You’ve got to wonder sometimes if the world’s automakers all meet in a hollowed-out volcano to decide their master plans. How else do you explain a glut of redesigned new small sedans appearing all at once? (Surely it can’t just be shared concerns over rising fuel costs, a tough economic climate, and the need to keep up with competition. That’s too logical.)
Chevrolet has the new Cruze, featuring refinement that GM small car buyers have never before seen. In several weeks, Ford will be selling their third-generation Focus. Like the Cruze, it’s also marched up-market, with pricing to match. VW rolled out a bigger and decontented Jetta with the idea that buyers will think it’s nicer than a Civic. (That’s arguable.)
So as all of these small sedans go up-market, where does that leave Hyundai’s new 2011 Elantra? Like most Hyundais, it has about a $1,000-$1,500 price advantage with comparable equipment. But also like other recent Hyundais, especially the recently redesigned Sonata, it’s working hard to appeal on more than the deal. The Elantra looks like a shrunken Sonata--more than one of us have confused it at a glance for the silver Sonata Limited 2.0T we have in our test fleet.
The new Elantra is roomier than the car it replaces. Our first impression is that it’s also a lot more engaging to drive. Hyundai is claiming 40 mpg on the highway from every Elantra, regardless of transmission. (And you don’t have to buy a special “fuel efficiency” version to get that.)
We just took delivery of our Elantra GLS. Equipped with an automatic transmission and the “preferred” package that adds alloys and Bluetooth, our Elantra stickered at $18,445.
Take a look at our First Look video for more insights. We plan to test the Elantra in the next few weeks to see if it regains its predecessor’s place on the top of our small sedan Ratings.