2003 Elantra New Car Test Drive
The Hyundai Elantra is handsome, comfortable, versatile, and fun to drive. It would be a decent car if it cost thousands more. For under $15,000, it's a genuine bargain. Elantra comes with one of the most powerful standard engines in the subcompact class, and is among the quickest. It handles as well or better than the other cars in its class and has the sporty feel we like in a compact.
The interior is nicely finished and more comfortable than most of the cars in its class, including the big name brands. The list of standard equipment is as long or longer than that of cars that cost thousands more, and includes side airbags. Measured by build quality, it meets or beats most of its competitors. We believe it will surpass most buyers' expectations.
Sedan and hatchback models are available, the latter combining the practical advantages of a small wagon with the sleek look of a sedan. The hatchback is hard to beat for its functionality and its good looks, but most American buyers prefer sedans. So for 2003, the Elantra GT is available with either the sedan or hatchback body style.
Concerned about reliability? Hyundai's warranty is one of the best available. The basic warranty lasts five years or 60,000 miles for the original owner, with free roadside assistance throughout. The engine and transmission are warranted for 10 years or 100,0000 miles; and Hyundai protects Elantra from rust-through for five years or 100,000 miles.
Hyundai Elantra is offered in two trim levels and two body styles. The base Elantra GLS came only as a four-door sedan. For 2003, the up-market GT is available as a five-door hatchback and a sedan.
All models, GT and GLS, share the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 135 horsepower, making the Elantra among the most powerful cars in its class. A five-speed manual transmission is standard. An automatic transmission is optional ($800) for either model.
GLS sedan ($12,499) comes with an impressive array of standard features, including air conditioning; power windows, mirrors and locks; and a center console with armrest. Safety features are anything but economy grade: front-passenger side-impact airbags come standard and there are rear headrests and three-point harnesses at all five seating positions.
Elantra GT ($14,149) expands on the GLS sedan's standard-equipment list. Fashioned in the spirit of a European sports sedan, the GT comes with a firmer, sport-tuned suspension, five-spoke aluminum alloy wheels, and fog lamps. Four-wheel disc brakes replace the disc/drum combination on the GLS. Leather seating surfaces are standard, too (try finding those on any other car in this price range), as are a 100-watt, six-speaker stereo with CD player; cruise control; remote keyless entry; and a rear-glass wiper and washer. Even the shift knob and steering wheel are leather-wrapped, and the instrument lights glow purple (Dude!). The GT sedan adds a rear wing-type spoiler.
Both GT body styles list for the same price. Hyundai says it added the sedan in response to customer requests, but we prefer the more daring styling and increased carrying capacity of the hatchback. With its big hatch opening and split folding rear seat, the five-door is remarkably versatile for a car its size.
Other options are limited, and must be purchased in packages, which Hyundai calls accessory groups. Accessory Group 2 for GLS ($400) adds cruise control, remote keyless entry, and an alarm. Group 3 ($925) includes the contents of Group 2, plus traction control and ABS. Group 4 ($1400) starts with Group 2 but adds an upgraded stereo with CD player and a power moonroof. Group 5 ($1925) gives you the works: cruise control, keyless entry, alarm, CD, moonroof, ABS and traction control. On the GT, the power moonroof costs $650. For $1175 you can buy the moonroof plus traction control and ABS. Port-installed accessories for both models include woodgrain trim ($225), carpeted floor mats ($78), mud guards ($60), a sunroof wind deflector ($62), a cargo net ($38), a spoiler for the sedan ($100) and a cargo tray for the hatchback ($70).