2009 Elantra New Car Test Drive
The Hyundai Elantra is a compact car with handsome styling, a notable complement of safety features, commendable driving manners, a responsive and fuel-efficient powertrain, a strong warranty and above-average value for the money.
The 2009 Hyundai Elantra comes in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback versions, the latter a sporty model called the Elantra Touring.
The Elantra competes against the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Mazda3, Ford Focus, Chevy Cobalt and other compact cars. The Elantra offers lots of interior space for the class and, by several other measures, it holds its own against those cars. Hyundai claims the Elantra warranty, of five years or 60,000 miles, plus 10 years or 100,000 miles for the powertrain, is the best in its class, which gives buyers peace of mind.
Fuel economy is quite good. A 2009 Elantra sedan with the optional four-speed automatic transmission is EPA-rated at 25/33 mpg City/Highway.
Elantra's spacious cabin can seat up to five. We found the front seats very comfortable. The back seats offer ample hip room and adequate legroom, though it's more comfortable with four than it is with five people. Storage compartments galore add to its practicality and convenience.
The Elantra can cruise down the highway at 80 miles per hour all day without straining, and it's quiet at high speeds. The ride is good, although a bad freeway with relentless sharp bumps is more than the Elantra can accept without passing on some of the annoyance to those in the front seats. We found the brakes excellent and the cornering good.
For 2009, a sporty new Elantra Touring model joins the line-up. The Touring is a five-door configuration, with styling that's different than that of the sedan, and on a longer wheelbase. It's a sportier, yet more functional alternative that, by virtue of its sports suspension and more responsive steering, is fun to drive and, at the same time, delivers the versatility and utility of a five-door body style. In fact, it has more interior volume than any other five-door vehicle in its class. Elantra Touring comes standard with Electronic Stability Control, unusual for this class.
Other changes for the 2009 Elantra are minor. For 2009, the audio system has a larger display and improved XM Satellite Radio reception, and there have been enhancements to the instrument cluster design and suspension.
The 2009 Hyundai Elantra comes in four-door sedan and the five-door Touring, with the sedan available in the base GLS version or the upgrade SE. All are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 138 horsepower, and there's a choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
The GLS ($14,120) is the most basic and comes standard with power steering, power locks, windows and keyless entry, power heated mirrors, tinted glass, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat with access to the trunk, and 15-inch wheels with full-size plastic wheel covers. The Popular Equipment Package for the GLS ($1,750) includes things that many car buyers might consider necessary: Air conditioning, 172-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system with XM Satellite Radio, cruise control, foglamps, in-glass antenna and illuminated visor vanity mirrors. The Popular Equipment and Sunroof Package ($2,650) adds the power sunroof.
The SE ($17,020) is the upgrade model and includes all the options in the GLS Preferred Package, plus a telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, 16-inch alloy wheels with wider profile tires and a trip computer. A Premium Package ($1,150) includes a power sunroof and heated front seats. The Premium and Leather Package ($1,950) adds leather seating surfaces.
Cleaner-running PZEV versions (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) are sold in California, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine; they have the automatic transmission and are available in GLS ($15,120) and SE ($17,820) trim.
Elantra Touring ($17,800) is equipped like the SE sedan. Touring also features a cooled glovebox, under-floor storage in the rear and cupholders in the rear armrest. The rear seat is split 60/40 and folds down to provide more space for hauling larger items. A Premium-Sport Package ($1,500) adds 17-inch alloy wheels with P215/45VR17 tires, the power sunroof and heated front seats.
Safety features on all Elantras include anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), front airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, roof-mounted side-curtain airbags, seat-belt pretensioners, adjustable head restraints, LATCH (for child safety seats), front active head restraints, and tire-pressure monitoring. The SE sedan and the Touring models also include standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control and Brake Assist; the ESC system is not available with the base GLS model.