Friday, May 29, 2009

2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring makes travel a real treat

Isn't this a sweet surprise? The 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring could be the best auto bargain going.

The small/midsize wagon seems to fashion contradictions into complementary attributes, rather than settling for compromises. For instance:

Elantra Touring takes up the road space of a compact, but provides the passenger room of a midsize and the cargo area of a middling SUV.

It's simple in presentation to keep costs down, but comes across as elegant and refreshingly restrained.

It's not very powerful, but is loads of fun to fling.

It looks dumpy in pictures, but appealing in the flesh -- resembling an elongated, well-proportioned Honda Fit without the Fit's silly spoilers and other plastic dreck.

It offers an automatic transmission, of course, but almost demands that you take the manual, to enjoy the tingling satisfaction of manipulating the B&M Racing brand sport shifter.

It's an economy car, but comes with sophistication lacking in some pricier cars, including independent suspension front and rear, disc brakes all around, standard stability control and alloy wheels.

It has an enticingly long warranty -- five years or 60,000 miles overall, 10/100,000 powertrain -- that's better than some luxury brands.

And you probably won't need it. The Touring hasn't been on sale long enough to have a track record, but the Elantra sedan on which it's based has a "recommended" rating from Consumer Reports magazine with top scores in reliability and ownership cost. Two-thirds of all Hyundais on sale long enough for a record are recommended by CR.

If you still think Hyundai's the cheap brand you buy instead of what you really wanted, boy, are you out of date.

In addition, most details got unexpected attention. Some examples:

-The top model has an exceptionally well done and useful storage tray under the cargo floor, sitting atop the spare tire.

-Bottle holders in the door panels are angled for easy grab-and-gulp moves while underway. (If the bottle's much smaller than the holder, though, it merely tilts precariously.)

-All three rear seating slots have safety head restraints. You find only two on some higher-price cars, as if somebody decided that the middle rider needed no whiplash protection.

The Elantra Touring test car was so unexpectedly good that it called for two separate test periods, to see if the good first impression was illusory. It wasn't.

Touring is a daring car because it's a wagon introduced into the U.S. market, which doesn't like those much. ("We don't call it a wagon here; kiss of death," says Hyundai's small-car product manager in the U.S., Mark Dipko. "We call it a versatility vehicle.") In Europe, its main market, it's a "crossover wagon."

And, truly, it's easy enough to think of it as a hatchback with very generous cargo space.

Hyundai has added the Touring to the U.S. lineup, Dipko says, because "We saw the opportunity to enliven the Elantra line with something styled in Europe."

The gripes, and it's a short list:

-All-wheel drive. Not available. It wasn't designed to accommodate it, so don't expect it, period, Dipko says. "We have the Tucson (SUV) if you need all-wheel drive," he says.

-Leather. Not available. Cloth was comfy (and available heated), but leather sheds spills better.

-Visor notch. Too small. Hard to get a finger behind the sun visor to fold it down. Wearing gloves? Forget it.

-Lighting. Too light. The small green lamp that shows the air conditioning is on was unreadable in daylight. The dashboard lighting is a gorgeous, classy blue, but it didn't illuminate the gauges as well as expected.

-Shifting. Mainly terrific, and that B&M linkage delivered a light metallic click as you moved it among the gears, somewhat like the precise sound of a rifle bolt. But the shift between first and second gears, up or down, sometimes took an extra push.

The clutch engagement could be tricky. If you sit close enough that your left leg always can let out the clutch pedal smoothly, you might find your right leg too close to the throttle and brake pedals.

Most people probably could adjust their way around that. The driver's seat had what seemed like more notches, closer together, than most manually adjusted seats. Thus you could slide very slightly fore or aft to fine-tune your relationship with the pedals. The manually adjustable seats in most cars have big gaps between the positions.

Touring is a slick piece of work; a lot of satisfying automobile for the money. It'd be tragic if America's aversion to cars that look like wagons killed it in showrooms.


- What? Compact, front-drive, four-door, five-passenger wagon. (Must you? asks Hyundai. How about crossover-utility hatchback or some such, since "wagon" is the kiss of death in the U.S.) New to the U.S. lineup, based on the Elantra sedan that was new for '07.

- When? On sale since fall.

- Where? Made in South Korea.

- Why? Already being manufactured for the European market, where buyers are wise enough to appreciate the benefits of wagonlike cars; not a big investment to test the waters in the U.S.

- How much? Starts at $18,495 including $695 shipping. Premium model starts at $19,995. Nearly loaded test vehicle: $20,455.

- Who'll buy? Hobbyists, do-it-yourselfers and others who like a trim-size car, but need extra capacity. About 55% female, 65% married, 45 years old (plus or minus), $65,000 median annual household income.

- How punchy? More than the specs suggest: 2-liter, four-cylinder engine is rated 138 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, 137 pounds-feet of torque at 4,600 rpm; five-speed manual with B&M Racing brand sport shifter is standard; four-speed automatic is optional.

- How deluxe? Unexpected standard features: stability control, fog lights, outside mirror defrosters, four-wheel disc brakes, four-wheel independent suspension.

- How big? Compact outside, midsize inside. Elantra Touring is 176.2 inches long, 69.5 inches wide, 59.8 inches tall on a 106.3-inch wheelbase.

Weighs 2,937 to 3,112 pounds.

Passenger space listed as 101.2 cubic feet. Cargo space: 24.3 cubic feet behind rear seat, 65.3 cubic feet when rear seat's folded.

Turning circle: 34.2 feet.

- How thirsty? Rated 23 miles per gallon in town, 31 (manual) or 30 (automatic) mpg on the highway, 26 mpg combined.

Trip computer in manual test car showed 22.7 mpg in spirited suburban driving (4.41 gallons per 100 miles).

Burns regular, holds 14 gallons.

- Overall: Terrific surprise; pocket change for remarkable blend of practicality and satisfaction.

By James R. Healey

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hyundai Entourage Named a Best Family Car for 2009 by Parents Magazine and

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 05/19/2009 The 2009 Hyundai Entourage minivan was recognized as a Best Family Car for 2009 by Parents magazine and in their annual list of family vehicles. The Best Family Cars of 2009 will appear in the June 2009 issue of Parents magazine and is on newsstands nationwide today.

"The Hyundai Entourage emerged as one of the top three minivans in our test," said Dana Points, editor-in-chief of Parents. "Our survey takes into special consideration the priorities of families, and the Entourage has many features to accommodate their real-world needs."

The Parents/ Best Family Cars for 2009 are based on six months of analyzing and test-driving dozens of vehicles. The list includes 15 top models -- three each in Sedan, Budget, Crossover, SUV and Minivan categories. Each car was judged on safety, performance, interior, exterior and family-friendly features. In addition to professional reviews, editors took into account feedback from parents who own and drive the vehicles everyday.

"Hyundai offers standard, family-friendly equipment in the Entourage making it an ideal minivan for parents," said Brandon Ramirez, product planning manager, Hyundai Motor America. "Additionally, safety is the most important aspect of a vehicle for families and the Entourage's six standard airbags, including side air curtains for all three rows of seats, electronic stability control, and active front head restraints make it one of the safest minivans on the road."

The Hyundai Entourage combines top safety ratings and new technologies to redefine value. The Entourage uses a powerful 3.8-liter V6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission -- all backed by Hyundai's 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty. It includes standard safety features like electronic stability control (ESC), six air bags and active front-seat head restraints, which have earned the Entourage a top five-star crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) and a TOP SAFETY PICK rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) -- the best rating ever for a minivan.

Inside, Entourage is one of the most comfortable and convenient minivans on the market, thanks to a number of highly desired standard features including multi-adjustable captain's chairs for the front and second rows, 60/40 split fold-into-floor third row seats, front wiper de-icer, cruise control, front conversation mirror to view children in the rear seats, rear sliding doors with power windows, front and rear air conditioning, roof-mounted rear-seat vents for both the second- and third-row passengers, and a foldaway tray table with four cupholders mounted between the front seats.


Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through more than 790 dealerships nationwide. All Hyundai vehicles sold in the U.S. are covered by The Hyundai Advantage, America's Best Warranty. In addition, Hyundai Assurance is now offered on all new vehicles leased or purchased from a certified Hyundai dealer. The program is available to any consumer, regardless of age, health, employment record or financed amount of the vehicle. The program is complimentary for the first 12 months.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It Looks Boring Even in Red, but Consider It Anyway

"Boring is better than stupid" might be an axiom applicable to haircuts, aircraft design and your behavior at the office holiday party, but with a car as compelling as the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring, it's a shame Hyundai didn't go for something a little more stupid in the way it looks.

Even in Chili Pepper Red, the otherwise exceptional Elantra Touring comes off like a diminutive Hyundai Veracruz, which is to say, a fine-looking and competent vehicle, but, yes, boring.

If the final version of the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring had resembled its original design sketch, we think it would've been easier to get people to notice it rather than merely consider it. Because it's an exceptional car in its class.

Wagons Ho!
Hyundai is on a roll. First the Genesis Sedan shook up the luxury-sedan market, and now the 2010 Genesis Coupe promises to do the same with sporty coupes. The timing is right for the Elantra to make waves in the ever-expanding compact crossover market.

Based on the hot-selling Euro-spec Hyundai i30 CW, the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring (that would be the code word for "wagon") has much to offer. The base price is $18,495 with a five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed automatic is an $800 option), and standard equipment includes electronic stability and traction control; four-wheel disc brakes (with ABS, brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution); six airbags; USB/iPod auxiliary input; XM Satellite Radio; a tilt-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls and cruise control; power windows and mirrors; and more. Sheesh! Never mind the Subaru Impreza wagon or Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen; you don't even get all this on a base BMW 328i wagon for $36,000.

Command Performance
The Elantra's 141-horsepower DOHC 2.0-liter inline-4 has continuously variable intake-valve timing (CVVT) and is rated by the EPA at 23 mpg city/33 mpg highway/26 mpg combined. We can vouch for these ratings, as our worst/best/average fuel economy figures cooked up 23.6, 33.6 and 25.6 mpg, respectively. This has got to be some sort of Inside Line record for precise (and restrained) fuel economy.

CVVT gives this small engine good throttle response and adequate torque in everyday driving conditions. And when you put the spurs to it, the Elantra is no slowpoke, as the engine revs crisply all the way up to its 6,500-rpm redline. At the track we recorded an 8.7-second run to 60 mph (8.4 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip. Shift action from the five-speed manual is remarkably crisp and precise, maybe better than it needs to be. The clutch engagement is remarkably smooth and intuitive as well.

The brake pedal's effort and effectiveness are well matched. The 120-foot stops we recorded repeatedly are good for a wagon that weighs 2,998 pounds. The four-wheel discs are up to the task in this case, as some cars in this class come with rear drum brakes as standard equipment, which don't deliver the same resistance to brake fade. While there's some noise from the ABS during panic stops, most of it comes from the all-season tires. Otherwise, wind and tire noise are surprisingly restrained. The tires also offer good grip on the skid pad with a 0.81g performance, and prove predictable in the slalom.

With the standard stability control shut off, the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring is willing to be chucked between the cones without threatening to spin. The balance between benign understeer (as the sidewalls of the tires flex) and mild oversteer (once the tires respond) is pretty unique in this segment, and entertaining besides. The chassis obviously has been tuned with fun in mind, although the stability control intrudes immediately and abruptly like an old-school system. If you want it sharper, consider the optional package of 17-inch wheels and tires ($1,500, which includes cast-aluminum wheels, P215/45VR17 all-season tires, a power sunroof and heated front seats). They look less boring, too.

The Tiller
As fun as it can be in certain circumstances, the Elantra Touring is held back by the ultralight effort of its electric-assist power steering (EPS). Hyundai engineers claim they've made big strides in tuning the EPS to feel more like a traditional hydraulic-boosted system, but we say they need longer legs. Chipping away at a fast corner in the Elantra is as vague and confidence-sapping as feeling for the light switch in a darkened hotel room.

It must be said that some buyers actually might prefer this lack of feel, although only the 2009 Toyota Corolla offers a tiller more dead than this one when it comes to feedback from the road. Luckily, the Elantra Touring's chassis and tires work well together, so you can almost forget about the vague feel of the steering unless your commute involves narrow, 60-mph sweeping corners.

Inner Qualities
Inside the cabin, we were happy to visually corroborate Hyundai's claim that the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring offers the largest overall interior volume of any vehicle in its class, some 125.5 cubic feet. Rear-seat accommodations are ginormous, although they lack ventilation vents and the seatbacks can't be reclined. Even when the rear seats are occupied, you have 24 cubic feet in which to stow your luggage. With its 60/40-folding rear seats laid down flat, the Elantra Touring can gobble up 65 cubes of cargo. That's more than a Nissan Murano.

The driver seat is adjustable six ways, and the passenger gets by with four ways. It's worth repeating that the tilt-telescoping steering wheel is a notable addition in this class, especially because it makes the Elantra Touring more suitable for full-size American drivers. We get the thing that says a black interior means a sporty interior, as BMW has practically made it an industry standard, but it does the Elantra no favors. Have a look at a two-tone version, which is a no-cost option, and we think you'll agree it appears more upscale.

Meanwhile, all the knobs and secondary controls are placed well and feel substantial. The materials feel good and there are numerous cubbies and bins throughout the interior. The standard six-speaker, 172-watt audio system with CD changer, satellite radio and MP3 capability sounds OK, but we found ourselves turning the volume knob and then turning the volume knob again, only to discover we had already maxed the output. No distortion, no blown speakers — it just needs to go louder.

Sport Utility
Like most wagons, the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring has the interior size and utility of a small sport-utility, the sportiness and feature content of a well-tuned sedan and the fuel economy of a compact car, and it delivers all this at a price that makes sense, with a warranty that can't be beat.

If you must, call the Elantra Touring a five-door or even a four-door hatch if the wagon thing is too much to wrap your imagination around, but consider test-driving one before you plunk down $30,000 or more on a vehicle that's overweight, overpriced and over the hill. The 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring might look boring, but it's certainly not stupid.

By Chris Walton

Friday, May 22, 2009

Review: 2009 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track - but what if you don't have a track?

In the 23 years since Hyundai first entered the U.S. market, the Korean automaker has come a long away. What began as a budget-oriented brand for those who couldn't afford the higher-priced products from Japan has evolved into a credible contender in virtually every segment that it competes. In the early days, the primary emphasis was on affordable motoring, sometimes at the expense of long-term durability. Today, it's a different story. From the Accent to the Genesis sedan, Hyundai still offers some of the most affordable products, but the decades-old connotations of "cheap" have been largely laid to rest.

With the introduction of the Tiburon, Hyundai finally dipped its toe into the sports-car segment, but as nice as it was, it simply didn't have the chops to play with the big boys of the performance set. Enter the Genesis Coupe. Hyundai's rear-wheel-drive two-door is the second salvo in the automaker's bid to flesh-out its premium Genesis sub-brand, while at the same time taking direct aim at a field of established competitors ranging from the Ford Mustang to the Infiniti G37. Does the Genesis have what it takes to play the game? We spent a week with a 3.8-liter Track model to find out.

When the engineers at Hyundai decided to seriously tackle the performance coupe segment, they didn't mess around. Although the Genesis coupe shares no resemblance to the similarly named sedan, many of the mechanical bits underneath carry over – and that's a good start. The Coupe sports a fully independent suspension at each end, and in proper performance car form, the directional and tractive efforts are split between two axles. The front tires handle the steering duties while drive torque is transmitted to the rears. While our first opportunity to play with the coupe occurred at Spring Mountain this passed March, shortly thereafter, Hyundai dropped off the 3.8-liter Track variant for some more real-world evaluation.

The 3.8 Track sits at the top of the Genesis Coupe line-up and comes loaded with almost every available option. At this level, the only extras are carpeted floor mats, an iPod cable and the automatic transmission. Our Interlagos Yellow tester had everything but the self-shifting gearbox, and we were perfectly fine with that. The seats were covered in a surprisingly nice black leather, with the driver's side sporting multiple power adjustments. The front seats of the coupe are perfectly suited to a performance car with substantial bolsters on the sides and adequate thigh support. The cushioning is firm and well shaped, with no odd protrusions to inflict discomfort.

As for the rear compartment, that's another story. In typical sports coupe fashion, the back seats seem to be an afterthought. When we drove the Tiburon last year, the rear confines were totally inadequate for anyone over five-feet four-inches, requiring passengers relegated to the rear to crouch down in order to avoid bouncing their heads off the rear glass. While the Genesis is a substantially larger car, it threatens to inflict the same kind of head trauma. However, instead of the rear cushion sitting nearly flat with the floor like other coupes, the mounting position is quite high. If the roof wasn't there, the rear wouldn't be a bad place to be. But it is, and it is.

Regardless, given the Genesis Coupe's reason for existence, the front seats are the place to be. The working space for the driver is well laid out and reasonably attractive. In fact, it's quite upscale. The steering wheel features a thick rim that's easy to grip and wrapped in the same leather as the seats and shift knob. In recent years Hyundai has made a habit of benchmarking cars one class up when developing new models (the Veracruz was pitted against the Lexus RX330, as an example), while still keeping the price in check. In the Genesis, it shows. Hyundai set its sights on the Infiniti G37 coupe, while aiming for a price-point competitive with the Mustang and Camaro. The downside of this low cost of entry are materials that don't match their upscale appearance. Hard plastics dominate the dash, although the fit is tight and there are no noticeable squeaks or rattles on the pre-production sample we tested.

Of course, those materials don't necessarily affect functionality. Among other things, opting for the Track version of the Genesis means the car rides on a set of attractive 19-inch alloys with Bridgestone Potenza RE050A rubber. With the available grip, it's important for a driver to be able to sense what's happening at the pavement during cornering and here, the hydraulically assisted rack and pinion steering comes through, providing good feedback and adequate feel. The only flaw we found with the steering was during a comparatively low-speed slalom run at the track. Because the 3.8-liter V6 features decent low-end torque, sometimes there's no need to down-shift. However, the steering assist is engine-speed sensitive and if it's lower than expected, a series of quick left-right-left maneuvers could result in running out of boost and a sudden increase in effort. Fortunately, this isn't generally an issue out in the real world and it never manifested itself during our week with the Coupe.

The other major changes that come with the Track package are stiffer spring and damping rates, thicker anti-roll bars, a Torsen differential and the Brembo brake package. When we become King, all cars will come equipped from the factory with Brembos and the Genesis continues our lust for the throne. The four-piston mono-block calipers don't flex under braking, so the primary source of mushiness we've experienced with other coupes is thankfully missing from the Hyundai.

Out in California or Nevada, where the roads are smooth and relatively free of frost heaves and pot-holes, the track suspension works great. In the North-East, it's an issue. On neglected stretches of tarmac, the Track model will simply be too stiff for some as a comfortable daily driver. Every little (or enormous) imperfection is transmitted straight through to your body and even a simple run to the store can become tiresome. Unless you live somewhere with properly constructed roads, or plan to spend plenty of time driving at the track, opting for the base or grand touring models might be a better choice if the Genesis is going to be your only car. It's just too bad that the Brembos aren't available as a stand-alone option.

Aside from the Track edition's ride, the Genesis is a more than credible competitor to other coupes in the $20,000 price bracket. It has aggressive styling that sets it apart from the traditional American coupes. Rear-wheel drive means pesky issues like torque steer don't even enter into the discussion. The most glaring omission compared to the Mustang, Camaro and Challenger is a V8 engine. But from a performance perspective, the Genesis doesn't really need a V8. At 3,389 pounds, the Coupe has a 400-pound advantage over the six-cylinder Camaro and a 500-pound edge on the V8 model. The V6 Mustang weighs about the same as the Genesis, but the power is only comparable to the turbo-four, so performance is similar on the small-engined models. The comparatively light weight means the Genesis has a nimble feel that you won't find in the Camaro or Challenger, and the only downside is the Coupe's lack of a throaty rumble that only a big bent-eight can provide.

Our maxed out 3.8 Track model priced out at a very reasonable $30,375, including delivery. That puts it right in the heart of its American V8 competitors and several thousand dollars less than a G37. Those who don't need the full 306 hp provided by the V6 can opt for the 210-hp turbocharged four-cylinder and even less weight, and anyone who lives somewhere with questionable pavement might want to save $2,000 and skip the Track model. Put the extra cash towards an aftermarket set of Brembos or find a friendly Hyundai dealer to order the parts and you're nearing perfection. And "nearing perfection" is where Hyundai's first true effort in the segment lands. The Genesis Coupe delivers on nearly every conceivable level, blends an attractive exterior with a thoughtful interior, and does it all for a price that's still easy on the wallet. Hyundai's come a long way, and the Genesis coupe is the start of another great chapter.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hyundai Genesis and Sonata Win AutoPacific 2009 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards

Owners give two hyundai vehicles top ratings in national survey on satisfaction

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 05/19/2009 Hyundai owners placed the Genesis and Sonata at the top of their classes in AutoPacific's 2009 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSA) research. Both models won in highly competitive segments. Genesis topped the Aspirational Luxury Car category for its affordable operating costs, value and extraordinary warranty. The Sonata was the highest ranked Premium Mid-Size Car, beating out the segment-defining Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. In addition, Hyundai's overall brand satisfaction rating among Hyundai purchasers jumped 11 positions earning Hyundai 2009 Rising Star honors. This positive move was more than any other manufacturer in the survey. Hyundai scored higher in 40 of 48 rating categories in 2009 compared with 2008.

"Having conducted this industry research since 1997, we see vehicles that score highest in AutoPacific's Vehicle Satisfaction Awards have hit the mark delivering value and satisfaction with their buyers," said George Peterson, president of AutoPacific. "This year's results made it clear that Hyundai owners are extremely pleased with their new cars."

AutoPacific's annual VSA is an industry benchmark for objectively measuring how satisfied an owner is with their new car or light truck, and reflects the opinions of consumers nationwide. The awards summarize results from AutoPacific's 2009 model year vehicle satisfaction research. More than 25,000 consumers around the country participated in the survey.

"It's an honor to not only be recognized by a trusted automotive resource like AutoPacific for vehicles satisfaction, but by our Hyundai owners as well," said Michael Deitz, product manager for Genesis sedan and Sonata. "Also coming out of the survey as the most improved brand year-over-year only solidifies our dedication to continually providing consumers with safe, well-designed, quality vehicles."

In addition to identifying category winners, AutoPacific's VSA establish numerical satisfaction ratings for virtually every passenger car and light truck in the North American market. Owner satisfaction is measured across specific areas related to a vehicle's operation, comfort, safety and the overall purchase/lease experience. The 2009 ratings reflect input from buyers and lessees of new vehicles acquired September through December 2008.

Hyundai's Genesis sedan sets a new benchmark in the premium car category. With a starting price of just $33,000, Genesis includes performance and luxury features typically found on vehicles costing thousands of dollars more. The fuel-efficient Sonata combines refined design, proven dependability, spirited performance and an extensive list of standard features that increase its appeal to a broader range of customers.


Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through more than 790 dealerships nationwide. All Hyundai vehicles sold in the U.S. are covered by The Hyundai Advantage, America's Best Warranty. In addition, the Hyundai Assurance Program is now offered on all new vehicles leased or purchased from a certified Hyundai dealer. The program is available to any consumer, regardless of age, health, employment record or financed amount of the vehicle.


AutoPacific is a future-oriented automotive market research and product-consulting firm. Every year AutoPacific publishes a wide variety of syndicated studies on the automotive industry. The firm also conducts extensive proprietary research and consulting for auto manufacturers, distributors, marketers and suppliers worldwide. Company headquarters and its state-of-the-art automotive research facility are in Tustin, California, with an affiliate office in the Detroit area.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Arrival: 2009 Hyundai Genesis 4.6

Catapulting Into the Luxury Segment

Hyundai's Genesis sedan is one of the most significant new cars launched in America this decade. It represents an ambitious reach toward Lexus and Mercedes-Benz territory, a car designed to catapult the fast-growing South Korean automaker into the luxury segment. Shockingly, the Genesis is also a car that puts GM, Ford, and Chrysler on notice: Detroit now hasn't the money or resources to produce a rear-drive luxury sedan of its size and quality. Think about that.

We know the Genesis is good: Were it not for the astonishing Nissan GT-R, it probably would've won our 2009 Car of the Year. What cost the Genesis the title was detail stuff, like the overwrought grille, the limited rearward travel of the front seats, and a ride deemed too jittery for a luxury car. Nitpicking, but such is the nature of COTY. Still, we were impressed enough that we wanted one for a year.

Ticking the boxes didn't take a lot of effort. We wanted the 4.6-liter V-8 model. Check. Titanium metallic paint with black leather. Check. Then we decided to go whole hog and order the $4000 Technology Package, which adds a 528-watt Lexicon sound system, backup camera, navigation, HID headlamps, parking assist, a cooled driver's seat, and Bluetooth to the Genesis's already impressive list of standard features. Check. And why not? Our extravagance brought the sticker to just $42,000, more than $12,000 less than a Lexus GS 460, which is smaller all around, offers fewer horses, and has less rear-seat room.

After a few weeks in the fleet, we're convinced the Genesis is only a couple developmental tweaks away from being a truly outstanding automobile. The 375-horse Tau V-8 feels crisp and smooth and has so far delivered decent fuel economy-17.4 mpg. The six-speed ZF automatic delivers its trademark silky shifts (Hyundai has its own eight-speed on the way, along with a 5.0-liter Tau V-8) and noise levels are commendably low.

Quibbles? We'd like more linearity in the weighting of the steering and the front seats mounted lower to the floor and given longer runners. The ride is still a little nervous-the rear springs and shocks feel way too stiff relative to the front end-and the rear end jiggles around on L.A.'s thumpety-thump freeways. But that's about all. As Kim Reynolds noted: "Deutschland's and Japan's brightest engineers ought to be sensing the hot breath of their South Korean counterparts on their necks about now." So far, he's right.

Our Vehicle
Base price $38,000
Price as tested $42,000
Vehicle layout Front engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
Engine 4.6L/375-hp*/333-lb-ft* DOHC 32-valve V-8
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (dist f/r) 4060 lb (54/46%)
Wheelbase 115.6 in
Length x width x height 195.9 x 74.4 x 58.3 in
0-60 mph 5.6 sec
Quarter mile 14.1 sec @ 101.5 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 112 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.86 g (avg)
MT figure eight 27.2 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy econ 17/25 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.98 lb/mile
Total mileage 3851 miles
Average fuel economy 17.4 mpg
*On premium fuel; 368 hp/324 lb-ft on regular

By Angus MacKenzie

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hyundai's Certified Pre-Owned Program Leapfrogging the Competition

Hyundai's CPO program moves from last to third in just two years

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 05/15/2009 Hyundai ranked third in the industry in Intellichoice's Best Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Programs for 2009 in the non-luxury category -- moving up 24 slots since its debut just two years ago and now trails only Mini and Volkswagen.

"Hyundai's CPO sales were up 58.5 percent in the first four months in an industry down 7.3 percent, evidence that our CPO program is attracting consumers to our brand," said Tracy Bowes, manager of assurance products, Hyundai Motor America. "Having America's Best Warranty™ on our pre-owned vehicles is just another example of how Hyundai stands behind our quality, allowing us to grow in an extremely competitive market."

The pre-owned program and pre-owned warranty provides buyers with an added level of comfort and satisfaction with their vehicle purchase. The enhanced pre-owned program launched to Hyundai dealers in May 2007 with the warranty being effective from date of original sale.

Hyundai's enhanced Certified Pre-Owned vehicle program provides buyers with:
- Vehicles up to five model years old with less than 60,000 miles are eligible
- 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty (from original purchase date)
- 150 point inspection
- $50 deductible
- Roadside assistance
- Rental car coverage (up to $35/day for up to 10 days per occurrence)
- Towing coverage (up to $75 per occurrence)
- Travel breakdown coverage (up to $375 per occurrence) - Diagnostics
- Related damage for specific parts
- Fluids
- New car financing rates through Hyundai Motor Financing Company

Additional options available to the Certified Pre-Owned Limited Warranty include service contracts such as the Hyundai Certified Pre-Owned Wrap Contract which raises the comprehensive coverage on non-powertrain components, Hyundai Vehicle Care Maintenance Program, and Hyundai Road Hazard Tire and Wheel option.

"Hyundai's growth in our analysis coupled with their success in the marketplace is a true testament to their focus on the customer," said James Bell, editor and publisher of "The key value of purchasing a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle is the overwhelming sense of 'peace' that comes from buying a vehicle at the right price coupled with assurance that the dealer and manufacturer will stand up for you should there be a problem down the road. We applaud Hyundai for keeping this focus, especially in these economically difficult times."

IntelliChoice has conducted the CPO analysis for the last ten years. IntelliChoice analyzes eight elements:

Warranty Inspection List
Vehicle History Report
Special Financing
Roadside Assistance
Return/Exchange Provisions
Compliance System
Brand Value

The overall rankings were determined by adding the scores of each of the certified areas. Each area was weighted based on consumer preference and overall consumer benefits.


Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through more than 790 dealerships nationwide. All Hyundai vehicles sold in the U.S. are covered by The Hyundai Advantage, America's Best Warranty. In addition, Hyundai Assurance is now offered on all new vehicles leased or purchased from a certified Hyundai dealer. The program is available to any consumer, regardless of age, health, employment record or financed amount of the vehicle. The program is complimentary for the first 12 months.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hyundai Elantra challenging Honda, Toyota, Nissan

A decade ago, I wrote several columns urging readers to take seriously Hyundai Motor, Korea's largest automobile manufacturer.

I was impressed by the willingness of the company to adapt, and by the speed with which it shifted gears to meet the changing realities of the marketplace.

It is a story now turned cliche: The Hyundai that entered the United States with motorized junk in 1985 -- the Excel subcompact -- is now a bona fide competitor in the global automobile industry.

Even high-end companies, such as Germany's BMW, are looking in their rear-view mirrors, checking the Korean manufacturer's rapid progress with models such as the high-quality, high-performance Hyundai Genesis sedan and coupe.

But the Genesis models don't pose the biggest threat to Hyundai's rivals. That, instead, comes with models such as the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring.

Hyundai's strategy in the family car category is as simple as it is complicated: The Korean company wants to beat its top Japanese rivals -- Honda, Nissan and Toyota -- by offering better products at a lower price.

"Better," as illustrated by the Elantra Touring, means giving people much more car than they expect for the money.

The subject vehicle, for example, is a five-door compact hatchback wagon. You expect a certain amount of utility in that kind of vehicle. But you don't expect cargo space -- a maximum 65 cubic feet with the rear seats folded -- that matches the room found in many mid-sized sport-utility models.

You expect a manual transmission as standard equipment. But you don't expect a short-throw, five-speed manual gearbox that shifts with the precision of something found in a vehicle set up for weekend track racing. You certainly don't expect a car that is loads of fun to drive. But that is what you get in the Elantra Touring, a car that offers so much for the money, it makes you suspicious.

You start trying to figure out where Hyundai has cut corners.

I thought I had found it in the suspension work, which did not seem to fare terribly well over potholed and pock-marked city streets. But now I'm not so sure.

I drove two versions of the Elantra Touring -- one with manual transmission and 16-inch radial tires and the other with automatic transmission and 17-inch radials. The model with the bigger tires felt more stable over roads bad and good. It was absent the sometimes irritating choppiness I felt in the car with the smaller tires.

Check out standard equipment. Hyundai offers four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front/solid rear), antilock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution (which automatically increases brake force to the wheels that need it most) and electronic stability and traction control. Also included are side and head air bags -- all in a car with a base price well below of $20,000. That's a bargain!

Interior materials weren't the best in the world -- a bountiful helping of bargain-priced vinyl there. But everything appeared stitched and assembled perfectly, as good if not better than anything found in a Honda, Nissan or Toyota -- for several hundred to a couple of thousand of dollars less.

With an in-line four-cylinder, 138-horsepower engine, there's more than adequate power for most commuter transportation needs. Fuel economy is good at 23 miles per gallon in the city, 31 on the highway.

On top of it all, Hyundai has given car sales a slight boost in a dreadfully dismal market with its Hyundai Assurance Plus program, designed to relieve consumer anxiety by promising to take over car payments within the first year of a vehicle purchase for buyers who lose jobs through no fault of their own.

Could it be that Hyundai, once the laughingstock of the car world, will be the company that leads the automobile industry out of recession?

2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring

Engine/transmission: 2-liter, 16-valve, in-line four-cylinder engine with 138 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 136 foot-pounds of torque at 4,600 rpm.

Transmission: Five-speed manual transmission, four-speed automatic is optional.

Capacities: Seats five. Fold-down rear seats.

Mileage: Averaged 30 miles per gallon, highway driving.

Safety: Standard are four-wheel disc brakes with antilock control, electronic brake-force distribution, also electronic stability and traction control, and side and head air bags.

Price: The base price on the Elantra Touring is $17,800. Dealer's invoice price is $17,071. Price as tested is $19,995, including $1,500 in options (heated front seats, power glass roof, 17-inch tires) and a $695 destination charge. Dealer's price as tested is $19,131.

By Warren Brown
Washington Post

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring Review

Can an automaker come back from the dead? This is not a rhetorical question, as some of the biggest names in the industry are currently up against the wall. They could learn a lesson or three from Hyundai.

When Hyundais were first imported here from Korea in the mid-1980s, their main attraction was price. Or lack of same. They were cheap, in all senses of the word, especially the most pejorative. Quality was not good. But rather than make excuses, or abandon the American marketplace, Hyundai learned from its errors and improved its product quality. Considerably. Hyundai's recovery was not an overnight success story. It took nearly twenty years. But now, while a Hyundai may still have an attractive price, it's also as good as anything else in its class, if not better -- and Hyundai competes directly with the Japanese automakers who are the standards for product quality.

It's all about product.

Product like the Elantra Touring, an interesting alternative to the big names in the compact segment. Like some of its competitors with similar cars, Hyundai is positioning the 5-door hatch Touring as a sporty and slightly upscale alternative to the common compact sedan. Compared to the regular Elantra sedan, the Touring has a more sport-oriented suspension tuning, although it's by no means race-ready stiff. Like the Elantra sedan, and unlike some big-name competitors, the Touring has four-wheel antilock discs as standard equipment; electronic stability control, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and full complement of airbags are also among its standard safety features. Air conditioning with cabin filtration and an audio system with XM satellite radio and both an auxiliary input jack and USB port are also standard fare. Power is from a 2.0-liter, 138-horsepower engine, matched to either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

All of those standard features are very good, but "features" on top of a sub-standard package, as has too often been done, don't make a good deal at all. No worries about that here. As I discovered during a pleasant week with an automatic Elantra Touring, it's a solid, well-made, and versatile machine that seems to pack more interior than possible into a small, stylish exterior. Although its suspension is tuned more firmly than that of the sedan, and more "sporty" than "sport", the Touring is fun to drive -- and if driving to activities that involve bulky equipment is a need, the Touring is capable of swallowing bicycles, camping gear, climbing gear, fishing tackle, and similar things easily. Need space, like driving, dislike crossovers, and have a budget? Consider a Hyundai Elantra Touring.

APPEARANCE: With the Elantra Touring, Hyundai has opted for a tastefully European-inspired look that should age well. It is unashamedly a two-box hatchback, modified in profile by an aerodynamically-sloping roofline. At the front, bright triangular headlamps flank a decorative chrome-trimmed top grille that is integrated into the hood shape, with a larger trapezoidal opening below the bumper line doing the real air intake work. Chrome-trimmed pieces at the front corners add a bit of upscale flash -- and are also easily-replaced protection from minor incidents. Alloy wheels and low-profile tires fill the wheel arches, and a strong upswept shoulder line and flowing sill line help give a toned, athletic look. The rear is dominated by vertical taillights that flank the hatch.

COMFORT: Inside, with the flowing lines of the instrument panel, and close position of the center stack, the Elantra Touring has the look of a more upscale car. A high level of standard equipment reinforces that impression. Materials and fit tolerances are very good. Yes, most everything's synthetic, but no demerits for that in this class. Front seat comfort is very good, aided on the driver's side by height-adjustability, unusual in the sub-$20,000 class. While the seats are manual, the windows, mirrors, and door locks are powered, with remote keyless entry standard. Headroom, both front and rear, will not be a problem. The rear seat has plenty of room for two passengers, with less in the center, as in most cars. A 60/40 split and the cargo access of a five-door hatchback make cargo duty a pleasure. There's even some compartmented space for small items under the load floor, above the compact spare tire. Useful interior storage includes a dash-top covered box, an air-conditioned glove box (!), and a console box with auxiliary audio jack and USB port (and an optional iPod cable priced much more realistically than I've seen in some luxury cars). All four doors have bottle holders.

SAFETY: Elantra Touring passengers are surrounded by a strong, rigid unibody structure with an occupant protection cell around the passenger compartment, reinforced roof pillars, front and rear crush zones, dual front, front-seat side, and full-length head curtain airbags. Brakes are four-wheel antilock discs, and, unusually for the car's modest price class, electronic stability control is standard equipment.

RIDE AND HANDLING: While the Touring's fully-independent MacPherson strut/multi-link suspension is set up more firmly than that of the standard sedan, it's still supple enough for everyday use on roads in states with deferred road maintenance budgets. It's stable and comfortable on the highway, and enjoyable on the scenic route. The steering never feels over-assisted, and a tight turning circle makes parking easy. The brakes work very well.

PERFORMANCE: With 138 horsepower (at 6000 rpm) and 137 lb-ft of torque (at 4600 rpm), the Elantra Touring's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is competitive in its class. A modern dual overhead cam design with continuously-variable cam phasing, its broad torque band means that the four-speed automatic works well enough, although I'm sure the five-speed stick would be the way to for maximum driving enjoyment. Acceleration is good enough to keep up with traffic. Fuel economy, with EPA estimates of 23 mpg city and 30 highway, and 26 overall during my week, is reasonable if not at the head of the class.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring is a worthwhile option in the versatile sporty-compact hatchback class.

SPECIFICATIONS 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring

Base Price $ 18,600
Price As Tested $ 19,745
Engine Type dual overhead cam 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with continuously-variable cam phasing
Engine Size 2.0 liters / 121 cu. in.
Horsepower 138 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 137 @ 4600 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length 106.3 in. / 176.2 in.
Curb Weight 2969 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 21.5
Fuel Capacity 14 gal.
Fuel Requirement 87-octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires P205/55 R16 89H Kumho Solus KH16
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink
Drivetrain transverse front engine/front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed 23 / 30 / 26
0 to 60 mph est 9.0 sec

Carpeted Floor Mats $ 95
iPod® cable $ 30
Bluetooth® hands-free phone system $ 325
Destination charge $ 695


Monday, May 11, 2009

Hyundai Genesis -- the Korean luxo car

The interesting thing about Hyundai is that it seems to be the company that loves the word "incremental." It's how they operate, how they design cars. They bring out new models incrementally -- changes in their model lineup are not dramatic.

For a while now (to be charitable, we'll forget their early effort, the Excel), Hyundai has been making cars that essentially try to out-do the Japanese, or at least copy the Japanese.

By trying to outdo the Japanese cars, Hyundai is faithfully replicating them, in a way, and it's doing so in incremental fashion -- start off with small, inexpensive models, then start building slightly larger ones. Hyundai Genesis -- BMW, Audi and Mercedes, take warning. Hyundai's gaining on you.

The problem is that there was no pizazz, no bling. (And there probably won't ever be any true Hyundai bling -- you think they'll come up with an Audi R8 replica?).

Yet Hyundai started getting noticed in the past few years -- look at the model change in the Sonata series (Hyundai's Accord/Camry). Starting with the 2006 Sonata, they went from stodgy to fairly svelte.

Then, incrementally, they brought out the Azera, a more upscale car, with a 3.8-liter V6 as the top engine. It was pretty snazzy. (I was going to say, "for a Hyundai," but actually it stood on its own as a pretty nice car.)

Now they've brought the increment game up to the entry-level luxury field, with the new Genesis. Finally, there's a Hyundai that stops people on the sidewalk, makes them look around.

The Genesis is Hyundai's answer to, in no particular order, the Infiniti G35 crowd, Toyota's Avalon, stripper versions of BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz. At least, that's the perception.

The car comes with two different power trains: a 3.8-liter V6 with 290 horsepower; and a 4.6-liter V8 pumping out 375 horses (or 368 if you use regular gas instead of premium.) Frankly, with only a very small difference in fuel mileage figures between the two, I'd take the V8. (I drove the V8 briefly last summer, before it was on showroom floors, and there's a big difference in the power. The question will be whether you want to spend $5,000 more to have the bigger engine.)

This year's test model was the base V6 car and it was odd to drive something billed as a luxury car, yet without some of the features we've come to expect in even the near-luxury field -- sunroof and driver seat memory come to mind. You can have these lovelies in an added-on package, but you'd think they wouldn't cheap it out this way. At any rate, at less than $33,000, this car was a bargain in its field.

Why? First off, it does have most of the built-in requisite luxo touches that set it apart from a more down-scale model -- it's quiet, even at illegal speeds; both engines are extremely smooth; the six-speed automatic trans (with clutchless manual shifting, too) is extremely smooth.

Inside, you have all the esoterica you'd expect (minus the memory seats and, yes, you get spoiled with those things) -- fine stereo, unobtrusive HVAC, Hyundai's blue instrument lighting, a shade of blue that is subtly electric, sort of like the blues director Michael Mann used back in the days of "Miami Vice."

Then there are also some odd things -- the dome lights are harsh, a cold shade of pale white, kind of like an old fluorescent tube. It's not inviting. And the Genesis' suspension is firm to the point of jarring. Hit a pothole and you will remember it. It felt a bit like the suspension of a Sonata I drove last year, and it's something Hyundai should think of fixing.

Otherwise, you get a pretty good entry luxury car for less than the competition -- it's the old saw of introducing a car priced to undercut its long-established competition (Toyota, Honda and Nissan all did it with, respectively, Lexus, Acura and Infiniti brands).

With Hyundai, of course, which is replicating this system, the only question seems to be -- why did they call it a Hyundai? Why didn't they think up some high-falutin' name that connotes exclusivity? Well, maybe they realize that car buyers see those dodges (so to speak) and would rather just call a Hyundai a Hyundai.


2009 Hyundai Genesis rear-wheel-drive four-door sedan.

Price: test model, $32,250

Powertrain: 3.8-liter, V6 290-horsepower; six-speed automatic transmission.

Curb weight: 3,748 pounds. Seating capacity: five. Fuel consumption: 18 mpg, city; 27 mpg, highway.

Fuel tank capacity:19.3 gallons.

Length: 195.9 inches; width, 74.4 inches; height: 58.1 inches; wheelbase: 115.6 inches.

Warranty: bumper to bumper, 5 years/50,000 miles; power train, 10 years/100,000 miles.

Dependability: Hyundai ranks 14th (above industry average) out of 37 brands on the J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Vehicle Dependability Study.

Safety: for vehicle safety ratings, visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Hyundai Genesis Recognized as a Best New Model for 2009 by Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Hyundai's luxury flagship Genesis sedan recently was named a "Best New Model" in the "Sedans $30,000 - $45,000" category by Kiplinger's Personal Finance. The magazine named the top new models in 11 categories and Genesis sedan topped competitors such as the Acura TL, Audi A4 and Nissan Maxima to earn the distinction.

"Picking this car as a standout was easy," said Mark Solheim, automotive editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance. "As the first true luxury car from Hyundai, the Genesis earns its name. The exterior may remind you of other luxemobiles, but its simple lines, sleek interior and Euro driving dynamics will impress all but the most hard-core snobs. Remaining skeptics need only check out its price – at around $33,000, it offers extraordinary value."

The top models in each category represent the best values based on Kiplinger's ranking system. Kiplinger's editors sort the new 2009 models by price and category then pit them against their peers, looking at performance, value, safety, roominess and driving impressions.

"The Hyundai Genesis sedan is the perfect blend of luxury, technology, and advanced safety features with an affordable price," said Michael Deitz, Genesis product manager, Hyundai Motor America. "Being named a Best New Model by Kiplinger's Personal Finance is a testament to its combination of exhilarating performance, sophisticated design and tremendous overall value, and we continue to be honored by the awards the vehicle has earned."

Hyundai's new Genesis sedan sets a new benchmark in the premium car category. With a starting price of just $33,000, Genesis includes performance and luxury features typically found on vehicles costing thousands of dollars more. In addition to great features, Hyundai's generous 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty, numerous standard features, good reliability and affordable price made the Genesis a clear winner for Kiplinger's editors. Other notable features include a quiet and luxurious cabin, V-6 and V-8 engines that are more powerful and efficient than many in competing models, and a smooth, responsive six-speed automatic transmission.


Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through more than 790 dealerships nationwide. All Hyundai vehicles sold in the U.S. are covered by The Hyundai Advantage, America's Best Warranty. In addition, the Hyundai Assurance Program is now offered on all new vehicles leased or purchased from a certified Hyundai dealer. The program is available to any consumer, regardless of age, health, employment record or financed amount of the vehicle. The program is complimentary for the first 12 months.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Check out the bad boy 2010 Genesis Coupe

Few brands have made a more dramatic turnaround than Hyundai, the South Korean carmaker that, earlier this year, captured the coveted North American Car of the Year trophy with its first-ever luxury model, the Genesis sedan.

The powerful, lavishly equipped 4-door is a far cry from the cheap-and-cheerful models Hyundai was long known for – and the arrival of the Genesis Coupe should win a number of new converts to the Korean maker.

This is not simply a 2-door version of the sedan. The Coupe is a foot shorter and 500 pounds lighter – which makes a lot of sense if you're targeting the sporty performance crowd.

Where the sedan's styling is conservative, even derivative, there's a bit of the bad boy in the Genesis Coupe.

With its short overhangs and relatively long hood, the second entry into the Genesis line has the classic, overall dimensions of a sporty, rear-wheel-drive sedan. From the side, Hyundai designers developed a bit of a Coke bottle shape, with an accent line rising from nose to the slightly flared rear fenders. One of the defining features is the reverse kick of the small rear side windows, a detail that generated a lot of excitement when the original concept coupe appeared a few years ago.

Inside, the styling is equally crisp and sporty, with a cockpit-style layout that nicely complements the exterior and generally matches the Genesis Coupe's sporty aspirations. Visibility is great, particularly for a coupe. Even the base car is well executed, while the trim on the top-line 3.8 Grand Tourer is especially well done -- gaining such niceties as heated leather seats and an audiophile-level Infinity 360-watt, 10-speaker sound system.

Hyundai is offering two engine options. The base 2.0-liter I-4, with its intercooled turbo, pumps out a solid 210 horsepower and 223 pound-feet of torque, with only the most moderate amount of turbo lag. The bigger, 3.8-liter V-6 makes a hefty 306 hp and 266 lb-f, 16 horsepower and 2 pound-feet more than the six-banger generates in the Genesis sedan.

We tested both models on-track and off, and we were impressed with not just the power – 0 to 60 times of 5.5 seconds with the V-6 -- but also the surprisingly refined handling.

Some nits to pick? Yes: We'd like a telescoping steering wheel, and the 6-speed manual needs a bit of work. But on the whole, the Genesis Coupe is yet another reason skeptics need to take a new look at Hyundai.


MPG: 21 city/30 highway for turbo 2.0-liter I-4; 17/26 for 3.8-liter V-6.

Engine options: Turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 210 horsepower/223 pound-feet torque, ornormally-aspirated 3.8-liter V-6, 306 hp, 266 lb-ft.

Manufacturer's suggested retail price (base): $22,000.

Cost fully loaded: $35,000.

By Paul A. Eisenstein
GateHouse News Service
Holland Sentinel

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Review: 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring

Hyundai has been batting a thousand of late, with new vehicles like the Genesis sedan and Genesis coupe shaking up their respective segments and leaving class leaders looking over their shoulders. The equally new Elantra Touring hasn't created as much buzz as its rear-wheel-drive brethren, but the five-door hatchback competes with a host of vehicles available in the sub-$20,000 range, all of which are screaming for attention from an increasingly picky buyer who demands something practical, affordable and efficient for his dwindling dollars.

In order to be heard above the noise, Hyundai chose to import one of its existing models from abroad rather than developing a new Elantra model from scratch. They chose the i30, designed in Germany and currently on sale in Europe, Australia and South Korea. The Elantra Touring is very much a direct port of the i30 and actually has little in common with the four-door Elantra sedan, save for its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and transmission choices. Rather, its closest mechanical cousin is the Euro-only Kia cee'd.

It would seem, then, that the i30 was not originally developed with U.S. customers in mind. Will the resulting Elantra Touring be a hit here, or has Hyundai finally foul tipped a ball?

One thing the Elantra Touring has over its four-door namesake is style. The two vehicles share no body panels and one wouldn't guess the Touring model is actually an Elantra based on the four-door's styling. The Touring is actually shorter than the sedan (176.2 inches vs. 177.4), but its wheelbase is two inches longer. Combined with a roof that terminates into a steeply sloping hatch, the extra space between the axles makes the Touring look longer and larger.

The Touring's sheet metal is also more attractive thanks to a strong character line running the car's length with a concave sweep up to the windows. This line emanates up front behind the large headlights (dig the blue angel eyes on the projector lamps) and combines with some pinched metal running up to the A-pillar to create distinct front fenders and a raised hood. The thin grille sports a chromed corporate 'H' with pride and small chrome eyebrow accents set off the fog-lights in each corner of the front fascia.

Hyundai has fitted the Elantra Touring with vertical tail-lamps out back, similar to the units you'll find on vehicles such as Volvo wagons and the Honda CR-V. They contribute to safer stops in traffic since their tops can still be seen above high hoods. The rest of the back is clean and the near non-existent rear bumper contributes to the posterior's slick surfacing. Some might call this car's styling mundane, but we see it as safe and sophisticated, the off-brand suit of the sub-$20k set.

Some might expect the Elantra Touring to have a spartan interior made of recycled pop bottles and leatherette seats. Remember, this is actually the i30, a vehicle originally made for Europeans who don't believe an economy car must feel like a cheap car. The Elantra Touring has things other vehicles in its class don't, like a soft-touch dash, solid metal shifter knob and an information display between its tach and speedo. Go ahead, poke the dash – it'll give. Do that in some competitors and you'll sprain your finger.

The controls are logical and fit the Elantra's no-nonsense demeanor. The stereo's on top and the HVAC controls are below (just two knobs and a few larger buttons), with the the four-speed automatic sprouting from the floor. The transmission lacks any manual shifting, but you've got only four forward gears anyway and there's a short-throw five-speed manual available for control freaks.

We particularly like the Elantra Touring's large, legible gauges that frame the aforementioned VW-like information display, as well as the best Hyundai steering wheel we've yet to grip. The meaty rim filled our hands nicely and the redundant controls for the stereo and cruise control are all flush and contained within the wheel itself. We're also fans of Hyundai's new center stack display for the radio. The big blue screen is as easy to read as a children's book and displays the time and outside temperature when the radio is off. There's also a full complement of connectivity ports in the center armrest for your iPod or MP3 player, as well as a gutter for your cables so the lid can be closed without trapping the device inside. Up front, amenities are rounded out by two accommodating cup holders between the seats and one in each door, as well as a large storage compartment atop the dash to hide personal items from public view.

Of course, the Elantra Touring's biggest selling point can be found behind the front seats. The second row offers 36.4 inches of leg room and further back you'll find a class-leading 24.3 cubic feet of storage space with the rear seats in their locked and upright position. The rear floor is flat and wide with additional storage hidden underneath, and by pushing the 60/40 split rear seats down, you're able to access a full 65.3 cubic feet of cargo-carrying capacity. The rear seats don't fold completely flat, but that shouldn't stop you from using the Elantra Touring like a tackle box.

Buyers interested in an Elantra Touring who visit Hyundai's website, however, are greeted with the question "What sort of driver are you?" Click the box that says "I love driving" and you're allowed to learn more about the vehicle. Click the box that says "For me, driving is just transportation," and you're refused entry. Before you begin excluding buyers just looking for decent transportation, you should be absolutely certain your vehicle can hang with the likes of the Mazda3 five-door, this segment's standard bearer for the fun-to-drive quotient. Despite the "Touring" in its name, this Hyundai doesn't compare with the Mazda in terms of driving enjoyment.

To begin with, the Elantra Touring's 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine brings only 138 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque to the party. Not only is that far below what's required to make this a credible sport-compact, it's barely enough to get around when the Elantra is loaded with passengers and cargo. Couple that with our tester's four-speed automatic and you'll need a set of spurs and a good whip to get the Elantra Touring going. Hyundai also can't claim exceptional gas mileage in the absence of stirring performance, as the EPA rates this hatchback at 23 mpg city/30 mpg highway. The new 2010 Mazda3 five-door, equipped with its 167-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, is right there with 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway.

A lack of power can be overcome by a rigid chassis, willing suspension and focused steering when going for entertainment honors. Again, we found the Elantra Touring lacking in these aspects, despite Hyundai telling us that the suspension and steering are tuned more sportingly for the U.S. The independently sprung MacPherson strut front suspension and multilink rear felt soft. The ride was floaty and susceptible to cross winds, while the handling feels tippy, with noticeable body roll despite the presence of stabilizer bars front and rear. Couple this with steering that's numb and disconnected regardless of speed -- fine while perusing for a parking spot but less so when trying to follow a line through a corner -- and the Elantra leaves us wanting for the Mazda3's direct connection to the road.

We've read other reviews of the Elantra Touring that fall right in line with Hyundai's marketing message and conclude the car is a surprising performer, but just wasn't our experience. Perhaps that's because most of those reviews were based on models with the manual transmission that features a B&M short-throw shifter and 17-inch alloy wheels versus the 16 inchers on our tester. We can't comment on how those differences might contribute to an impression of sportiness, but we give our tester high marks for including standard disc brakes at all four corners.

The final aspect of the Elantra Touring is its price, an area in which Hyundai traditionally trounces its competition. Not so much for this car, which starts at $17,800 with a five-speed manual transmission and $18,600 with the four-speed automatic. Add to that our tester's optional floor mats for $95 and a $695 charge for delivery, and suddenly owning an Elantra Touring will require over $19,000. Sure, you get the best warranty in the biz and the added security of the Hyundai Assurance program, but that price point won't get buyers into the showroom like the $14,120 base price of the Elantra sedan.

If we were Hyundai, we'd focus all of our marketing efforts on the Elantra Touring's practicality, the fact that it can swallow as much as a CUV while still averaging 30 mpg on the highway. It's a tool -- in the literal sense of the word -- free of flash and there to assist at the grocery, hardware store or getting to Grandma's house. In this respect, the Elantra Touring is an attractive candidate in the sub-$20k class. However, Hyundai is advertising the Elantra Touring as a driver's car, which is like asking a member of the grounds crew to bat clean up. If you appreciate the unsung skill of the guy that keeps a well-manicured diamond, you'll likely appreciate all of the basic things that the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring does so well. Just don't expect that guy – or this car – to send one sailing over the fence.

John Neff / Weblogs, Inc.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Genesis Coupe Makes 2009 List of 'Top 10 Tax Refund Cars' BY Kelley Blue Book's's list recognizes the hottest new coupes and convertibles consumers could spend their tax refund dollars on

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 04/28/2009 If you're expecting a nice chunk of change from your tax refund check this year and are thinking about using it to buy a new car, the editors of Kelley Blue Book's recently released a list of sleek and sporty cars to consider putting a down payment on. Kelley Blue Book's named the 2010 Genesis Coupe to its "Top 10 Tax Refund Cars" list, which recognizes the hottest new coupes and convertibles. The Genesis Coupe was named alongside the 2010 Audi S5 Cabrio, 2009 BMW Z4, 2010 Ford Shelby GT500, 2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible, 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster, 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS, 2010 Lexus IS Convertible and 2009 Porsche Cayman.

"Hyundai's roll continues," editors said. "Only a few months after the Hyundai Genesis Sedan took home the 2009 North American Car of the Year trophy, Hyundai has rolled out the similarly impressive - and really fun - Genesis Coupe."

Genesis Coupe follows in the footsteps of its sibling Genesis sedan, sharing its rear-wheel drive architecture and independent rear suspension sure to appeal to true driving enthusiasts. The Genesis Coupe offers a 30-mpg, 2.0-liter model with a low-pressure intercooled four-cylinder turbocharged engine producing 210 horsepower, and a 3.8-liter V6 Track model with 306 horsepower and massive Brembo brakes.

"It's an honor to be recognized alongside luxury brands such as Porsche, Audi, Lexus and Infiniti by a trusted automotive resource like," said Derek Joyce, manager, Product Planning, Hyundai Motor America. "Hyundai's all-new Genesis Coupe has proved itself as a true player in the rear-wheel drive sport coupe segment and offers more value to the tuner enthusiast audience than its competitors."


Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through more than 790 dealerships nationwide. All Hyundai vehicles sold in the U.S. are covered by The Hyundai Advantage, America's Best Warranty. In addition, the Hyundai Assurance Program is now offered on all new vehicles leased or purchased from a certified Hyundai dealer. The program is available to any consumer, regardless of age, health, employment record or financed amount of the vehicle. The program is complimentary for the first 12 months. For additional information, visit


Since 1926, Kelley Blue Book, The Trusted Resource® has provided vehicle buyers and sellers with the new and used vehicle information they need to accomplish their goals with confidence. The company's top-rated Web site,, provides the most up-to-date pricing and values, including the New Car Blue Book® Value, which reveals what people actually are paying for new cars. The company also reports vehicle pricing and values via products and services, including software products and the famous Blue Book® (Official Guide. According to the C.A. Walker Research Solutions, Inc. - 2008 Spring Automotive Web Site Usefulness Study, is the most useful automotive information Web site among new and used vehicle shoppers, and half of online vehicle shoppers visit is a leading provider of new car prices, car reviews and news, used car blue book values, auto classifieds and car dealer locations. No other medium reaches more in-market vehicle shoppers than