Searching for itself

David Yochum

Hyundai provides high revs, mediocre design

Hyundai Elantra is driving around with a disorder.

Students said Elantra has the same, basic shape as the Mitsubishi Lancer but with classier lights. Decent interior space, but a small, plain dashboard. And a powerful engine that is an economical slouch (24/32 mpg).

A little bipolar? Maybe. But Hyundai made sure this four-door had the heart to run in The $16,000 Challenge.

Home to a full stable of horses (138 to be exact), Elantra relies on a 2.0L power-plant to put its best foot forward. Dropping the RPM gauge to 6,000, Rogers said Elantra “takes off” with responsive acceleration, before a “deep redline” settles the engine down.


+ Standard keyless entry/alarm

+ Heated side-mirrors

+ Strong engine

– Boring design

– Gas guzzler

– Small dash, radio

Controlling the Hyundai’s surprising speed wasn’t a problem for Dinovo, who was happy with Elantra’s smooth, vibration-free steering. Sheth also applauded handling, saying it was much better than The $16,000 Challenge‘s other Korean sedan, the steer-heavy Kia Rio-5.

While Elantra’s performance assured a strong, emotional foundation, Hyundai didn’t transfer positive engine energy throughout Elantra’s ho-hum design.

Sheth thought the car could use some interior accents; Rogers suggested Hyundai add some color to the dashboard or “anything else other than black.”

Dinovo found enough space sitting in the driver’s seat, yet had room to complain about Elantra’s ugly, small radio and average-styled exterior.


Base price: $14,525

Price as-tested: $15,235

Engine: 2.0L DOHC 16V 4-cylinder

HP @ rpm: 138 @ 6000

Torque @ rpm: 136 @ 4500

Transmission: 4-speed auto

Base weight (lbs): 2,837

EPA mpg (city/highway): 24/32

“My first impression wasn’t ‘wow,'” she said. “It’s not very youthful – more for an older crowd.”

Goffe said Elantra was “boring and small-looking,” however, body-color side moldings, bumpers, mirrors and door handles helped spice-up our “electric red” tester.

As for comfort and safety, Elantra comes standard with side-impact airbags, cruise control, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, heated side mirrors and remote keyless entry with alarm.

Hyundai further pads Elantra’s ego with a 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, a 7-year/unlimited mile anti-perforation warranty, 5-year/60,000 mile bumper-to-bumper coverage and five years of 24-hour roadside assistance.

Speedy, roomy, small and ugly – bi-polar tendencies are simply part of Elantra’s character.