Hyundai Elantra sedan: 40 mpg and priced below $15k

Repeat after me: Hip-hip-hooray, 40-for-all! Say it again. Sing it if you want. Hyundai wants you to be happy, so they’ve built a sedan that gets 40 miles per gallon — with no optional equipment upgrades required.

For 2011, Hyundai’s base-priced $14,830 Elantra sedan is equipped with a new 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that has across the board EPA ratings of 40 mpg highway and 29 mpg in city driving — yep, those ratings apply universally to either the six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions.

We met with Hyundai executives in early spring who stressed upon us that other compact class competitors don’t come close to achieving 40 mpg — or if they do car shoppers have to “buy-up” with optional equipment in order to get the car that delivers 40 mpgs. Hyundai was taking aim specifically at Ford and General Motors.

The execs pulled out charts comparing the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze and the Ford Fiesta whose base-priced models achieve 22/35 mpg and 28/37 mpg, respectively. Only when buyers opt for the higher-priced packages do they get the better EPA models that rate 28/42 (Cruze) and 29/40 (Fiesta).

Hyundai says, “Well fellas, we think everybody should get 40 mpg.”
Nobody should have to pony-up more than the price of admission to get a good quality car that delivers excellent fuel economy. The compact Elantra’s gasoline tank has a capacity of 12.8 gallons. Do the math: 12.8-gallon tank x $4.00 = $51.20. That is painful. Fifty-one dollars to fill up the tank of a compact car?! Give me a break.

Well, Hyundai hears you. And though they don’t control the price of gas, they do control their own prices. The 2011 Elantra is offered in two trims starting at $14,830 for the six-speed manual GLS, and $17,080 for the GLS with the six-speed automatic, and $19,980 for the Limited. Optional features are offered that allow the owner to make the Elantra as convenience-oriented and creature-comforted as possible.

Our tester was the Limited and Hyundai demonstrates with this top-of-the-line model that modern upgrades can be added that still keep the car priced well below industry average transactions. Among a few of the extras, the Elantra Limited featured a $2,000 high-resolution 7-inch screen navigation system with rearview camera that clear to see at a glance and didn’t have teensy-weensy buttons.

On the outside, the Elantra is a good-looking car with sweeping lines that suggest a fluid motion that is never boring, which is especially appealing from a compact car. The 2011 Elantra features 15-inch alloy wheels, as well as 16- and 17-inch wheels. Side mirror repeat signals and fog lamps are available, too. The 2011 Elantra also managed to grow a bit, adding interior comfort for passengers. It is slightly lower to the ground, and is slightly increased in wheelbase and length.

Under the hood, Hyundai replaced the previous “Beta” 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an all-new “Nu” 1.8-liter I-4 that is lighter and has helped this new model achieve its high EPA ratings. The 1.8L generates 148 horsepower and 131 lb.-ft. of torque. Both the manual and automatic transmissions in the 2011 Elantra are of all-new design that help contribute to improved fuel economy figures. Just in case you’re wondering the 2010 Elantra’s 2.0L powerplant is rated at 26/35 mpg.

Hyundai is now building its own six-speed automatic transmissions and the 2011 Elantra is the first small car of Hyundai’s to get the six-automatic. The Hyundai Elantra is being built at the automaker’s Montgomery, Ala. plant. — Connie Keane, Motor Matters

VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger FWD compact sedan
BASE PRICE___________________ $19,990 (as tested: $22,830)
MOTOR TYPE___________________ 16-valve DOHC 4-cylinder
DISPLACEMENT_________________ 1.8-liter
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 148 at 6500 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_____________ 131 at 4700 rpm
TRANSMISSION_________________ 6-speed automatic
WHEELBASE____________________ 106.3 in.
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 178.3 in.
TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb) 34.8 ft.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 12.8 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 29 mpg city, 40 mpg highway
Copyright, AutoWriters Associates Inc., 2011

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