Wednesday, September 16, 2009

2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring, the AutoWeek Drivers Log

The 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring

SENIOR WEB REPORTER GREG MIGLIORE: This is a decent little car. Very useful, with the hatch and solid fuel economy. Surprisingly good steering and interior. I guess when you creep into the $20,000 range, things should get a little nicer, but this car beat my expectations in overall packaging. Elegant wheels, good touch points inside and a radio whose face I can read easily--all smart things in my book.Acceleration was OK; I mean, it's a 2.0-liter four-banger. But it's a fairly lithe ride considering it's still a hatch. Hyundai has done a nice job of upgrading its product line from econoboxes to relatively classy rides.

Also, I liked the headlights and the styling. The shape isn't my cup of coffee, but the subtleties are well done. I didn't get much roll in corners or all that much wind resistance on the expressway. This is a solid effort overall, though not my preference for future wheels.

EDITORIAL ASSISTANT JONATHAN WONG: When the last Elantra sedan stormed through here, it left a few of us around here rather impressed. With a decent drivetrain, good build quality and pleasing-enough looks, it really was a pleasant surprise. Now, with the addition of the wagon body style and its increased hauling flexibility, we should expect more of the same, right?

Thankfully, yes, this Elantra wagon (or Touring, if you subscribe to Hyundai speak) is also very good. The four-cylinder is coarse when accelerating, but in fifth gear riding down the expressway at 80 mph, it's smooth. Shifts from the manual gearbox are OK, though the standard B&M short shifter has a slight rubbery feel. The brakes feel strong with a nice, firm pedal.

With a reworked suspension with stiffer spring rates, shock absorbers and thicker antiroll bars, the Touring is a swift handler, all things considered. It's quick to maneuver with good response to steering inputs, and it rides comfortably over pothole-riddled pavement. Take a turn and the body leans a little, but it's nowhere near what you would call floaty.

The interior surroundings are above average with some soft-touch surfaces mixed in with the expected hard portions. Most impressive of all is how well the cabin is isolated from wind noise, which you normally wouldn't expect from an affordable Hyundai, let alone many other cars in this category. It's just more proof that Hyundai has come a long way with high levels of refinement flowing into all of its models.

When you think about it, there aren't many wagons in this class. The Ford Focus isn't offered in wagon form anymore, and the Chevrolet Malibu Maxx was killed off when the new-generation car was released. Off the top of my head, the only other wagon that is comparable to this Elantra is the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen. Base price on that is $19,699, which is $1,200 more right off the bat than this Hyundai. And for 2010, Hyundai has discounted the wagon a bit more. The VW is overall a better piece and is worth the extra loot in my opinion. But for the wagon fans out there, the Elantra Touring is worth a gander.

In Fleet: April 17-May 1

As-Tested Price: $20,445

Drivetrain: 2.0-liter I4; FWD, five-speed manual

Output: 138 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 137 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm

Curb Weight: 3,080 lb

Fuel Economy: (EPA/AW) 26/22.1 mpg

Options: Premium-sport package including power sunroof, heated front seats, 17-inch alloy wheels and P 215/45VR-17 tires ($1,500); Bluetooth hands-free phone system ($325); carpeted floor mats ($95); iPod cable ($30).


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