On Wheels: 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring

2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring
2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring (Photo courtesy of Hyundai)
By Warren Brown
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, August 2, 2009

CORNWALL, N.Y. -- The trouble with love at first sight is that it seldom reveals everything. What is missed in early, tingling moments of infatuation could prove upsetting later when the real work of love becomes . . . work.

Consider the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring five-door hatchback (a.k.a. small wagon, essentially the way the Elantra is sold in Europe).

I first met it in Paris in 2008, a place and time where and when it called itself the Hyundai i30.

I was smitten by its narrow waistline and smartly tapered rear end. It seemed the perfect automobile for urban driving, particularly in European cities where narrow streets abound.

I had no chance to drive the Elantra Touring then. But I had dreams.

I again met the pretty hatchback at one of Hyundai's northeast regional product exhibitions in the United States. It was on display and therefore incapable of much by way of conversation or driving. But I smiled at it. I imagined it returning my visual display of affection. I knew we'd get together someday.

And we did have a fast and fleeting encounter. Like a first dance after a long glance, we shared a quick spin. There were no bumps in the road or heavy burdens upon us.

It left me hoping for more.

And so it came that the Elantra Touring was parked in my Northern Virginia driveway on a bright July day, uncommonly cool and dry for the season. Ria Manglapus, my Washington Post assistant for vehicle evaluations, was scheming to drive it, although a 510-horsepower Jaguar XKR coupe was simultaneously available.

Ria is no fool. The rear-wheel-drive Jaguar XKR gets 15 miles per gallon in the city and 22 miles per gallon on the highway and requires premium unleaded gasoline. The front-wheel-drive Elantra Touring gets 23 miles per gallon in the city and 31 miles per gallon on the highway running on regular unleaded.

We both did the math.

I had a long drive ahead of me. I needed a cheap, hopefully fun date. I chose the Elantra Touring.

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