Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Hyundai Elantra SE Gets Top Marks in Consumer Reports' Small-Sedan Face-off

YONKERS, New York -- The Hyundai Elantra SE outscored the Toyota Corolla in a new test of small sedans by Consumer Reports, providing a major boost to the Korean automaker at a time when consumers have made a seismic shift back to fuel-efficient cars.

Even though the Corolla achieved a whopping 32 mpg overall in what Consumer Reports calls its "real-world fuel economy tests," the Elantra SE still took home the top prize. The consumer watchdog said the Elantra SE delivered a "respectable" fuel economy rating of 27 mpg overall in its testing.

The Corolla was knocked because its "interior fit and finish isn't quite as good," said Consumer Reports in a statement. "The Elantra SE is a well-rounded package with a quiet, roomy cabin, a comfortable ride and nice fit," said Consumer Reports. "It provides excellent braking and very secure emergency handling, aided by the SE's standard electronic stability control." The Corolla LE in the test had optional electronic stability control and was $424 more expensive than the Hyundai.

Consumer Reports used the release of the small-car face-off results to give its glowing big-picture impressions of the progress of the Korean automaker versus Toyota. "The Elantra's top rating in the small sedan class shows how far Hyundai has come in the last decade," it said. "Its cars used to be unreliable and unrefined, with low scores in CR's tests. Now, some compete with the best in their classes."

In a further blow to Toyota, Consumer Reports said it is only recommending the Elantra, the Subaru Impreza and the Ford Focus -- not the Corolla -- among the group of six small sedans it tested. "CR doesn't have reliability data yet on the redesigned Corolla," it noted.

Consumer Reports leveled criticism at the Chevrolet Cobalt and Aveo in this latest round of testing. "Both ranked near the bottom of the pack," it noted. The Cobalt was castigated for being "a lackluster car that falls short in several areas, including powertrain refinement, fit and finish, seat comfort and driving position," said Consumer Reports. It added: "Recent tweaks have improved fuel economy and reduced engine noise a bit, but those changes also compromised acceleration, braking and cornering grip."

The Chevrolet Aveo also came under fire from Consumer Reports for its "stiff ride, uncomfortable seats, a noisy cabin, clumsy handling and slow acceleration." "Recent upgrades to the Aveo haven't made it competitive in its class of subcompacts, which include Honda's Fit and the Toyota Yaris," it said.

It's clear that Consumer Reports thinks the Focus is overdue for an overhaul. "Ford's freshening of the Focus doesn't hide the fact that the underpinnings for this car's design are nine years old," it said. "The Focus was once CR's top-rated small car, but now it rates only midpack. It retains some of its strengths -- agile handling, a composed ride and a roomy interior. But interior fit and finish and noise remain weak points."

What this means to you: Here's some useful information from Consumer Reports if you plan to shop for a small sedan this summer. -- Anita Lienert, Correspondent


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