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Its 5 a.m. and a chilly morning here in Virginia. The Elantra Limited is parked in the driveway warming up, with both front seat heaters on high. Because Baby travels in a plastic bucket, the rear seat heaters won’t get much use this trip. And yes. You heard that right. This car has heated rear seats.
As the wife runs through the house for last minute items – I entertain the cats with an old shoelace. We finally make our way out the door, Baby and stuff in tow.
Loading the trunk I marveled at how something so small could hold so much. It was like watching Baby eat. Our four-day trip required the following: 1 stroller, 3 large bags, 1 baby bath chair, 1 Pack n Play, 1 laptop bag and countless toys. Starting a family does come with baggage, literally. The Elantra holds its own in rear cargo space, besting the Honda Civic in total cargo volume by over 2 cubic feet (14.8 vs. 12.5).
The Elantra is fashioned in Hyundai’s fluidic design, with plunging lines that start from the center and flow to the front and rear. Normally a sloping rear C-pillar means a condensed rear door opening, which makes putting things like people and car seats in the rear of the car a tormenting deed.
Luckily the Elantra breaks the mold in that department and has a rear entrance that will easily accommodate your family or friends. No need stretch before entering the back seat.
After adjusting the mirrors. I turn my attention to the center stack, where a 7-inch touch screen sits staring at me. Did I read the manual? No. I am a man, why should I?
I start by pairing my iPhone. Something I’ve always dreaded. Nothing is more frustrating than having to rotate through countless submenus to pair a phone. In this case it was easy, but more notably it was fast. Actually everything about the dash-mounted system was fast. When you selected an option, either using the touch screen or the buttons, the screen just delivered. No lag or spinning hourglass.
Surrounding the display are six large and clearly marked buttons. Rather than entrenching these frequently selected items into a submenu, they were given their own button. This may sound like a minor point, but if you need to switch between these options quickly (which you will), you’ll be thankful you have separate buttons to do so.
As with any long-lasting relationship, communication is a must. In a vehicle the infotainment system is how you and machine communicate. Luckily the Elantra performs well in that area. The cost for this convenience, known as the Limited Technology Package, is $2,350. This includes; the navigation system with 7-inch screen, rearview camera, a 360-watt audio system, dual auto temp controls, automatic headlamps, proximity key and push button start.
The 360-watt sound system was impressive. Using the provided ($35 option) iPod cable it worked great and came with a very easy to follow menu. The car also came equipped with XM radio. During our trip regrettably I only had a few chances to really test the stereo. Most of my listening took place with the speakers turned down and faded to the front of the car. Sorry baby, no T-Pain for you.
Shift to reverse, wife comments on the ‘cool’ backup camera, and we’re off! Destination ahead in 492 miles, Ripley, Ohio.
On the Road
The Elantra is rated at 40 mpg on the highway, yet few media-types have been able to hit that magical number. During the early portion of our trip with the cruise set around 75mph, I averaged 32mpg.
After depleting our first tank of fuel, I filled up with super unleaded (93 octane). I noticed a noteworthy improvement in fuel economy. Even with the steep hills of West Virginia and constant baby stops my average increased to 37 mpg.
I’m sure had I not been carrying 200lbs of cargo (mostly the stuff in the trunk and not the wife) and had a manual version of the Elantra and not the 6-speed automatic; I could have hit 40mpg on the interstate. The manual version of the Elantra has a taller final drive ratio which means the engine turns at a lower speed in its final gear (Manual 4.333 vs. Auto 3.065).
In the city the Elantra was very competent and composed. From within, the leather appointed cabin was quiet and the lack of an artificially high beltline offered great visibility.
The suspension and handling wasn’t anything to get excited about. The car performed like I imagined a small front wheel drive compact would. That is light, slightly disconnected, minimal road noise and the occasional bout of torque steer. On rougher roads the small footprint and lighter weight became apparent.
My one driving criticism would have to be the relationship between the engine and the transmission; specifically when and how the car decides to shift. Under light acceleration the car is smooth and calm. Under heavy acceleration the four-cylinder can sound irritated and out of breath.
On a few occasions the car seemed to climb well into the ‘angry’ RPM range even with mild pedal application. This is less evident while accelerating in ECO mode, but then again so is accelerating.
For a vehicle with such a petite wheelbase the Elantra has loads of interior room. Even with baby’s safety-bucket anchored behind the driver’s seat, Mrs. DCAutoGeek had enough room to slightly recline her seat and nap. Which she did. Many times.
While Autoblog pointed out that the Elantra ranked lower than its competitors in rear legroom, the Elantra tops the Corolla and Civic in front head, hip and leg room; rear hip and shoulder room; and total interior capacity. Taking all of those measurements into account creates a more accurate picture of just how roomy the Elantra is inside.
Having spent hours behind the wheel of the Elantra at night, my fear of being killed by a deer started to get the best of me. It didn’t help that the limited throw of the Elantra’s traditional halogen lamps struggled to keep the road lit at highway speeds. Rather than rear heated seats, the Elantra would benefit from improved headlamps. Hyundai may even consider equipping the Elantra with projection headlamps similar to those on the Sonata.
A health conscious friend of mine once explained to me that glazed donuts are better for you than muffins. Muffins are dense, while glazed donuts are mostly air and lack real content. In many ways the compact vehicle segment has become a small basket of muffins. A handful of smaller content rich cars all satisfying in their own sweet way.
The Elantra separates itself in a few ways.
Styling: while subjective, it exists. It may be off-putting to those looking for something a bit blander, but those with an eye for style will enjoy the surplus of swoops, dips and dives in the sheet metal.
Content: Loaded with content. Not just content, but very matured content. I would dispute in its class the Elantra has the best infotainment system available.
Warranty: Hyundai’s 100,000 mile warranty means piece of mind for the consumer and trust in the vehicle from the company.
If you’re a drive-it-till-the-wheels-fall-off car buyer – you better love the Elantra. Chances are you’ll be driving it for a long long…long time.
To learn more about the new Elantra visit Hyundai’s website at: http://www.hyundaiusa.com/elantra or go check one out at your local dealer.