By Jim Mateja
May 10, 2009
With crossover and station wagon DNA, Elantra Touring isn't the fastest or highest-mileage or most stylish vehicle in the market. Rather than stand out in a category or two, Elantra Touring simply does a lot of things very well, with almost no shortcomings.
The return of the hatchback, last offered as the 2006 Elantra GT, gives Hyundai an offering for buyers, particularly younger ones, looking for low cost and high mileage without making a ton of sacrifices.
As an added benefit, Hyundai throws in a host of safety features, such as stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes and side-curtain air bags, along with amenities including a glove-box cooler.
The hatchback Touring is offered in regular and Sport trim, with a choice of 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. We tested the Sport with manual, which shifts smoothly enough, but unless you live in a construction-free zone or never use the always-under-repair tollway, you might want to opt for the automatic -- unless you want that bicep and glute workout.
The Sport package upgrades tires to 17 inch from 16 inch to improve handling, while adding heated seats and a power slide/tilt sunroof for $1,500.
Somewhat resembling a Scion xD in profile, the Touring pleasantly surprises in terms of cabin room and comfort. It's a compact with midsize arm and leg wiggle room front and rear. Even in back, legs, knees, feet, arms and head are accommodated on long or short hauls. No skimping on space to boost mileage.
And front and rear seats offer excellent support to prevent fatigue and fidgeting on long trips. Some big cars enhance cabin space by shorting the length of seat bottoms. The smaller Touring doesn't resort to that trickery.
If you need to haul gear or groceries, the hatch lid opens high for easy loading/unloading. And the cargo floor lifts in sections to expose a variety of compartments to hide items and keep them from rattling around. There's also a power plug in the cargo wall, as well as grocery-bag holders and a pull-out shade to hide the stuff there. When more cargo room is needed, the split rear-seat backs fold flat.
Other conveniences include a covered stowage tray in the top of the dash, a covered stowage pouch in the instrument cluster and a coin holder/ashtray in front of the center console, where a pair of cupholders also are located. A USB plug is under the center armrest.
And if you're still not surprised and delighted, there's the glove box, with a cover inside that lifts to expose an air conditioning vent to cool a few cans of pop you can squeeze in, considering the owner's manual, maps and what-not also reside there.
Hats off to Hyundai engineers, who obviously decided to put the well-being of the driver ahead of the pleasure of the geeks. Every gauge, dial, button, lever, label or directional arrow is positioned to be seen and used with the least amount of effort.
Outside temp and time are large and easy to see in the radio face, and the instrument panel has soothing blue backlighting. All controls are orderly and organized, so there's no guesswork. You never have to ask, "Where is it?" or "How do I use it?" If only BMW would convert to this religion.
The 2-liter, 138-horsepower 4 offers enough power to keep up with traffic while delivering 23 m.p.g. city/31 highway, sufficient to justify the choice of gas alone over a more costly gas/battery combo offered from another country.
Pleasant ride, adequate handling, very good mileage, ample room and comfort and a base of $17,800, plus $1,500 for the Sport package.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio, power/windows/locks/mirrors and lighted vanity mirrors with slots to hold credit cards or a parking pass, as well as a tank of gas. Add $800 for 4-speed automatic, $325 for Bluetooth phone, $30 for an iPod cable and $95 for carpeted floor mats.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Rides. Contact him at email@example.com.