The Hyundai Elantra has been a solid choice in the compact sedan segment for some time now. But last year's major redesign has vaulted it right up among the leaders.
And the 2012 Elantra again makes an appealing case for itself thanks to its attractive design, outstanding fuel economy, long feature list, uplevel options, comfortable ride, nicely-constructed interior, 5-Year/60,000 mile warranty and a lot of value for the dollar when comparing the competition.
Not sitting on their laurels, new this year is an "Active Eco System" which offers a push-button adjustment to throttle response and transmission performance that boosts gas mileage up to 7% (in exchange for a less lively performance when being used) ... a very useful feature with such high prices at the pump.
Overall, the Elantra's four-cylinder engine provides quite respectable power for this class while the interior boasts an attractive and well-designed look. What's more, the Elantra offers a wide range of electronic and comfort features that are usually available on more upscale cars.
While the new Elantra has much going for it, it's always a good idea to consider other segment leaders before making a final buying decision. Other top picks worthy of consideration in the small car market would include the Chevy Cruze, the Ford Focus, the Honda Civic the Mazda 3 and the Volkswagen Jetta.
Trims, Standard Features And Options:
The 2012 Hyundai Elantra is a compact sedan offered in a choice of two trims: GLS and Limited.
Standard features on the base GLS include power windows, power doorlocks, power and heated mirrors, remote keyless entry, a trip computer, low-pressure tire warning, intermittent wipers, a rear window defogger, a tilt wheel, a long list of safety features (see below), 15-inch steel wheels, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat and a 6-speaker stereo system with a CD player, an MP3 decoder, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack.
In terms of options for the GLS, the Comfort package adds air-conditioning, cruise control, solar glass, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, 16-inch steel wheels and the Active Eco system (on automatic transmission models). There's also a GLS Preferred package that includes foglamps, Bluetooth, steering wheel audio controls, 16-inch alloy wheels, illuminated vanity mirrors, upgraded interior trim accents and a sliding front center armrest.
Moving up to the Elantra Limited model adds all the features in the GLS Preferred package plus leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, a sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Also available is the Limited Technology package which includes keyless entry/ignition, a rearview camera, automatic headlights, navigation, a touchscreen information and entertainment interface, and an upgraded audio system.
(Incidentally, here's an infographic on the 12 automakers who've been giving the best new car deals off MSRP.)
Engines, Powertrain And Gas Mileage:
Powering all 2012 Hyundai Elantra models is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that outputs 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque. California-emissions states get a PZEV (partial zero-emissions vehicle) version of this same engine which produces 145 horsepower and 130 pound-feet. All models are front-wheel drive. The GLS comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, while a 6-speed automatic is optional. The Limited is 6-speed automatic only.
The EPA-estimated gas mileage for the 2012 Elantra is impressive, standing at 29 mpg city and 40 mpg on the highway with either model or transmission.
The 2012 Elantra is loaded up with a slew of safety features, many not usually provided in this price range. Standard safety features on all models include stability control, traction control, antilock disc brakes (ABS), brake assist, a security system, a panic alarm, front seat side-impact airbags, active front head restraints and side curtain airbags.
Govenment crash tests had not yet been completed on the new Elantra at the time of this writing.
The Elantra's cabin is attractive, well-designed and user-friendly, featuring a curved center stack and upscale looking climate controls that add refinement to the overall look and feel of the interior. The materials quality, while perhaps not quite the best in the segment, is commendable and the fit and finish is solid. The Elantra can also be outfitted with luxury features such as leather, a rearview camera, navigation, heated seats and more.
The seating is comfortable and supportive both front and rear, while the overall space is generous for this segment. The headroom is surprisingly ample up front, even for 6-footers. The rear quarters are fine for most passengers. However, while there's plently of legroom, the sloping roofline limits headroom for taller adults. As an added plus for a compact car, the Elantra's trunk still manages to offer a cargo capacity of 14.8 cubic feet.
While not intended to match the sportier handling of rivals such as the Mazda 3 or Ford Focus, the 2012 Hyundai Elantra offers a very nicely balanced combination of ride comfort and performance, certainly one of the best in this class. The 1.8-liter engine is plenty capable for typical daily driving, the transmission is smooth and the steering is precise. In addition, for a compact economy car the suspension does a better-than-average job of absorbing road bumps and rough spots, while the cabin is relatively quiet.
How To Get The Lowest Price:
Best Negotiating Tactic: Well, there's definitely a 'best way' when it comes to new car buying. If you want to get the best bottomline, out-the-door price you need to know exactly who to talk to at the dealership, how to make the contact and how to make this person eager to quickly drop prices as low as possible to get your sale.
* These invoice prices were provided by Hyundai and are likely far too tight to be the "real" invoice prices. A guesstimate that may be closer to true invoice would probably be at least $1,000 to $1,500 lower.