New & Used Hyundai Elantra: In Depth
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The Hyundai Elantra comes in three ways: a four-door sedan, two-door coupe, and a five-door ‘GT’ hatchback. It’s currently in its fourth generation and was the 2012 North American Car of the Year
For more on the current Elantra compact sedan, including photos, details, and full specs and pricing, check our full review pages for the 2013 Hyundai Elantra, or check our comparison of the Elantra vs. the Kia Forte. You can also see the Elantra compared to a wider set of competitors here.
All this has helped Hyundai establish its Elantra as a viable competitor to the stalwarts of the compact class. Those include the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. It also competes against a host of newer compact entries, from the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus to the Dodge Dart, Nissan Sentra, and Volkswagen Golf, and even its Korean sibling, the Kia Forte (newly redesigned for 2014).
From 1992 to 2000, the first two generations of Hyundai Elantras were, like most Hyundais of the era, inexpensive economy cars. After 2000, the Elantra made great strides toward mainstream levels of equipment and quality, including standard front and side airbags, power locks, air conditioning, and power windows.
Redesigned again in 2007, the last-generation Elantra and the Elantra Touring wagon offered even more room, more powerful and efficient engines, and standard safety features like electronic stability control, brake assist, side curtain airbags, active head restraints, and all-disc anti-lock brakes. The modern-day Elantra GT five-door hatchback has replaced the Touring wagon in the current Elantra lineup, however.
With that 2007-2010 model, Hyundai managed to earn a new level of respect for reliability and resale value--even against stalwarts like the Civic and Corolla. This Elantra was offered in just three trims, with the Limited model available from 2001 to 2006 cut from the lineup. The GLS and SE trims were complemented by the Blue, a special fuel-efficiency-focused version of the sedan available only with a five-speed manual transmission. The Elantra Touring was only available in GLS and SE trims
The 2011 Elantra was pretty much an instant hit on the market. With a radically different design, it built on the automaker's "fluidic sculpture" theme seen on the larger Sonata. On the Elantra it has a slightly more athletic look, and a stylish new interior, that gives it a more dynamic stance. Power comes from a new 148-hp, 1.8-liter engine, and with weight reduced, the model gets a 40-mpg highway figure across the entire lineup. While these models aren't especially enjoyable to drive, they're well-equipped small sedans, with refinement a step above past efforts, and wind and road noise much improved.
The Elantra sedan offers some standout options like touch-screen navigation with real-time traffic and weather, a rearview camera system, and heated rear seats. Safety features are strong; although crash-test results were a mixed bag in its first model year, the latest Elantra is an IIHS Top Safety Pick and now achieves an overall rating of five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
One potential black mark on the 2011-2013 Elantra lineup: Hyundai was found to have overstated its fuel-economy numbers, due to what it deemed procedural errors during its testing. Hyundai initially claimed up to 40 mpg highway for some models, but after a consumer campaign alleged lower real-world economy, the EPA ran a confirmation check of the Elantra lineup and of several other Hyundai and Kia vehicles. The tests resulted in restated fuel economy numbers for all involved model years. Owners can register with Hyundai to receive reimbursement for the gas consumed above and beyond expected levels. For more details, head to HyundaiMPGInfo.com.
The 2013 model year marks the introduction of a new Hyundai Elantra Coupe, as well as a Hyundai Elantra GT hatchback. The Elantra GT has more in common with the compact Hyundai hatchbacks sold in Europe. It's related to the Elantra sedan and coupe, but has its own bodywork that's about 9 inches shorter overall, with sharp fastback styling with some overt Mazda3 cues. The interior isn't quite the same as that in the other models: the dash is shallower, without the hourglass shape that defines the center stack of controls.
Powertrains are shared among all three Elantra versions, but the GT doesn't quite hit the 40-mpg mark, with a 39-mpg rating earned by both the manual and automatic transmissions. The GT does have its own rear suspension design, and a three-mode electric steering rack that offers added heft, though effort isn't variable. Priced just under $20,000, the GT comes with standard satellite radio; a USB port; power windows, locks, and mirrors; steering-wheel audio controls; Bluetooth; and cruise control. Options include a panoramic sunroof, a sport suspension, leather seats, and a navigation system.
The Coupe model, in contrast, is more directly related to the sedan, sharing much of its body structure, suspension and steering components, and drivetrains. Like the sedan, it's technically a mid-size car, with good interior room and a swoopy two-door look all its own that's reminiscent of the smaller Honda Civic Coupe and Kia Forte Koup.
With the same 148-hp four and choice of six-speed transmissions, the Coupe earns EPA gas-mileage ratings of up to 29/40 mpg when equipped with a manual transmission; with the automatic gearbox, it's pegged at 28/39 mpg. Standard features include a 172-watt audio system, satellite radio, and a USB port; options include navigation; Bluetooth; a rearview camera; pushbutton start; heated leather seats; and automatic climate control.