Relative to the Elantra sedan, the Touring has always been on a different trajectory. Though it rides on the same platform as the Elantra, nearly all else is different; with different detailing inside and out—including a different instrument panel and interior trims—the Elantra Touring has a sportier, more European look and feel throughout (in fact, it's based on a European-market Hyundai).
Power is provided by the same 138-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that was under the hood of last year's Elantra sedan. It's paired with either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual, and thanks to a suspension that's considerably firmer—with bigger stabilizer bars, too, and a different steering calibration—the Elantra Touring handles with a verve that the former (and current) Elantra sedan don't possess. Fuel economy ratings, however, remain lackluster compared to those of the sedan.
The Touring model's tall profile and wagon body style afford a very roomy, versatile interior, with near-SUV-caliber utility, and the split backseat folds forward flat. It's a neat, well-designed layout, and the only failing comes with respect to interior noise and refinement; in part due to the firm suspension, there's more road noise than you'd expect.
Just as with the 2011 Hyundai Elantra lineup, the Touring comes with a very generous set of standard features. For 2011, the Touring remains offered in GLS and SE models, with the SE adding leather seats, heated front seats, a sunroof, and a sport shifter, with upgraded alloy wheels. A 172-watt sound system with six speakers and iPod, USB, and auxiliary inputs is standard, and the Touring's safety-feature set is very much still up-to-date, with standard stability control and side and side-curtain airbags. Available silver roof rails replace black ones for 2011, and one-touch triple-blink turn-signal indicators are newly standard.
Although full details hadn't yet been announced at the time of posting, the Elantra Touring is due to be replaced for 2012 by a model based on the all-new 2011 Hyundai Elantra sedan.
See our full review of the 2011 Hyundai Elantra sedan to see the direction for a potential future Elantra Touring.