Either I'm getting finicky in my old age or Michigan's never-ending winter is getting to me. Even though the 2011 Hyundai Elantra looked cool and handled well over hard-packed snow-covered roads, I wasn't feeling the love for this compact car.
Here's why: The week I test-drove the Elantra more than a foot of snow fell. The front-wheel-drive Elantra just couldn't get a break since its low ground clearance meant I had to floor the gas pedal just to get through my subdivision's snowy intersections without getting stuck. Nearly every day I threw my snow boots and a shovel into the Elantra in case I needed to dig the car out.
On the compacted snow that covered much of my city's streets, the Elantra handled well and didn't lose traction or fishtail in corners. However, the Elantra's fuel-economy numbers took a hit in my wintry wonderland. The Elantra gets an EPA-estimated 29/40 mpg city/highway, but my test car averaged 18.7 mpg as it struggled through the snowy streets.
The Elantra is available in the base GLS and top-of-the-line Limited trims. The Elantra has a starting MSRP of $14,830, and my GLS test car cost $20,230.
Redesigned for 2011, the new Elantra looks adorable. I'm certain Hyundai's designers would prefer a stronger, more athletic description, but it's really as cute as a newborn puppy. Though it's a sedan, the Elantra looks like a coupe because of its sloping roofline.
The sculpted roofline gives this car a sporty feel, but taller drivers and passengers will have to pay extra attention so they don't hit their heads when getting in and out of the car.
Even though the Elantra is small, the trunk is large and can easily accommodate a sizable grocery store run or even a snow shovel. The Elantra's low ground clearance was a pain in the snow, but great for kids to climb in and out of it on their own.
The Elantra comes with a 148-horsepower, 1.8-liter inline-four-cylinder engine and uses regular unleaded gas. A six-speed manual transmission is standard. The optional six-speed automatic transmission, which my test car had, costs $2,250.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some
The Elantra's interior has a masculine feel to it, thanks to the black dash with metallic accents and gray-colored seat upholstery. The dash and center stack have a simple layout with only a few buttons and knobs on it. A quick once-over of everything and I was good to go in the Elantra.
The Elantra's low starting price means that a lot of features aren't standard. Optional features include air conditioning and cruise control. These features and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel are part of an options package, which my test car had. My test car also had the optional Navigation Package, which adds a navigation system, backup camera and automatic headlights.
In the backseat, my two boys had plenty of legroom in this compact car. They found their cupholders in the fold-down armrest, and I made use of the front row's two cupholders near the center console.
The Elantra is a five-passenger car, but the second row's middle seat is best for short trips, especially if car seats are on either side of it.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The Elantra has two sets of lower Latch anchors in the second row's outboard seats. While they're buried in the seat cushions, they're not impossible to reach.
My younger son, who uses a booster seat, had a difficult time buckling up independently because of floppy seat belt buckles. Older children won't have as difficult a time using the seat belts.
The Elantra hasn't been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Elantra has standard front-wheel drive, all-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system, traction control and six airbags, including side curtains for both rows. A backup camera is optional.
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Photo courtesy of Hyundai