The 2012 Hyundai Elantra stands out in the affordable small car class for its upscale features and good-looking exterior. Selling in an MSRP range of $15,195 to $20,445, the Elantra is also fuel efficient, returning 29 mpg city and an truly impressive 40 mpg highway. With a roomy cabin and trunk and surprising extras like heated back seats, the Elantra is more than ready to compete for consumer dollars and to deliver on what it promises.
That competition is principally represented by the Honda Civic and the Kia Forte. Of the crew, the Civic has picked up a complete redesign for 2012, but it's not really an impressive make-over. It's a little hard to share reviewer love on a model that doesn't offer standard AC or any kind of audio at the base level. The Kia does a nice job of matching the Elantra's amenities, and for about $1,500 less on the opening sticker.
The Elantra was redesigned in 2011, so it carries over into the new model year unchanged. There have been some improvements on steering calibration and the GLS Preferred Package now includes fog lights. Technologically, the Hyundai Active Eco System, which is paired with all automatic transmissions, has picked up another 7 pecent in fuel efficiency. (That's a company claim and has not yet been verified in independent testing.)
In terms of performance, expect the Elantra to be a well-rounded sedan that steers accurately and returns solid braking performance. The 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine has moderate power at 148 hp and comes with a manual transmission standard (with an option for a six-speed automatic.)
The cabin is a pleasant surprise in an affordable small car, and buyers who go up to the Limited trim will get highly desireable features like Bluetooth, navigation, a tilt / telescoping wheel, heated leather seats in the back, and a rearview camera. There's plenty of room for drivers and passengers, although head room does dip down in the back. There are too many plastics for the interior to actually cross the line to luxury, but it's exceptionally nice.
Cargo space in the trunk is very good for the class, one of the largest, in fact, at 14.8 cubic feet compared to 12.5 for the Honda Civic and 14.7 for the Kia Forte. There is no spare tire, in a bit to reduce weight and up fuel efficiency, tut there is a tire inflator kit.
Neither the federal government nor the insurance industry have tested the 2012 Elantra, but the 2011 received top scores for front, side, rear, and roof strength tests. The fact that the Elantra has standard electronic stability control tipped it into positin as a 2011 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick.
Although not the best affordable small car on the market, the 2012 Hyundai Elantra sits near the top of its class for good looks, upscale available features, and excellent fuel economy. Comfortable and dependable, the Elantra is a strong contender for your buying dollars if you want a capable daily commuter car with a touch of flair and a hint of luxury.