2008 Hyundai Elantra Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 6, 2008

The 2008 Hyundai Elantra doesn’t have a lot of personality, but it’s the undeniable practical choice.

The motoring experts at TheCarConnection.com have read through some of the best reviews on the Web to compile this review of the 2008 Hyundai Elantra. Then the TheCarConnection.com’s experts, who have driven the Elantra, included their driving experience in the conclusive review.

The 2008 Hyundai Elantra is the South Korean brand's compact sedan, slotting between the small Rio and the mid-size Sonata in the lineup. Completely redesigned last year, the current Elantra sedan is wider and longer, with more interior room than before--enough to make it a mid-size by some considerations.

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.

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.

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Matching Hyundai's other vehicles, the interior follows a soft--not edgy--design, with rounded borders and flowing curves. Switchgear and gauges in the 2008 Hyundai Elantra are straightforward and tactile, and the instrument panel's design, with the high-mounted sound and climate-control functions, is convenient. Seating in front is generously proportioned and comfortable, and there's enough headroom and legroom in back for two--or, in a pinch, three--normal-size adults, which is unusual among small sedans. By the numbers, with 97.9 cubic feet of passenger room and 14.2 cubic feet of trunk space, it has the most interior volume for a sedan in its class.

It's also one of the quietest interiors, with very little road and wind noise; however, the engine in the 2008 Hyundai Elantra can get coarse and booming under hard acceleration.

Two trim levels are offered: GLS and SE. All versions of the 2008 Hyundai Elantra come standard with power windows, power heated rearview mirrors, power door locks, remote keyless entry with alarm and trunk opener, rear center armrest with cup holders, intermittent windshield wipers, and tilt steering wheel. For 2008, the Elantra SE adds a telescoping leather steering wheel with secondary audio controls, a leather shift knob, 16-inch alloy wheels with P205/55HR16 tires, and a trip computer.

Options include a Bluetooth hands-free system, as well as a package that brings leather seating surfaces, leather door panel inserts, a leather armrest, and heated front seats. A Sun and Sound package combines a power sunroof and a 220-watt premium audio system featuring AM/FM/six-CD changer/MP3 with auxiliary input jack and an external amp.

Stability control and brake assist are also standard on the SE for the new model year. Front, side, and curtain airbags are standard across the Elantra lineup; so too are anti-lock brakes and active head restraints. Despite all that safety equipment, the 2008 Hyundai Elantra gets acceptable but not stellar results, including four stars for side impact in the federal government tests and Acceptable ratings for rear impact from the IIHS. The Elantra did, however, get top scores in frontal impact on both tests.

7

2008 Hyundai Elantra

Styling

The 2008 Hyundai Elantra wears soft, organic curves inside and out for a pleasant, if anonymous, look.

Experts at TheCarConnection.com find the 2008 Hyundai Elantra's styling somewhat generic.

The 2008 Hyundai Elantra is the South Korean brand's compact sedan, slotting between the small Rio and the mid-size Sonata in the lineup. Completely redesigned last year, the current Elantra sedan is wider and longer, with more interior room than before--enough to make it a mid-size by some considerations.

Of this year's model, Cars.com says, "the new Elantra adopts a taller, curvier look," noting that "it follows the look of the full-size Azera sedan--which is not the most distinctive design." Rather than generic, Washington Post considers it "unpretentious," stating the Elantra "does not pretend to be hot, hip, sexy or wicked. Instead, it proudly presents its credentials as an economy-mobile."

Kelley Blue Book, on the other hand, praises the exterior of the 2008 Hyundai Elantra, noting its similarity to its bigger sibling: "The impressive exterior styling, with its clean lines and sculpted body sides, borrows design characteristics from the larger and more expensive Hyundai Azera."

Matching Hyundai's other vehicles, the interior follows a soft--not edgy--design, with rounded borders and flowing curves. Switchgear and gauges in the 2008 Hyundai Elantra are straightforward and tactile, and the instrument panel's design, with the high-mounted sound and climate-control functions, is convenient.

Kelley Blue Book says the Elantra is "not necessarily an example of modern style," criticizing "the SE's somewhat dated-looking velvety seat fabric, the instrument panel with its expanses of plastic and the over-designed door panels [which] appear a little old-fashioned." Edmunds notes that the Hyundai's "interior quality is quite literally hit or miss," although "the overall design is attractive and pleasing, looking as if it belongs in a much more expensive car."

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7

2008 Hyundai Elantra

Performance

The 2008 Hyundai Elantra should satisfy ordinary drivers who value fuel economy and solid handling over edgy responses.

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."

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8

2008 Hyundai Elantra

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Hyundai Elantra has generous interior and storage space, though wind and engine noise detract from the high-quality feel.

The 2008 Hyundai Elantra has a generously sized interior with rich-for-the-price materials.

Seating in front is amply proportioned and comfortable, and there's enough headroom and legroom in back for two--or, in a pinch, three--normal-size adults, which is unusual among small sedans. By the numbers, with 97.9 cubic feet of passenger room and 14.2 cubic feet of trunk space, it has the most interior volume for a sedan in its class.

Cars.com reports the Elantra’s "cloth seats are comfortable, with substantial cushions and ample back support"; however, this year's Hyundai Elantra loses a point because "lumbar adjustment for the driver's seat is not available." Leg- and headroom are adequate due to this car's bigger cabin (5 to 10 percent larger than those of the competition, according to the manufacturer), but "unfortunately, none of that extra room goes in back...the seats are high enough off the ground that legroom is bearable, but headroom is tight."

On the other hand, Kelley Blue Book found that space was adequate all around: "the roominess, headroom and rear-seat legroom are welcome in a car of this size... Elantra can comfortably and safely pack in a family of five and its cargo." ConsumerGuide notes "adequate headroom and legroom, though taller occupants may want more room...wide ranging seat and steering wheel adjustments [that] enhance driver comfort," but contradicts some other reviews, stating that the "...[back row has] adult-size room." Edmunds also sides with ConsumerGuide, reporting that adults will "appreciate the Elantra's generous amount of space provided by the generous head, shoulder, hip and legroom found in both the front and rear seats."

Storage is generous for a vehicle in this 2008 Hyundai's class: ConsumerGuide reports "more trunk space than many cars in this class," but notes "the slim opening and sickle-type trunk lid hinges compromise utility." According to Cars.com, the "seatback folds in a 60/40 split, exposing a small opening to the trunk," which measures 14.2 cubic feet--"more than nearly all the Elantra's major competitors." Edmunds also notes "plenty of cubbies."

Edmunds is less complimentary about the Elantra’s "likable interior," which "is otherwise let down by a few low-grade interior plastics." While acknowledging that "top-quality plastics and other materials are utilized throughout," they are "betrayed by some cheap plastics here and there, as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel (on the SE trim), [which is] prone to making your hands feel a bit clammy." ConsumerGuide, on the other hand, appreciates the interior overall: "plush cloth upholstery, attractive plastics, and many soft-touch surfaces belie [the 2008 Hyundai] Elantra's pricing. So does the classy blue dashboard lighting."

Cars.com suggests, "Beyond some cheap door panels and a rubbery steering wheel, there was little to suggest the [Hyundai] Elantra as tested cost less than $16,000...the dash is trimmed in soft-touch materials, the buttons feel high-quality and the ceiling has an upscale woven texture."

This year's Hyundai Elantra isn't the quietest car on the road; Cars.com reports "wheels and suspension provide little in the way of sound deadening, so there's plenty of road noise at highway speeds." ConsumerGuide counters by saying that the "engine is a bit noisy at high rpm but is never unpleasant," while noting "some wind rush...evident around the exterior mirrors," but concluding that "road and tire noise are impressively low for the class."

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8

2008 Hyundai Elantra

Safety

The 2008 Hyundai Elantra provides good crash protection and safety gear.

Front, side, and curtain airbags are standard across the 2008 Hyundai Elantra lineup. So too are anti-lock brakes and active head restraints; stability control and brake assist are also standard on the SE for the new model year.

With all that safety equipment, the 2008 Hyundai Elantra gets good but not stellar results, including four stars for side impact in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash tests and Acceptable ratings for rear impact from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The Elantra did, however, get top scores in frontal impact from both tests.

The Washington Post concurs that the safety features available on the Hyundai Elantra "include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain side airbags, and front side airbags."

The only visibility issue on the 2008 Hyundai Elantra was noted by Kelley Blue Book, which reports "visibility is slightly hampered aft and to right rear."

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2008 Hyundai Elantra

Features

The 2008 Hyundai Elantra is a well-equipped compact, particularly in SE versions.

TheCarConnection.com notes a fair number of standard and optional equipment available for the 2008 Hyundai Elantra, depending on trim.

The 2008 Hyundai has eliminated the Limited trim; ConsumerGuide reports that the Hyundai Elantra now "comes as a 4-door sedan in GLS and SE trim" only.

All versions of the 2008 Hyundai Elantra come standard with power windows, power heated rearview mirrors, power door locks, remote keyless entry with alarm and trunk opener, rear center armrest with cup holders, intermittent windshield wipers, and tilt steering wheel. The Washington Post reports that "all [Hyundai] Elantras have remote keyless entry and power windows," going on to add that "Air conditioning, cruise control, and CD player are optional" for the Hyundai Elantra GLS but are "standard on SE." Edmunds points out that the "base GLS is sparsely equipped with 15-inch steel wheels, keyless entry, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, a tilt steering wheel and full power accessories."

For 2008, the Elantra SE adds a telescoping leather steering wheel with secondary audio controls, a leather shift knob, 16-inch alloy wheels with P205/55HR16 tires, and a trip computer.

Options include a Bluetooth hands-free system and a package that brings leather seating surfaces, leather door panel inserts, a leather armrest, and heated front seats. A Sun and Sound package combines a power sunroof and a 220-watt premium audio system featuring AM/FM/six-CD changer/MP3 with auxiliary input jack and an external amp.

The Hyundai Elantra GLS's optional "Popular Equipment Package," however, "adds air-conditioning, foglights, cruise control, vanity mirrors and a six-speaker stereo with CD/MP3 player, auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio," Edmunds reports; most of this is standard on the 2008 Hyundai SE trim, which "adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a trip computer and a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls."

Cars.com was particularly enthusiastic about the 2008 Hyundai's "abundant convenience features, most of which are rarities at this price--things like lighted vanity mirrors, a telescoping steering wheel, a sunglass holder and a rear armrest with cupholders."

Review continues below
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7.6
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Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 8
Features 8
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