Shopping for a new Hyundai Elantra?
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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
passing at highway speeds requires a downshift or two
it's surprisingly responsive and returns pretty good fuel economy
Handling dynamics are generally crisp." [Touring]
the five-speed does not have the smoothest operation
Kelley Blue Book
Whether you choose the automatic transmission or the five-speed manual transmission, a 138-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is quite gutsy.
Most reviewers agree that the Elantra has enough power with its fuel efficiency, though when you tap into the engine's reserves, it's accompanied by more noise than might be expected. Cars.com notes that "getting up to highway speeds requires revving the engine high, creating enough noise to drown out the stereo." The reviewer adds, "passing at highway speeds requires a downshift or two," and "even then it takes patience and timing." ConsumerGuide reports that "acceleration in the sedan is adequate with either transmission, but it's far from snappy." Edmunds says, "Elantra's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is an old design and isn't as refined as those found in its Japanese competitors," according to Edmunds, although they add that "it's surprisingly responsive and returns pretty good fuel economy."
The transmission offerings—a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic—are typical for this class. Edmunds reports, "All trim levels can be equipped with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic." ConsumerGuide asserts that "the automatic transmission is smooth and responsive." Kelley Blue Book says that the manual gearbox isn't very smooth, so you "may not like this car if your daily drive demands constant gear shifting."
Hyundai improves fuel efficiency on the Elantra Blue base model by up to 8 percent versus last year. EPA ratings now stand at 26 mpg city, 35 highway with the standard five-speed manual transmission—up from 24 mpg city, 33 highway on last year’s model. On other Elantra GLS and SE models, fuel economy ratings have gone up about 1 mpg in both city and highway ratings, to 26/34 mpg.
Overall, the Elantra is quite softly sprung, which allows it to soak up bumps very well, with the ride quality of a larger sedan; Elantra Touring models get a different calibration, along with bigger stabilizer bars, and a much sportier feel overall. On either model, the electric power steering system in the 2010 Elantra works very well, light at low speed and firm yet responsive at high speed.
According to ConsumerGuide, the Elantra's "electric power steering is quick but feels a tad light." The Washington Post contends that "handling was sure, albeit lacking the precision that some throttle jockeys demand in everything." ConsumerGuide reports that "the suspension allows some cornering lean, but the tires furnish good dry-road grip." Overall, Kelley Blue Book judges the sedan to be "a comfortable car to drive...secure and reliable," opining that "owners will likely appreciate its straight-forward predictability and control."
“The Elantra Touring is very much a direct port of the i30 and actually has little in common with the four-door Elantra sedan, save for its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and transmission choices,” Autoblog says. Motor Trend also points out the similarities to the Euro-market Hyundai and describes the ride as firmer. "Handling dynamics are generally crisp," Motor Trend reports, although they mention "somewhat numb steering." Car and Driver is also impressed with the overall feel of the Touring model, attesting, “The Touring edition has pleasant road manners, good steering feel, adequate power, respectable grip, and forward sightlines worthy of a Honda.” But “the chassis feels a little flexy when pressed, and the suspension runs out of travel on rough roads,” the reviewer warns.
Performance clearly isn't a priority for the 2010 Hyundai Elantra, but it offers a good compromise to include comfort and fuel economy; enthusiasts might be a little happier with the sporty Touring wagon.