2012 Hyundai Elantra Limited HD Video Review

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Used to be the no-brainer choices in the compact car world were Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Mazda3.  Then Ford and Chevy got on their A game with Focus and Cruze.  All of these are decent cars in a segment that is white hot.

And now there’s Hyundai Elantra.

Hyundai Elantra

I’ll cut to the chase, the 2012 Elantra is a very good automobile, perhaps the most compelling car in its class.  It is stylish, roomy, well made, full of features and priced right.  Tough to beat that combination.

A Bold Move

The outgoing model, generation four, was a pleasant looking vehicle.  A friend of mine has one that he beats up on and it always gets him from point A to point B without any fuss or muss.  Since Hyundai has decided they want to take over the world, that sort of dynamic isn’t good enough for them anymore.

The new model is a bold move forward.  Hyundai’s design language may be called “fluidic sculpture” but it sure like flame design to me (with a nod to Chris Bangle and his BMW creations).  If there were ever a car that physically embodied Mattel’s Hot Wheels logo, this would be it.

Hyundai Elantra

Bang For The Buck

Consider this- my top-of-the-line Limited tester has keyless locks and ignition, an easy to use nav system, backup camera, iPod and Bluetooth phone integration, warms nearly everyone’s kiesters, and bathes the good-looking cabin with sunshine from the sunroof.  All this retails for $23,300, and yes, that includes destination.  In professional auto writer’s jargon, that’s called a heck-of-a-good-deal.

That all means nothing if the drivetrain disappoints.  It doesn’t.  Elantra’s 1.8-liter 4-cylinder churns out 148 horsepower and remains smooth until the upper rev range.  The automatic transmission is a six-speed with manual shift mode.  The six-speed manual is not available on Limited models.   Hyundai Elantra  There are disc brakes at all four corners (11” in front, 10.3 in the rear, naturally they’re ABS).  Remember, Uncle Sam mandates electronic stability control now.

0-60 happens in a competitive 8.6 seconds, not that you’ll be drag racing your neighbors.  The smooth six-speed goes about its business without calling any attention to itself.  Nicely done Hyundai.  Elantra’s ride quality is set up more for comfort but it still scampers around corners quite nicely. It’s fun to fling about in town.

Driving enthusiasts will want more feedback from the tires, some additional heft from steering wheel effort, and less body roll in hard maneuvers but Hyundai’s done a great job of tuning Elantra for the mass market.

2011 Hyundai Elantra

If you’re looking for a quiet cabin, Elantra is not as hushed as the class leader Chevy Cruze or even Ford Focus.  In fact, my ears find Hyundai’s lower priced Accent to have less road noise than its big brother.

Cheap To Feed Too

Fuel economy is one of the top reasons why people buy compact cars.  Elantra achieves the magical marketing number everyone strives for these days, an EPA rating of 40 highway, 29 city.  Don’t think it’s possible in the real world?  With the cruise control set for 62 miles an hour I got an average of 43 (in the right lane of course).  At a more realistic speed of 75 it dropped to 36 MPG.

Fuel economy this good brings up a very good question- Is the added expense of a hybrid system worth the extra cost if your miles are mainly driven on the freeway?  Take Prius for example.  It’s EPA highway rating is 48 mpg, making it about 18 percent more efficient than Elantra.  That’s good but depending on how much you drive it may be hard to recoup the additional financial investment.

Hyundai Elantra

Bold Inside

Elantra’s cabin is not a penalty box, materials all look and feel quite nice.  It’s common for the plastic that surrounds the window controls to hard, here that surface gets soft-touch paint.   A wave pattern perforated into the leather seats gives the cowhide some panache.  Controls all have a uniform quality feel and the seven-inch touch screen gets an interface that is simple and intuitive, something premium brands don’t always achieve.

Small touches aren’t ignored, the door release handles feel better than those found in cars a class or two higher and small cubbies throughout the interior are always welcome.  A quick tap on the turn signal stalk gives three blinks, encouraging lazy people to signal.   Even the sun visor’s pull-out extensions are design to provide maximum coverage, again, better than some luxury vehicles I’ve driven lately.

Want dual-zone or automatic climate control?  Sorry, unavailable (though remember, this car is 23K).  Those looking for a premium audio experience will have to turn to the aftermarket (even though the spec sheet says it pumps out 360 watts of power).  The volume knob with its inverted pie plate shape is more stylish than grippy.

Hyundai Elantra

Attention drivers that sit close to the steering wheel- Check the windshield pillar on your test drive, it may block your left side visibility.  This phenomenon is becoming more common as cars become more aerodynamic.  Limited Elantras add a telescoping feature to the tilt adjustable steering wheel but for some, including my wife, it’s not enough.

Show Your Friends Some Warmth

As for the back seat, at least two of your adult friends should be happy. The outboard positions have a generous amount of leg and foot room.  Headroom is okay too.  The big surprise back here is that the seats are heated. Storage in the doors will hold your Coke.  A foldable center armrest helps people get comfortable.  No power port or pocket on the driver’s chair though.

Time for a TP Test smackdown.  Corolla and Cruze hold six packs of Kirkland brand two-ply bath tissue.  Honda’s new 2012 Civic swallows a lofty seven.  Elantra’s boot is very spacious, matching Civic.  Watch out though, gooseneck hinge arms can pinch cargo when closing the lid.  Need more trunk room?  Elantra will oblige with split folding seatbacks.

2011 Hyundai Elantra

Don’t expect to get a deep discount on an Elantra.  I stopped into a dealership while car shopping with my wife and the only unit they had on hand was a demo.  Basically, people are buying them before they hit the lot.  The only problem Hyundai has is making enough of them.

Elantra starts at $17,200 with a manual transmission.  Add in Hyundai’s 10-year warranty and their new trade-in value assurance plan and it’s a mighty solid proposition. It’s a new brave new world in the auto industry, everyone has great product these days.  That makes it both easier and hard to shop for a car these days. That said, if you’re shopping for a compact sedan and dismiss Elantra because of preconceived perceptions, you’re only cheating yourself.



  1. crash says:

    @ Final Blue – just so I’m clear – you’re roasting Tom about a review that agrees with / supports the rest of mass media – and you think it’s a conspiracy / ‘review / advertisement’. Here’s a notion – maybe he’s right. Maybe the mass media is right. Hyundai and Kia have been on a roll recently; the sales are there to prove it. I might also point out that their success is extremely well deserved (be it style, quality or value). Certainly not all their products fit my personal tastes – however I can understand the market appreciating them. I don’t believe he’s knocked the competition – if you haven’t been paying attention, it isn’t his journalistic style.

    Also – there is a key on the video that allows for rewinding or replaying a video (there is also a fast forward key to avoid any nausea you suffered from an ill perceived love fest w/ H/K). Use of these functions would have allowed you to see and hear that he visited a H/K dealership w/ his wife in search of a car for personal purchase; they don’t own one.

    Finally, a cursory search of the home page would reveal this background on their car search (code named, we’re buying a new car) that show the ‘biased’ tactics he and the little Mrs. are using. If you still feel he is biased – I’d be more then willing to suggest a few tactics that you could employ to lighten up.

    • FinalBlue says:

      Ok. Thanks for the feedback!

      • FinalBlue says:

        Oh wait…you’re absolutely correct on him not owning an Elantra. I should probably have gotten my facts 100% straight on that before I mentioned him owning one. My bad.

        Also, there’s no need to be so defensive and insulting. It’s not really fair (or polite) to tell me to lighten up when you’re getting bent out of shape over my comment.

        • crash says:

          Sorry fella. It sounded like you were about to flame – I was having a bad day …my bad.

          Here’s a beer. Lets hug it out. :)

  2. FinalBlue says:

    “I sometimes hold the reviews for up to a few months while trying to balance things like price point, MANUFACTURER, body styles, ect…”.

    Out of the last 6 reviews, Tom, 4 have been a Hyundai or Kia product. 2 have been small, somewhat sporty hatches, the other two were gas-sipping (according to EPA ratings, at least) sedans. Every single bloody one of their videos is a “H/K really knocked this one out of the park” review/advertisement. When I saw the heading for the video claim “And it’s very, very good”, I knew that any semblance of constructive criticism toward the car was about to be tossed out the window for another predictable, played-out, H/K tongue bath review.

    I’m disappointed, to say the least. Not that I expected a review of a car you own (I think you said you have one. I might be wrong) to be strongly negative, but the adulation is a little overwhelming. The amount of over-exaggerated praise H/K cars are getting from the media is starting to get so putrid that I can’t even get worked up about it anymore.

    Also, from 1:42 to 1:52 in the video, the sound is really patchy. Is the road noise from the Elantra just that terrible (funnily enough, the same thing occurred in the Rio review just as you were saying how quiet it is), or was there a microphone malfunction?

    Also, while I can’t tell you how to do your reviews, I’m pretty sure the whole point of a REAL WORLD fuel economy test is to see what mpg you observe while driving as you normally would during a regular day (meaning a mix of city and highway driving), not by turning on cruise control and driving on the highway for 20 miles (unless by some bizarre coincidence your commute is literally 100% highway driving).

    This counts as my Rio review…comeback (?), I suppose.

    • TV says:

      I’ll take your concerns in order.

      Agreed about a lot of Hyundai Kia reviews but unfortunately that’s the way it goes. My boss expects a piece every week, sometimes I need to take the press vehicles that are offered. This is kind of the order they came in. I prefer to mix brands and price classes up which is why last week was the Evoque. It’s not a perfect process. You’ll be glad to know I’m running a Toyota this week. But FYI, I have a 2012 Kia Soul story shot and ready to go. Accent too. Just warning you…

      Actually, I shot the Elantra 7-8 weeks ago but had some tech difficulty and had to hold it. Rio was run because I could get it posted just as the embargo was lifted which gives me more hits. Same with Veloster.

      I do not own an Elantra though I will say I told my wife to take a good hard look at it when I had it for a week. She wants a hatch/wagon though plus the A pillar blocks her side view a bit.

      How does stating that “it’s very very good” mean I’m not looking at it closely? Maybe it means I was extra hard on it and it came out a winner. If any writer scrutinizes a car and finds it “very very good”, well than that’s the writer’s opinion. Pretty simple really, and common sense. If you look at the cars I’ve owned over the years, I’m not brand loyal and really don’t care about what kinds of cars people buy (though I hate it when people don’t do their research).

      The poor audio is part of the tech problems I had and the sound had to be taken off the GoPro (which does not sound very good). Generally, a car is an awful place to do audio, even though I use very good mics.

      Fuel economy- As I’ve stated before, I can’t tell if the driver before me topped off the tank or put the correct fuel in (though Elantra runs on standard gas so that’s not an issue). I don’t drive the cars enough to accurately estimate fuel economy (I’d like to see the average of 3-4 tanks to be truly accurate) but I can occasionally try. I’m just one guy with a limited budget, I don’t have a staff.

      I stated my driving style so people could get an idea of what I did to get the mileage I achieved. If that’s not a viewer’s driving situation, I can’t help it. I was able to use the cruse for 60 miles that day. FYI, my daily commute involves NO highway milage at all, I live quite close to work. In addition to the daily driving I do, I have a 47 mile determined loop with a bunch of different road conditions. I’ve driven it so many times I have names for some of the permanent bumps on the course. It’s time consuming but the standardization is worth it.

      If there’s anything I miss about doing these reviews, it’s sitting down to devour a good car magazine. For the most part, I don’t read anyone else’s review until I write mine (which means I have lots of Car and Driver issues laying around that are unread). If you think there’s a conspiracy, I’m not part of it. I’m on my own out here in Seattle and seldom have other writers to conspire with.

      In short, I’ll stand by my piece FB. Looking at Elantra objectively, I believe that Hyundai nailed this car in its class (though I’d still like to see it quieter). Even executives from other manufactures I talk to at launch events have great admiration for some of these products from HK. It keeps everyone on their toes.

  3. Ted says:

    Can’t wait for the restyled Aston DBS to hit the streets. And test driving it will for sure cure Tom’s Kyundai addiction lol I am sure that sculpted metallic gearknob left an imprint back in the days, isn’t it?

  4. jlkdmd298d says:

    I test drove this car and was really impressed. The limited model is packed with all the features I would need and I have read in many places how easy it is to use everything. I usually gravitate towards larger and more expensive cars but this little elantra may be my next purchase. I think it is one of the best looking vehicles on the road.

  5. augaug says:

    That is one great looking, feature packed, well priced car! I’m with you on this one Tom, I think it looks better than all kinds of other cars, including the luxury brands.

  6. luvincarsindaburgh says:

    This Elantra is a beautiful little car. A girl at work has a Baby blue model- I walk by it everyday- very good looking. It sounds like Hyundai is packing this little car with tons of features. I wonder if we will see a restyling of the Kia Forte into the futuristic swoopyness?

  7. Ken says:

    There used to be no Korean cars on my street, only the German or Japanese cars, now there are 4 Hyundais, they are really doing well. Elentra is better looking than Forte, but Optima is better looking than Sonata. I saw a Opitma the other day in front of a mansion in Beverly Hills! Unbelievable!