Santa Monica - Hyundai realized that the previous Elantra was a rather conventional feeling car and has upgraded the 2007 Elantra with more personal touches that gives it a more sophisticated look and feel than the previous model.
The exterior upgrades include distinctive headlamps, bold hood design, chrome accented grille, an aggressive looking lower air intake and new fog lights. The door handles and mirrors have the same bodycolor as the car. The side sculpturing, referred to as coke bottle sculpturing, gives a sleek look and a better coefficient of drag.
The Elantra and the Santa Fe have similar features and according to John Krafcik, Hyundai Motor America vice president of Product Development and Strategic Planning says that it because both were designed by Joel Piaskowski, Chief Designer at the Hyundai Kia Design and Technical Center in Irvine, CA.
The two-tone interior of the new Elantra is both ergonomic and intuitive. Things are where you expect them to be and buttons and switches work the way one expects. There is less glare from the sun because Hyundai used low gloss on the dash. Even though Hyundai doesn't list it as a safety feature there is access to controls for the radio on the steering wheel, which allows one to keep their eyes on the road.
New on the Elantra is blue backlit illumination on the instrument panel and the console. The Tiburon and Santa Fe already has blue lighting and Hyundai has received compliments, so they brought it to the Elantra. Hyundai has increased the storage spaces on the Elantra, including an illuminated glove box and more cupholders. As Krafcik said, "We overcompensated, in typical Hyundai fashion we killed it. No consumer will complain because of lack of storage".
The car I test drove was the 2007 Hyundai Elantra SE, carbon gray, that gets 28 city and 36 highway. The MSRP for the car was $15,695 plus $85 for carpeted floor mats for a total of $15,780, not including freight. Less than $16,000 and yet the Elantra feels and looks like it would cost twice that much. Amazingly, heated seats are standard as well as heated outside mirrors.
The key competitors for the Hyundai Elantra, according to Hyundai, are the Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Chevy Cobalt and the Mazda3. According to EPA regulations, Elantra should be classified as a mid-size car. The interior exceeds the interior volume of a compact, but the exterior does not, so the Hyundai stays listed as a compact and gets bragging rights for the most interior room of that segment.
The 2007 Elantra has a 172 watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 system with equalizer and 6 speakers The majority of the Elantras will come with XM satellite standard on the Elantra. Hyundai must have just made the deal with XM because the first group of Elantras didn't have XM as standard. Look for the Sonata and Santa Fe with XM as standard as well. 220 watt is available and optional bluetooth will be available soon, as well as an IPOD auxiliary jack.
Hyundai claims unsurpassed standard safety features for their class. Six standard airbags, anti-lock braking system (ABS) with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), 4-wheel disc brakes and front seat active head restraints. The Honda Civic is the only car that comes close to meeting these safety standards in the competing cars Hyundai mentioned above. New in the safety department is something Hyundai calls shingle-style rear head restraints. When a passenger is in the back seat the headrest is up, when no one is in the backseat the rear headrest goes down into the seat, so there is no obstruction in the rear window.
The Hyundai engineers were proud to announce that they had decreased the overall weight of the car by sixty pounds. Between the reduction in weight and the calibration of the engine and overdrive torque converter Hyundai was able to improve the fuel economy by 4 miles per gallon over the previous model. In a fuel economy conscious segment that is huge.
The 2.0-liter engine gets 138 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm with 136 lb.-ft of torque @ 4,600 rpm. This is not the engine that Hyundai shares with Mitsubishi and DaimlerChrysler. The engine is listed as Ultra-low emissions vehicle (ULEV) in most states and partial zero emissions vehicle (PZEV) in California, where there are stricter emission laws. There is a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic, both getting 28city/36 highway on fuel economy.
Of the competitors mentioned above, the 2007 Toyota Corolla and 2007 Honda Civic get the best fuel economy. However, according to Hyundai, they have 1.8-liter engines, which gives them less torque. The biggest number surprise came from the 2007 Chevy Cobalt; all the other vehicles are under 3,000 curb weight pounds. The 3,216 curb weight poundage explains why the Cobalt used a 2.2-liter and only gets 25 city/34 highway.
There are three trim levels for the new 2007 Hyundai Elantra; the SE,starting at $16,295, is the sporty model; the GLS, starting at $13,995, is the volume model and the limited is, starting at $17,295, the luxury model. All the prices include freight. All the models have the same chassis tuning, the big difference comes in wheels and tires. Hyundai is expecting the GLS, the volume model, to account for 70 percent of the sales with 50 percent of those sales including the preferred package. Including the preferred package the GLS would be $16,495.
Hyundai did the math and found that the 2007 Hyundai Elantra GLS Automatic with the preferred package has a $2,340 price advantage over a comparably equipped 2007 Nissan Sentra S CVT, a $1,585 price advantage over a comparably equipped 2007 Toyota Corolla LE automatic and a $2,179 price advantage over a comparably equipped 2007 Honda Civic LX automatic.
The United States is the key global market for the Elantra, the have sold over 1 million Elantras in the States, so Hyundai is pulling out all the stops. According to Steve Wilhite, COO, Hyundai Motor America, Hyundai will be bringing out a hybrid by the end of the decade. The Hyundai hybrid will be Hyundai's own hybrid. Wilhite is also very interested in bringing the diesel engine they have in Europe to the United States.
When asked whether Hyundai would be interested in manufacturing cars in China and bringing them to the United States Wilhite said Hyundai was interested in making big investments in China, India and Europe.
The new round of Hyundais will bring competition to the vehicles in each of their segments and cause even Toyota to notice them. One has to wonder how low China can go in price and still be equal to the same quality that Hyundai is bringing out.