click above for high-res gallery of the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring

While the big Japanese auto manufacturers have been incrementally improving their vehicles ever since they were first launched in the U.S., Hyundai has been bettering itself in leaps and bounds. While we're not quite ready to anoint Hyundai as the second coming of Toyota, it just isn't all that shocking anymore to hear that the Hyundai Elantra is now Consumer Reports' top-ranked 2008 vehicle amongst 19 other compacts and subcompacts. Beating out such high-quality stalwarts as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Toyota Prius is very impressive work, and Hyundai is justifiably proud of the accomplishment. Jim Trainor, a Hyundai spokesman, told the Detroit Free Press, "As I got the note from Consumer Reports, we were ecstatic. Coming from such a highly regarded industry source like Consumer Reports, it really says a lot about what we're doing."

Besides the aforementioned Honda and Toyota models, Mazda also scored fairly well with its popular 3 sedan and hatchback. The popular-with-the-people Ford Focus managed a mid-pack rating. Holding up the rear was the Chevy Aveo, which shouldn't be too surprising given the extremely low cost of entry into that model.

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