Car Review Hyundai Elantra Gets HybridLike 40 mpg

first_imgThe just-released 2011 Hyundai Elantra gets 40 mpg highway without resorting to the complexity and cost of a hybrid drivetrain. It’s roomy, looks great, costs as little as $15,500, and is likely to spell trouble for the compact car segment-leaders Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Along with heavy doses of tech, there’s luxury. Name one other car in the compact segment that offers heated rear seatsLike a Sonata, Only Smaller (But Not That Small)The 2011 Elantra uses the same “fluidic sculpture” design as the new 2011 Hyundai Sonata (see review), which arrived early in 2010, and the upmarket Sonata hybrid (review) and Sonata 2.0T turbo (review) models shipped this fall. The superimposed image shows that they look remarkably alike, the difference being the Elantra at 178 inches is a foot shorter and $4,500 cheaper.  The Elantra’s roomy back seat is a match for most midsize sedans and so is the trunk. In fact, there’s enough interior room that the EPA classifies the Elantra as a midsize car.Elantra May Be Big Enough for Some Sonata ShoppersI could see customers coming to look at the Sonata and deciding the Elantra is big enough for their needs. Other automakers have lookalike cars, such as the BMW 7 Series and BMW 5 Series. In that case, if the customer decides to go with the smaller model, the dealer is looking at a bill of sale that’s $25,000 less. The confusion between the two models may be annoying to 7 Series owners because their neighbors aren’t sure at a glance whether he’s driving the really expensive car or just the expensive car. In Hyundai’s case with its less-established brand and a name that sounds a lot like “Honda,” having more cars that clearly look like Hyundais is good for the brand.Most All the Technology You Expect: iPod Adapter, Satellite Radio, Airbags, ESCThe Elantra comes standard with an iPod/MP3 player adapter, satellite radio, six airbags, electronic stability control, traction control, electronic brake force distribution, and standard four-wheel disc brakes. Hyundai took a step backward by not making Bluetooth standard on the Elantra as it did on the new Sonata, but Hyundai promises a January announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show that may resolve the issue.Navigation is optional, with a 7-inch touchscreen that is as big as comes in the compact car segment. If you don’t get navi, there’s a smaller monochromatic display at the top of the center stack. It’s the same navigation as the new Sonata, running off a 16-GB memory chip, and the screen is good on cloudy days, not so good in the sun, and if you’re wearing sunglasses, better turn up the volume on spoken directions. Navigation includes a backup camera.Keyless entry with pushbutton start is also available. There’s a second 12-volt socket on the passenger side of the center console. Hyundai doesn’t deserve too much credit for offering two power sockets as most everyone else should be dinged for offering just one even in compact cars.But No Blind Spot Detection or Lane Departure WarningHyundai’s array of safety technology does not include blind spot detection, which some midsize cars have, or lane departure warning. Nor is there parking sonar.  A backup camera (available) is good; camera and sonar are better. All are safety features you might expect as technology costs come down. The government last week said it wants backup cameras installed on all cars by 2014.How Hyundai Got the 2011 Elantra to 40 mpg: It Stars with the Engine The 2011 Elantra is rated at 29 mpg city, 40 mpg with the either the six-speed manual transmission or the Hyundai-engineered six-speed automatic. There’s a completely new Nu (Hyundai’s internal name) 1.8-liter, 148-hp, four-cylinder engine that is 74 pounds lighter than the predecessor Beta engine (2.0 liters, 121 hp, 34 mpg highway). That’s 17.7% better highway mileage.Hyundai offered this breakdown of how the new Elantra got its 17.7% incease. The engine efficiency accounts for almost half the savings, 7.4 percentage points of the 17.6% increase, or 2.5 mpg. Here’s Hyundai’s breakdown:Nu 1.8-liter engine vs. Beta 2.0-liter engine — +7.4 percentage points (2.5 mpg)6-speed automatic transmission vs. 4-speed AT — +4.1 points (1.4 mpg)Smart Alternator — +2.5 points (0.9 mpg)Low rolling resistance silica tires — +1.4 points (0.5 mpg)Weight savings — +1.8 points (0.6 mpg)0.28 coefficient of drag — +0.5 points (0.2 mpg)Total Fuel Savings — +17.7% vs. 2010 ElantraHow Soon Could the Elantra Meet 2025 (62 mpg) EPA Goals?Note the while the engine has variable valve timing, it does not have gasoline direct injection (GDI) where high-pressure fuel is sprayed directly into the combustion chambers. That’s good for several mpg on its own and suggests Hyundai could, with GDI and a couple other tweaks, produce a 45 mpg and possibly 50 mpg Elantra running on regular gasoline – no electric motors and hybrid battery pack, no diesel fuel.Were Hyundai to offer a hybrid version, it might within a couple years have an Elantra able to meet the EPA’s fuel economy goal of 47 to 62 mpg by 2025, the higher mpg number targeting automakers such as Hyundai with smaller-size vehicles.On the Road: Comfort and Room Over Sports-Car HandlingHere’s my impression after a day-long, 200-mile road trip. The car is fine for driving around town or on the highway. Four people and their luggage – lots of luggage – will ride comfortably. As with a lot of Hyundais, it’s a rider’s car more than a driver’s car. In other words, in a world of Lexuses and Audis, this feels more like a baby Lexus. Other notes:* Cockpit fit and finish are first-rate.* The steering wheel has nice thumb cutouts and the stitching (leather on the Limited moels) doesn’t dig into your fingers. The steering itself is okay but not with a lot of feeling.* The center stack controls are adequate. HVAC controls aren’t immediately obvious. I found them a bit dark and the lettering too small when wearing sunglasses. No problem for the core buyer, young adults looking for a great value, not so good for older buyers.* The steering buttons are complete but small, which is typical. If you want big, readable steering wheel buttons, buy a Cayenne.* The iPod interface worked well, as did music on a USB key. Working an iPod was harder with the smaller, non-navi LCD display (photo right).* Bluetooth worked well and it can stream audio.* A compact car should not, by rights, have this much back seat room (which may be why it’s classified as a midsize car). There are no air vents in back (not common on compact cars, but understand this is why cars such as the Elantra are so affordable).* The folding rear seat is a 60-40 split not one-piece, meaning you can carry three people and something from Home Depot.* The trunk is cavernous.Hyundai vs. the CompetitionHyundai sees its competition as the best-selling compacts, Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, along with the Mazda3. Because of its interior volume, it’s also able to take on the Chevrolet Cruze, Nissan Sentra, and Ford Focus, all EPA-rated as mid-size cars. Against the competition, the Elantra has more power (Mazda3 matches it), more transmission gears (Cruze matches, Sentra has a CVT), the most trunk room, and only the Sentra has more passenger volume.The comparison against the Corolla and Civic are a bit unfair because both designs date to 2006 (so does the outgoing Elantra’s) and both should have new cars in 2011 as 2012 models. Hyundai was quicker with its model change: four years, four months from launch to launch.Limited Configurations Benefit Hyundai – But What About the Buyer?The 2011 Elantra comes in just seven buildable configurations (also eight paint colors and three seat colors). Hyundai says it’s to reduce confusion when configuring online and to increase the odds a dealer has in-stock the options the buyer wants. That’s certainly good for the dealer. But it also means if you want one option, such as the 360-watt premium audio, you’ve also got to take the navigation system and backup camera.If Hyundai were shipping Elantras all the way from the Ulsan, Korea factory -a couple weeks at sea – the limited configs would make sense. But they’re coming from Alabama and what it also means is that Hyundai so far isn’t interested in letting a buyer have too many choices. Compare that with BMW’s SUV plant in South Carolina; BMW encourages custom orders and builds, ships and delivers in less than a month.Should You Buy (or Lease)?Unless you’re looking for a driver-oriented car such as the Volkswagen Golf or Mazda3, the 2011 Hyundai Elantra is the leader of the pack among compacts and is more than competitive among midsize cars. Every Elantra model gets 40 mpg highway (some competitor cars have one or two 40 mpg special models). Because residual values will be much better for the 2011 Elantra (63% after three years instead of 48%, says Auto Lease Guide), leasing could be a good deal. Hyundai is promoting a three-year, $169 lease ($1,700 down) on the automatic transmission (and air-conditioned) GLS model.The lower-level GLS trim line will be the volume Elantra, starting at $15,500 (with freight) in a barebones configuration with steel wheels, a manual transmission, and air conditioning if you roll down the windows. The most popular model will be the automatic transmission GLS at $17,800 or the GLS Preferred $18,350 (Bluetooth, alloy wheels, steering wheel buttons). The navigation package version ($20,100, an extra $1,750) adds navigation, premium audio, and the backup camera. The base Limited ($20,700) goes beyond the top GLS with leather seating and steering wheel, power sunroof, and those front-rear heated seats. The Premium Package Limited ($22,700) has the navigation-audio-camera items plus the proximity key and pushbutton start.The Elantra, now No. 3 in compact car sales, may well outsell No. 1 Toyota Corolla and No. 2 Honda Civic in the next year until those two get their new, 2012 models to market.IN SHORTPRO: Good looks, roomy, great mpg, standard iPod adapter.CON: Uninspiring as a driver’s car, no standard Bluetooth (unlike Sonata), options only in options packs.BOTTOM LINE: With Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla slow to refresh, the 2011 Hyundai Elantra is the benchmark among compact and some mid-size cars. It looks good and every model gets 29 mpg city, 40 mpg highway.last_img

Leave a Reply