Friday, April 27, 2007

Hyundai Elantra To Get New Elantra Model

Hyundai Elantra to get New Wagon Model

Depending on your knowledge of Hyundai, you may or may not recall that thebrand offered a station wagon version of the Elantra for a brief period of time. The second generation Elantra (between 1996 and 1999) was the only time that the compact was offered in this particular body style and it made for a cost-effective and practical junior-sized hauler. At the time, the competition it faced was from the Suzuki Esteem, Ford Escort and to an even lesser extent, the Daewoo Nubira, all of which were met with great indifference. Slow sales combined with a lack of exuberance are two of the most likely reasons that Hyundai didn't pursue a wagon for the succeeding generations. Instead of a wagon, Hyundai would go on to offer the Elantra as a five-door fastback.

Some manufacturers seem to believe that small wagons have potential in North America, and this time around, Hyundai is one of them. Recently, at the Seoul International Auto Show, the South Korean automaker showed off its FD Wagon for its home market; this is essentially the wagon version of Europe'si30. Wayne Killen, director of product planning at Hyundai Motor America says that North America is going to be receiving this product sometime in 2008 as the Elantra Wagon. We've heard some pretty good things about the i30, with respect to the way that it drives and the interior's fit and finish, and we've heard equally good things about its twin, the Kia C'eed, so we're definitely intrigued with this news.

Killen said that dynamically, the Elantra Wagon would be positioned as a sporty handling vehicle, which is a unique product position considering that most wagons aren't thought of as sporty.

One positive aspect about launching the car in North America under a sporty themeis that the i30 will finally get the power it deserves. In Europe, the car can be purchased with a series of small-displacement gasoline or diesel engines, the most typical of which is 1.6 liters. For our cars, the wagon will adapt the Elantra's 2.0-liter CVVT inline-four that makes a hair under 140 horsepower, mated to either a five-speed manual transmission, or an optional four-speed automatic.

Hyundai's decision to add a wagon body style to the Elantra lineup means that the entire compact market will open up to them. With Mitsubishi and Ford out of the running, at least for the time being, and Volkswagen pitching its new Jetta Wagon as an entry-level premium vehicle, the only company that really poses a threat in this segment is the Chevrolet Optra, which will most certainly be trounced mechanically, if not in build quality and appeal.

April 27, 2007
by Justin Couture / American Auto Press

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