For starters, we think this 2011 Hyundai Elantra looks terrific wearing—like its size-larger Sonata stablemate—the Korean maker’s new “Fluidic Sculpture” sheetmetal. Its hexagonal grille, swept-back headlamps, strong body-side character lines, muscular wheel arches and wraparound taillamps give impressive presence, while its low, sweeping roofline contributes to a (highway) fuel-saving low drag coefficient of 0.28. Available front fog lights, side repeater mirrors and 15-, 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels complete its distinctive look.
Riding on a 106.3-in. wheelbase, two in. longer than the outgoing Elantra’s, it’s 0.9 inches longer and 1.8 inches lower than before without sacrificing headroom—except in back, where the sloping roofline can cramps taller occupants. Still, Hyundai says its 110.4 cu.-ft. cabin gives EPA-rated midsize room surpassing that of the new Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus as well as the somewhat smaller Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra and (previous-generation) Honda Civic. Its long front seat tracks also offer great front seat legroom, and its 14.8-cu.-ft trunk beats Civic’s and Corolla’s.
The 2011 Hyundai Elantra is powered by an all-new 148-hp aluminum 1.8-liter four, which replaces the previous 2.0-liter, with electronic throttle control, Dual (both intake and exhaust) Continuously Variable Valve Timing (D-CVVT) and a two-stage (long and short) Variable Induction System (VIS). Even without the benefits of direct fuel injection, it delivers 29 mpg EPA city and 40 highway—the latter number up 18 percent from the previous rating—with either the base six-speed manual or available six-speed Shiftronic automatic.
Its interior reflects Korean automakers’ newfound attention to detail in materials, craftsmanship and ergonomics (ease of use). A tilt/telescoping steering wheel is standard, front and rear (a segment first) heated seats are available, and storage capacity is easy and ample. Also standard is a 60/40 split rear seat.
We found the 2011 Hyundai Elantra a strong compact competitor in just about every way. Styling is subjective, but we like its distinctive, sporty appearance inside and out. On the road, it’s far from fast (a bit under nine seconds 0-60), but seems fairly peppy despite its impressive EPA fuel-economy ratings.
Its ride/handling balance compares well to Honda’s new Civic, but it’s not as sporty-agile as Ford’s new Focus or as quiet-refined as Chevy’s Cruze. Its energy-efficient electric power steering lacks the feel of a good hydraulic unit, but it aims the car where you want it to go with little effort, adequate feedback and fair precision.
If a fuel-efficient, yet family-capable, compact sedan is what you need, this all-new 2011 Hyundai Elantra—starting at about $16K—deserves a good look along with its better-known domestic, Japanese and European (Volkswagen Jetta) competitors.
Visit our Hyundai Research Center for more details on standard features and options, pricing, and photos.