In a flooded segment handily conquered by cars like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, the current Hyundai Elantra is a forgettable-looking also-ran. But the 2011 model changes that. This new car, debuting at the L.A. auto show, boasts slick and attractive styling, boatloads of features, and an EPA rating of 29 mpg city/40 highway no matter which trim level or options you select.
Hyundai hit its stride with the 2011 Sonata, which offers not only first-rate ride and handling but delivers very distinctive styling in a price bracket sheltering some of the blandest cars on the road. In similar fashion, the Elantra is, dare we say, a strikingsedan for the budget-minded. Obviously modeled after its bigger sibling, with sharp creases and swoopy lines, the Elantra—together with the Sonata and Tucson—finally brings a consistent design language to Hyundai. With the Sonata on track to sell about 200,000 units in the U.S. this year, we don’t see why a smaller and cheaper version won’t be a similar sales success.
Beneath the surface, the Elantra rides on a wheelbase two inches longer than that of the outgoing car. Overall length increases by less than an inch. Width stays the same, but height is down 1.8 inches. Headroom takes a slight hit and the total interior volume is down by a little more than two cubic feet, but the Elantra still lords its EPA classification as a mid-size car over the Civic and Corolla, both of which qualify as compact.
Disc brakes reside at all corners. The front rotors grow 0.2 inch, to 11 overall, but the rears stay the same size. While the last Elantra was never a stellar handler, we’re interested to see how the 2011 behaves in comparison, as the rear suspension moves from a more costly multilink setup to a cheaper torsion-beam axle.
Perhaps the most significant upgrade is the new 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Dubbed Nu, it puts out 10 hp more than the old 2.0-liter, totaling 148 at 6500 rpm. Torque output is down 5 lb-ft, to 131, but its all-aluminum construction saves about 74 pounds. The Nu will hook to more ratios than its predecessor, with an available six-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual. Combine this updated powertrain with the Elantra’s new electric power steering, low-rolling-resistance tires, and decreases in both curb weight and coefficient of drag—0.28 compared to 0.32—and you’ve got that 29/40-mpg EPA rating.Thanks to: Car and Driver