so that we don’t get any weird wear or tread issues.

Basically, I’d like some advice: is there another home remedy I can try, should I suck it up and pay the dealer, or give the tire store a shot? If the latter, do I mention it when I drop the vehicle off, or let them “discover” it on their own?

Thanks,
Matt

*I had a mechanic I thought I could trust. But after getting charged $400 to replace “stuck” hood hinges which I was later able to loosen up with some PB Blaster, I’ve moved on.

Sajeev answers:

You’ve done your homework, and done the basics. Which makes my job easier and far more entertaining. So remove most of the lug nuts–not all, that’s very important– on the Elantra and get it safely on jack stands, and let’s brainstorm.

Hint #1: Whack the tire tread with a hammer, not a rubber mallet.
Hint #2: No wait, make that a sledge-hammer. The biggest one you can find and safely use, of course.
Hint #3: Lay on your back and kick the tire’s sidewall. A lot. I mean kick the living shit out of that thing, son!
Hint #4: Let the WD-40 dry and get a heating device (i.e. a heat gun) to expand the metal center of the wheel, preferably from the inside and not against the paint (alloy wheels only). Follow up with liberal use of Hint #2.
Hint #5: Drive slowly with all lug nuts SLIGHTLY loose and quickly activate the E-brake.

I’m not especially thrilled to do #5, but then again, it might be better than kicking a tire on a raised vehicle resting on uneven pavement. No matter, this will be a great story to share with your family and friends! Good luck!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Review: 2011 Hyundai Elantra Touring SE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/review-2011-hyundai-elantra-touring-se/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/review-2011-hyundai-elantra-touring-se/#comments Fri, 06 May 2011 19:40:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=394066

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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Review: 2011 Hyundai Elantra http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/review-2011-hyundai-elantra/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/review-2011-hyundai-elantra/#comments Mon, 31 Jan 2011 21:08:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=382425

Auto makers forget at their own peril that competitors are also working on better cars, and that customer expectations are consequently a moving target. When developing a new car, you can’t just aim to be better than today’s leaders. Case in point: the Hyundai Elantra. The 2007-2010 Elantra was so forgettable that I never remembered to drive one. One look at the new 2011 Elantra, on the other hand, suggests that it will upend the compact sedan status quo the way the Sonata has the midsize segment.

The good stuff with the new Elantra begins with its styling. The exterior, Hyundai’s best yet, is a well-executed assemblage of coupe-like curves and creases. Not that we haven’t seen tight proportions and an arched roofline in an affordable compact sedan before—Chrysler shook up the segment with this combination with the first Neon back in 1994. But, even compared to current competitors, such as the Civic it also somewhat resembles, the Hyundai appears both sportier and more upscale.

The new Elantra’s interior is nearly as adventurous and sporty as the exterior, without resorting to the faux tech gimmicky for which Honda has become infamous. There’s a steeply raked windshield but no van-like windowlettes, and the instruments are conventionally arranged. Ergonomics are generally good—there are even two door pulls to choose from—but the HVAC and audio controls are a little too far away to reach without leaning forward.

The interior also doesn’t look or feel as upscale as the exterior. The hard plastic is too obviously hard plastic, the wave-patterned cloth (though interesting to look at) isn’t remotely luxurious, and the car generally feels less substantial than its latest and greatest competitors (though it’s easily a match for the compacts of even a year ago). The cloth front seat cushions feel a touch mushy (they’re firmer with leather) and the front seatbacks provide too little lower back support. The new Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus both feel more solid, have higher quality interiors, and are fitted with much better front seats.

The Elantra does lead the Cruze and Focus in rear seat leg room. But don’t let the EPA midsize classification fool you—you’re still clearly sitting in a compact sedan back there. Thanks to the coupe-like roofline, anyone over 5-10 will discover insufficient headroom.

If Hyundai sees fit to again offer an Elantra GT, things could get interesting. Might the Sonata 2.0 turbo fit? For now, only one engine is offered: a 1.8-liter four-cylinder good for 148 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 131 pound-feet at 4,700 rpm. Decent specs for a 1.8, and acceleration is easily adequate for day-to-day driving, but the 2.4s and 2.5s offered in some competitors and even the Kia Forte are in a different league for anyone seeking thrills. The 1.8 is smooth and nearly silent at idle, but sounds increasingly buzzy as it revs. The transmission generally behaves well, but sometimes lugs the engine.

Fuel economy was clearly a higher priority than performance. Hyundai stresses that the 1.8 earns EPA ratings of 29/40 with either six-speed transmission, the manual or the automatic, and without resorting to tweaks limited to a special trim level. In suburban driving my observed fuel economy over a roughly ten-mile stretch ranged from 24 to 33 depending on the lightness of my foot and my red light karma. With a light but not hyper-miling foot and a stop every mile or so I observed 26. Slowly accelerating to 55 then driving five miles I observed 45, validating the highway rating. When decelerating you can sometimes feel the alternator cut in—a clutch completely disengages it much of the time.

Then there’s the 2011 Elantra’s handling. The electric-assist power steering provides little in the way of feedback and often feels artificial. Some heaviness on-center disappears when the wheel is turned. The chassis is nicely balanced and leans little in hard turns, but the suspension is underdamped and bounds over uneven expansion joints. The suspension geometry seems good, but the springs and shocks clearly need another round or two of sorting. Though the standard stability control performs far better than that in recent Kias, with much less obtrusive interventions, it still cuts in far too early in hard turns on dry pavement. Turn it off and handling remains safe.

The ill-sorted suspension tuning also affects the ride. Over all but smooth roads the Elantra’s constant bobbling about quickly proves tiresome. Not that the ride is harsh—it’s not—just busy busy busy. Aside from the engine when revved, noise levels are low for an affordable compact sedan.

How affordable is it? The tested Elantra GLS with Preferred Equipment Package lists for $18,445. A Honda Civic EX, with virtually the same level of content, lists for $2.700 more according to TrueDelta.com’s car price comparison tool.  A similarly equipped Chevrolet Cruze LT? About $1,500 more before adjusting for remaining feature differences, and about $900 more afterwards. And the 2012 Ford Focus SEL? About $2,550 more before adjusting for remaining feature differences, and about $1,100 more afterwards. Compare invoice prices, though, and the Hyundai’s price advantage shrinks—to only about $500 in the case of the Ford.

Even a year ago the new Hyundai Elantra might have been the compact sedan to beat for the non-enthusiast buyer. But Chevrolet’s and Ford’s latest entries into the segment substantially raise the bar for materials, refinement, and seating. Hyundai has been moving fast, but for once Detroit (or, to be precise, its overseas operations) has moved faster. Hyundai promises to keep revising its products more frequently than other manufacturers do. The new Elantra provides a very good foundation for the next revision.

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

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

Elantra interior 2 Elantra train side Elantra interior 1 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Elantra train rear quarter Elantra front seat Elantra engine Elantra side Elantra front quarter Elantra rear seat
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2011 Hyundai Elantra (Avante) Caught Parking Itself http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/2011-hyundai-elantra-avante-caught-parking-itself/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/2011-hyundai-elantra-avante-caught-parking-itself/#comments Wed, 28 Jul 2010 15:01:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=361706

Our Korea-based contributor Walter Foreman already suspected that the new Hyundai Avante might be one of the world’s first mass-market compact car with a self-parking feature (similar systems are offered on the Toyota Prius and Euro-market VW Golf), and this video proves that he was dead right. What’s still not clear is whether self-parking is standard on the new Avante (launching August 2 in Korea), or whether it will be offered when it comes stateside as either the 2011 or 2012 Elantra. This would be the ultimate challenge for such technology, as legal concerns allegedly kept Volkswagen’s pioneering system out of the US. Still, Hyundai had the cojones to equip its mass-market C-segment car with technology that just a few years ago was available only on the Lexus LS. That’s exactly the kind of decision that has Hyundai raising eyebrows across the industry.

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Is Hyundai’s New Avante (Elantra) An Autobot? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/is-hyundais-new-avante-elantra-an-autobot/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/is-hyundais-new-avante-elantra-an-autobot/#comments Mon, 26 Jul 2010 22:19:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=361624

No, this has nothing to do with a Hollywood blockbuster… we think the new Avante/Elantra could be the first self-parking mass-market compact car. Take a closer look at the now infamous video clip of men in suits trying to park the next-generation Hyundai Avante. The first 20 seconds clearly show the driver’s hands on the steering wheel. After that however, the audience never gets a clear view of the cockpit. Someone is either obstructing the camera or the scene cuts away. When we do happen to catch a glimpse of the steering wheel (at 00:25 for example), it appears to move on its own. Granted, the driver could be grasping the wheel at the six o’clock position, out of view of the camera, but I think there’s something more to the situation than that.


When I first saw the video, I immediately had three questions. First, how can it be that these (presumably) automobile executives can’t parallel park to save their lives? Surely anyone at any level of the car business should be able to parallel park blindfolded. I’m sure Maximum Lutz could. Maybe he should come out of retirement and have a CTS-V parallel park challenge. He might actually win that one.

Second, if these suits can’t park, then why was the parking space made so small? It looks to be just a few inches larger than the car itself. Surely the people who staged the event would want to stroke the egos of their bosses and make a parking spot big enough for an Equus. This point is especially true given that the video looks to be shot in Korea where the concept of “saving face”, especially for high-level executives, is alive and well.

Third, what’s so special about a bunch of the top brass trying to parallel park the company’s newest offering anyway? Why are so many people gathered to watch something as mundane as parking? When the big bosses are invited to drive the car, it’s usually to showcase the latest and greatest technology, not to have them do their best parking valet impressions. I can’t imagine Bob Lutz leaving his plush air-conditioned office to go parallel park a Cruze unless there was a damned-good reason to do so.

The answer to all these questions, at least as these three images suggest, is that the car in the video was parking itself!

The first image clearly shows a button marked with a steering wheel icon, the word “auto”, and the letter “P”. On its own, this picture could just imply an automatic electronic parking brake. However, the second and third pictures suggest more. The second image shows a diagram of a vehicle using front-mounted sensors to identify a parking space and then back into it. The third image shows sensors on the front bumper of new Avante. The Korean text on the second image reads as follows:

Panel 1: Ultrasonic sensors detect an empty parking space

Panel 2: The car parks itself when drivers remove their hands from the wheel

A recent Korean television advertisement from Hyundai’s parts manufacturing affiliate, Hyundai Mobis adds to my Avante Autobot theory. The ad shows a driver having difficulty trying to parallel park her car. “Autobots, roll out!” The car then proceeds to measure the parking space using front-mounted sensors (much like in the second and third images above) and then park itself.

The 15-second ad is available here. The self-parking fun starts at 00:09. The Korean voice-over roughly translates to:

Parking is not something for people to know, it is something for cars to do.

The Korean text on the screen during the self-parking reads:

Researching an easy and convenient automated parking assistance system.

So what do you think? Is the new Avante a self-parking Autobot or is this all the work of a dastardly Decepticon? Have your say in the comments.

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Today’s Avante Is Tomorrow’s Elantra http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/todays-avante-is-tomorrows-elantra/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/todays-avante-is-tomorrows-elantra/#comments Sat, 17 Jul 2010 17:18:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=361062

Our Korean contributor Walter Foreman hipped us to this, one of the first videos of the 2012 Hyundai Elantra taking to the streets [via DaumTV]. Of course, in Korean spec it’s called the Avante, but when it finally gets sold stateside, it’s sure to be known as the “baby Sonata.” Or perhaps “that car that makes the Cruze look so deathly boring by comparison.” Or possibly, “a precisely scaled execution of Hyundai’s fluidic sculpture design language.” Or, if Hyundai’s really successful over the next year or so, people will refer to it as “just the new Hyundai.” It’s amazing how much change people can become accustomed to.

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Hello Elantra! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/hello-elantra/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/hello-elantra/#comments Thu, 29 Apr 2010 16:15:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=354715

Hyundai continues its “fluidic sculpture” makeover with the debut of the new Elantra (Avante in other markets) at the Busan auto show in Korea. Expect a North American debut sometime next year.

elantra elantra1 elantra2 elantra3 elantra5 O hai! (courtesy:Autoblog) Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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