G. Chambers Williams III: Elantra excitementIf you're looking for a compact sedan in the same class as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Nissan Sentra, there's a great entry that many of you probably haven't even considered.
It's the redesigned 2007 Hyundai Elantra.
And if this car isn't on your list, perhaps because you have some lingering concerns about Hyundai's quality or reliability, take out your pen and put it on that list anyway. Quality is no longer an issue with Hyundai products - and hasn't been for several years.
A careful shopper would go drive an Elantra, check out the long list of standard equipment, look at the great fuel-economy ratings and then compare the price with one of those Japanese competitors.
Then, a truly savvy consumer probably would choose the Hyundai.
For under $17,000 (plus freight), our test model, the Elantra SE, came as well-equipped as some premium cars costing thousands of dollars more, and with an outlay of just under $20,000, you can turn the Elantra into a near-luxury compact complete with leather interior.
That price brings you the Limited model, which also includes a 220-watt premium audio system and power-heated outside mirrors.
But even at the price of our test vehicle, you get more for your money than most of you would have thought possible.
Maybe some acquaintances would tease you about buying a Hyundai, but with the low monthly payments and the savings at the gas pumps, you'll have the last laugh.
Among standard features on our SE model (base price $15,695 plus $600 freight) were tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, power windows/mirrors/door locks (with remote), air conditioning, cruise control, fog lights, leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated audio controls, and both seat-mounted and side-curtain air bags.
A few of the Elantra's features are not even offered on some of its competitors. Hyundai continues to amaze consumers with the value it offers in its vehicles, most of which have more standard content and available options than their competitors for hundreds to thousands of dollars less.
Even the base Elantra GLS model, which begins at $13,395, comes with lots of standard equipment, including the front seat-mounted side air bags and side-curtain air bags for both rows of seats, although air conditioning, a necessity here in Texas, is a $900 option.
|2007 Hyundai Elantra sedan|
|The package: Compact, four-door, four-cylinder, front-drive, five-passenger economy sedan. |
Highlights: Redesigned for 2007, this is Hyundai's most popular model. It's roomy and quite well-equipped for an economy car. It even can be equipped with a leather interior, and the price stays under $20,000.
Negatives: No engine upgrade offered for sportier performance.
Engine: 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder.
Transmission: Five-speed manual; four-speed automatic optional ($1,000).
Power/torque: 138 HP/136 foot-pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock, with electronic brake-force distribution standard.
Electronic stability control: Not offered.
Side air bags: Front seat-mounted and side-curtain for front and rear, standard.
Length: 177.4 inches.
Cargo capacity: 14.2 cubic feet.
Curb weight: 2,721-2,747 pounds.
Fuel capacity/type: 14.0 gallons/unleaded regular.
EPA fuel economy (2007 formula): 28 mpg city/36 highway.
Major competitors: Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cobalt, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3, Kia Spectra, Mitsubishi Lancer, Volkswagen Jetta, Subaru Impreza, Suzuki Forenza.
Base price range: $13,395-$16,845 plus $600 freight and options.
Price as tested: $17,380 including freight and options (SE with automatic).
On the Road rating: 8.7 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer's suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.
In between the base GLS and uplevel Limited is the SE model, which comes with the features of the preferred package, along with some other extras, including leather shift knob, 16-inch alloy wheels and a trip computer.
Our tester came with the optional four-speed automatic transmission; the base transmission is a five-speed manual.
Both transmissions give the Elantra impressive EPA fuel-economy ratings of 28 miles per gallon city/36 highway.
Also available but not included on our test car is a premium package ($1,150), which adds a power sunroof and heated seats. With the automatic transmission and premium package, the SE lists for just $17,845. The biggest difference between the SE and the Limited at this price is that the SE has cloth rather than leather seats.
Frankly, I prefer cloth seats in the hot climate of Texas, but the leather does give the interior a luxury look.
So if you want the leather, even the Limited model can be had for well under $20,000 if you leave off the automatic transmission and the "sun and sound" package ($1,300), which brings the sunroof and 220-watt stereo.
Base price of the Limited is just $16,845, which includes the leather seats, door panel inserts and armrest, along with the front-seat heaters. This is a remarkable price for a car this well-equipped. Even with the automatic transmission, it's still just $18,295.
The restyled Elantra isn't a radical departure from the previous generation, but it does borrow some from Hyundai's flagship Azera sedan. Hyundai says the Elantra's new look also has some features in common with the 2007 Santa Fe.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine rated at 138 horsepower (except in California and a handful of Northeast states, where it has lower emissions and a 132-horsepower rating).
Another great thing about the Elantra is that even though it's priced to compete in the compact sedan segment, its 112.1 cubic feet of interior space, including the 14.2 cubic-foot trunk, give the car an official EPA classification as a midsize sedan.
It has more interior space than the Civic (102.9 cubic feet) and Corolla (103.8). In fact, it even has more interior volume than the midsize, entry-luxury Acura TL sedan (110.4), which is built on the same chassis as the Honda Accord.
The new model also is 2 inches wider and 2.2 inches taller than last year's version, which helped increase interior space. Front and rear shoulder room also were improved, and the rear bench seat is more comfortable for three people than it was last year.
Cargo space also has been increased. The trunk is now 18 percent larger than the Civic's and 5 percent bigger than the Corolla's, Hyundai says.
Including the Elantra, Hyundai now has introduced seven new or completely redesigned models in just two years. It's the last part of the company's so-called "24-7" program that promised seven new models in 24 months.
Others are the Tucson compact sport utility, introduced last year; the redesigned midsize Sonata, which arrived two years ago; the compact, entry-level Accent, whose sedan model showed up last year and whose hatchback version was added for 2007; the full-size Azera sedan, new last year; the redesigned midsize Santa Fe sport utility, whose second generation arrived this past fall; and the Entourage, Hyundai's first minivan, which made its debut last year as a 2007 model.
The Elantra is a step up from Hyundai's compact Accent sedan and is intended for people who can afford to spend a bit more.
The front seat-mounted side air bags and the side-curtain are a surprising standard feature for this vehicle class and offer occupants protection from side impacts as well as rollovers. These types of air bags are believed to be capable of reducing fatalities by more than 45 percent overall, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Front seat-mounted side air bags are optional on competitors such as the Corolla and Ford Focus and are not even offered on the Chevrolet Cobalt. Side-curtain air bags are optional on the Corolla and Cobalt, but not available on the Focus.
For now, though, electronic stability control is not available on the Elantra. This emerging technology quickly is becoming standard on sport utility vehicles and at least optional on many other vehicles. Still, the Elantra's safety features are well above average for its class.
Other safety features include four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution as well as active head restraints for the front bucket seats, designed to help prevent whiplash injuries.
As with many cars these days, the rear seat has a 60/40 split-folding feature that can expand cargo space from the trunk.
The only option on our test car, other than the automatic transmission, were carpeted floor mats ($85). Total sticker price was $17,380, including freight.
Hyundai offers one of the best warranties in the industry - five years/60,000 miles total coverage, and 10 years/100,000 miles on the powertrain.
G. Chambers Williams III
San Antonio Express-News