2011 Hyundai Elantra GLS: Quick Drive

May 27, 2011

All images: Anne Proffit

Every time Hyundai redesigns its small Elantra front-wheel-drive four-door sedan, the machine gets more and more impressive.  The 2011 redesign is no different, giving the Elantra the looks of its larger Sonata sibling and the guts to keep up with other compact sedans in the marketplace.

The styling, as it is with Sonata, is a head-turner and distinctive amongst its brethren in this crowded marketplace.  The long list of standard features for Elantra allow it to come in at an attractive price point (at the dealership level) that beats many Japanese cars on the road right now, particularly with the difficulties in Japan at the present time.

The brilliant silver 2011 Hyundai Elantra driven here is the GLS model with manual transmission, a combination that evinces great fuel mileage and a fun ride in both highway and in-town travel.  I drove it through rain, sun, night and daytime trips and find this car to be a comfortable, easy to drive companion with an extremely nice cabin.  

The Elantra's 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder DOHC engine makes 148 usable horsepower at 6500 rpm (redline is 6750 rpm) and 131 lb-ft of torque at 4700.  The six-speed manual transmission has excellent gearing and sixth is an overdrive that allows achievable mileage ratings of 29/40 mpg from the large 12.8-gallon tank, using regular unleaded gasoline.

There is a MacPherson strut independent front suspension with stabilizer bar and a torsion beam at the rear that gives up good handling characteristics - nothing particularly sporting but nothing terribly bland, either.  The electric-motor-driven power steering is a wee bit numb at center, but that's fairly normal with modern front-wheel-drive compact sedans; turning circle is a nice 34.8 feet.

Hyundai fits all-wheel ABS disc brakes for the 2011 Elantra sedan as well as electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist.  Stability and traction controls are standard, as well and work quite nicely.  Front, side and head curtain airbags are standard on this machine.

The dimensions of the 2011 Hyundai Elantra are comparable to others in class at 178.3 inches length, 69.9 inches width, 56.5 inches width riding on a wheelbase of 106.3 inches, with ground clearance of 5.5 inches.  Weight is 2661 pounds, making this car a nice, lithe machine and interior volume is an immense - for its size - 110.4 cubic feet.

Hyundai outfits the Elantra with Hankook Optima P205/55R-16-inch steel wheels as part of what it calls the "popular equipment package" that also includes air conditioning, cruise control, telescoping steering wheel, solar glass with windshield shade band (at $1350).  This, together with carpeted floor mats, an iPod cable and transportation increase the base price from $14,830 to $16,930, a respectable cost for such a nice machine.

I find the exterior of the 2011 Hyundai Elantra GLS very pleasing to the eye and the interior duplicates that opinion.  I like the straightforward nature of the gauge pods with black background, white numbers and traditional red pointers.  The speedometer goes to an optimistic 160 mph and there are gas and temperature gauges on LED bars between the tach and speedometer.  

Hyundai has a passion for blue interior touches and, thankfully, leaves them to the ergonomically designed central stack for this model.  There is a large covered area at the base of the central stack with 12-volt, auxiliary, iPod and USB plus the cable mentioned above.  There are open molded plastic pockets on either side of the central stack with a 12-volt on the passenger's side, just right for juicing the cell.  While the center stack is multi-hued, the colors are muted and not obtrusive.  

The steering wheel has cruise and trip computer operations on the right side only and there's a release on the floor for both the trunk and fuel filler.  A sunglass holder lies at the edge of the windshield header.  The wipers have a single pass and the turn signals can be used for lane changes with a slight dip either direction, an elegant touch for this sedan.

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