Shopping for a new Hyundai Elantra?
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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
Getting up to highway speeds requires revving the engine high
The [Hyundai] Elantra's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is an old design
the [2008 Hyundai] Elantra's engine is particularly impressive
Kelley Blue Book
28 mpg city, 36 mpg highway
With either the standard five-speed manual transmission or the optional four-speed automatic transmission, the 2008 Hyundai Elantra has respectable acceleration. The Elantra's 138-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is surprisingly responsive with the automatic and qualifies for SULEV (Super Low Emissions Vehicle) status.
While most sources agree that the engine is "zippy," Cars.com notes, "Getting up to highway speeds requires revving the engine high, creating enough noise to drown out the stereo." They add, "passing at highway speeds requires a downshift or two," and "even then it takes patience and timing." If it lacks power, this year's model has some redeeming qualities; although the "Elantra's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is an old design and isn't as refined as those found in its Japanese competitors," Edmunds notes that "it's surprisingly responsive and returns pretty good fuel economy, as it's classified as an Ultra-Low-Emissions Vehicle (ULEV) in most of the country...considering its so-so 138 horses, the 2008 Hyundai Elantra is decently quick out of the gates (zero to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds), especially when equipped with a manual gearbox." Kelley Blue Book is in accord here; this 2008 Hyundai's Continuously Variable Valve Timing engine, "teamed with the five-speed transmission, is particularly impressive, especially on uphill climbs."
Edmunds reports, "All trim levels can be equipped with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic." ConsumerGuide finds that "Acceleration is adequate with either transmission, but it's far from snappy," but acknowledges that the manual five-speed "has a slick, precise shifter," while the four-speed automatic "is smooth and responsive." Kelley Blue Book notes, however, that one "may not like this car if your daily drive demands constant gear shifting, as the five-speed does not have the smoothest operation."
Fuel economy for this year's Hyundai Elantra is impressive: Edmunds reports "a very respectable 24 mpg city and 33 mpg highway," although the EPA estimates as reported via Cars.com are "28 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway with either the automatic or manual transmission."
The 2008 Hyundai Elantra is quite softly sprung, to soak up jarring bumps, but large stabilizer bars help bring crisp handling with good ride comfort. The electric power steering system works very well, light at low speed and firm yet responsive at high speed. The Washington Post reports that "handling was sure, albeit lacking the precision that some throttle jockeys demand in everything," adding that "drivers mindful and accepting of the fact that the Elantra is an economy car meant to be used as an economy car will find little to complain about." Edmunds sings the praises of this vehicle's ride; it “continues to impress, with decent steering and handling responses, as well as a smooth ride and a stable demeanor at high speeds." Kelley Blue Book considers it "a comfortable car to drive...secure and reliable," opining that "owners will likely appreciate its straight-forward predictability and control."
Cars.com is particularly impressed with the brakes: "on paper, they're a full class above the rear drum brakes many rivals use...in practice, they delivered sure-footed stopping power."
The 2008 Hyundai Elantra should satisfy ordinary drivers who value fuel economy and solid handling over edgy responses.