DETROIT - We expected the 2007 Hyundai Elantra to feel pretty shoddy. After all, we had just gotten out of a Porsche Cayman and felt that there was no way the Elantra, which cost $40,000 less, could measure up. We were wrong.
Of course, the Elantra could not match the Cayman's 245 horsepower horizontally opposed six cylinder engine. But its 138 horsepower four cylinder engine was excellent. And the five- speed manual transmission it was mated to was an easy shifter.
The clutch pedal was light and after driving a rear- wheel drive sports car we had to adjust to the front- wheel drive sedan when cornering. But the Elantra was a very pleasant drive. Plus, unlike the Cayman, it was a year- round all weather everyday driver.
And it was cost efficient to operate. In these times of hefty gasoline prices, our test car's EPA rating was 28 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.
Our test car was spunky, very maneuverable and it had a tight turning radius of 33.9 feet. The Elantra had an independent suspension fore and aft. The front was sturdied by MacPherson struts and the rear was softened by a multilink set up. Both ends of our test car's suspension had gas shock absorbers.
This gave the Elantra a big car ride although it was a subcompact sedan. That's saying something since the streets here had just gone through a relatively brutal six week stretch of winter when we got the car. They were rift with pot holes, ruddy surfaces and in overall bad shape.
Yet our Elantra smoothed them right out. There were some bumps but the car's suspension provided a comfortable ride. Since the expressway we use on a daily basis was closed for repairs, we didn't get extensive time to put the Elantra through any real high speed paces. But its surface street manners were great.
The Elantra had a high seating position so we never felt overwhelmed by the larger, sometimes much larger, vehicles all round us. Acceleration was good enough to keep us out of harm's way. And our test car was comfortable, really comfortable. It was outfitted with high grade cloth seats and they supplied lots of lower back support.
We were really impressed with the Elantra's equipment. Among its standard offerings were a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, fog lights, ABS, side curtain airbags, functional headrests a 60/40 folding rear seats, a good bit of trunk space and 16- inch wheels.
The back seats were spacious, there was plenty of headroom, leg room was sufficient and there was enough hip room for two adults. The Elantra could carry four full- size adults comfortably. The car really was a sturdy, dependable family sedan.
It also had some creature comforts that we appreciated. There was a CD player with an auxiliary jack for our iPod. The Cayman didn't have that auxiliary jack. And the sound system really thumped. In fact, the audio output was top notch.
Our test car didn't have one option. We found that impressive, too. Alas, our test drive was cut short by a pre- existing business trip so we did not get to spend an entire week in the Elantra. But after only a few days we saw enough to know that the Hyundai Elantra was a capable little sedan.
If price is an issue, our test vehicle cost $15,780; then the Elantra should be on your hopping list.