DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD2007 Hyundai Elantra SE
In cars, "small and inexpensive" once was a euphemistic way of saying "tiny, uncomfortable, and shoddy", especially if the car referred to was Korean. Those days are long past, as a drive in Hyundai's new-for-2007 Elantra will make clear.
The new-generation Elantra is still small on the outside, but inside it rivals some larger and more expensive cars for space. It's now roomy enough inside to be classified as "midsize" by the EPA. As before, power is from Hyundai's 2.0-liter twincam four-cylinder, with 138 horsepower (or 132 in SULEV tune for California emissions states), matched to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. But increased width and height, and a longer wheelbase mean additional interior space. Despite that longer wheelbase, overall length has decreased slightly, making it even easier to get into tight parking spaces.
Three Elantra trim levels are available, and all are well-equipped and offer good value. Even the entry-level GLS has six airbags, antilock four-wheel disc brakes, and power windows. The volume-leader SE adds air conditioning, a 172-watt audio system, power doorlocks and heated mirrors, remote keyless entry, 16-inch alloy wheels with H-rated tires, and a variety of interior and exterior upgrades that mean the only major option is a power sunroof. The Limited adds leather upholstery and an available upmarket stereo for a luxury touch on a budget.
A week spent with a new Elantra SE showed it to be a pleasant and comfortable car. It had a degree of refinement would do justice to a car costing $10,000 over its $16,000 price level, and it was enjoyable to drive thanks to the good suspension setup and smooth shifting of the standard five-speed manual gearbox. The Elantra faces tough competition, and compares very well with the best-known cars in the compact class.
APPEARANCE: The adjective "boxy" will not be used to describe the new Elantra. It's rounded, flowing lines are almost coupe-like, and only the basic grille shape carries over from the previous version. Although not immediately noticeable, it's a couple of inches wider and taller than the old model. Bright, complex headlights give the front end an upscale touch, while on the sides the rising line of the bottom of the windows is complemented by a flowing beltline that recalls Hyundai's Tiburon sports coupe. The large passenger cabin, with its well-raked windshield and rear window, and a short, high rear deck help give this front-wheel drive sedan sporty long-hood / short-deck proportions.
COMFORT: In style and color use, the Elantra SE emulates the best Japanese luxury makers. It's by no means a luxury car, but that does set the tone for the Elantra experience. The standard equipment level is high, and fit and finish very good. In the SE, the upholstery and most trim is synthetic, although leather is standard fare in the Limited. All models have a tilt steering wheel; in the SE and Limited it also telescopes for optimum driver comfort, and has a leather-covered rim. All models have power windows, and the SE and Limited get power mirrors and door locks and cruise control as well. Instrumentation is complete, with good design and visibility. "Cramped" does not apply to the Elantra's accommodations. The manually-adjustable front seats offer a high level of comfort, and the driver's seat is adjustable for cushion height in all models. With two NBA first-round draft picks in front the rear seat might be a little tight, but other than that unlikely scenario rear-seat passengers will be delighted. Well, at least the outboard two - and that's no different from any contemporary sedan smaller than a Town Car. Three children should be fine. There are a number of useful storage spaces in the cabin, including on the top of the dash. The trunk is reasonably large, and the rear seat can fold with a 60/40 split if necessary.
SAFETY: Six airbags - dual front, front seat-mounted side bags, and side curtains, are standard in all Elantra models, as are active front head restraints, five mph bumpers, and safety cage and crumple zone construction. Active safety is addressed by good suspension design and tuning and, most unusual in the compact class, four-wheel disc brakes with standard antilock and electronic brake force distribution.
RIDE AND HANDLING: A new unibody structure with a significant increase in rigidity and a longer wheelbase works with a supple but not overly-soft fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension to provide a comfortable ride. The electric motor-assisted power steering is light, but not too light, and the four-wheel antilock disc brakes ensure good stopping power. The result is a pleasantly European feel to the car. It's not "sports" in its setup, but more "touring". And that's perfect for its mission. Interior noise levels are low at normal speeds, further improving driver and passenger comfort.
PERFORMANCE: Dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, continuously-variable cam phasing (here, on the intake cam), and fuel injection used to be the province of high-performance automobiles. Now such attributes have filtered down to everyman cars, and the Elantra benefits not only with a wide spread of useful power but low emissions as well. In 45-state tune, the Elantra's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes 138 horsepower at 6000 rpm, with 136 lb-ft of torque at 4600 rpm, and receives a ULEV emissions rating. For California emissions states (CA, NY, MA, VT, ME) a retuning reduces output slightly, to 132 hp and 133 lb-ft, and improves the rating to SULEV. It's projected to earn a PZEV (partial zero emissions vehicle) rating in California. Real-world differences between the two should be minimal. My test car had energetic performance, with good acceleration and reasonable 30 mpg fuel economy. The standard five-speed manual transmission adds to the enjoyment factor, with good shift linkage. Keep it up around the torque peak for maximum acceleration. A four-speed automatic is offered, and will probably be more popular.
CONCLUSIONS: The 2007 Hyundai Elantra SE is a comfortable, entertaining, and honest car that's small on the outside and not so small inside.
2007 Hyundai Elantra SE
|Price As Tested||$16,380|
|Engine Type||16-valve dual overhead cam inline 4-cylinder with continuously variable valve timing|
|Engine Size||2.0 liters / 121 cu. in.|
|Horsepower||138 @ 6000 rmp (132 SULEV)|
|Torque (lb-ft)||136 @ 4600 rmp (133 SULEV)|
|Wheelbase / Length||104.3 in. / 177.4 in.|
|Curb Weight||2,750 lbs.|
|Pounds Per Horsepower||20.0 (20.8)|
|Fuel Capacity||14.0 gal.|
|Fuel Requirement||89 octane unleaded regular gasoline|
|Fuel Requirement||89 octane unleaded regular gasoline|
|Tires||P205/55 HR16 Hankook Optima H426|
|Brakes, front/rear||vented disc / solid disc, ABS and EBD standard|
|Suspensions, front/rear||independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink|
|Drivetrain||front engine, front-wheel drive|
|EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon|
|ciy / highway / observed||28 / 26 / 30|
|0 - 60 mph||8.0 sec|
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
|Carpeted floor mats||$85|
by CAREY RUSS The Auto Channel