What's New for 2006
A Limited sedan with leather seats and wood grain accents has been added to the Elantra lineup.
The Hyundai Elantra has always been a winner in our opinion, especially after it got a complete overhaul in 2001, adding interior space and exterior size, along with a full load of standard equipment, without a substantial boost in the price. For those who still have their doubts, Hyundai continues to back the Elantra with an industry-leading 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage.
To keep things interesting, Hyundai began selling a five-door hatchback version for the 2002 model year. Hatchbacks offer 28 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the rear seats in use and 37 cubes when they're folded. Cabin accommodations are simple yet comfortable, and all of the controls are easy to find and use. Further, the Hyundai Elantra caters to commuters, providing a smooth ride on the highway and no-fuss handling in the parking lot. Some buyers may find the base GLS too soft in the corners, but if that's the case, the more firmly tuned GT sedan and hatchback are available, though even the GT is a bit on the soft side as well.
The Elantra is not without faults; ABS is buried in expensive option packages, and the car's engine is not as strong or refined as the class leaders. Additionally, the cabin, though comfortable, is becoming rather dated. Adding insult to injury, the Spectra offers all the good things we like about the Elantra, along with more features, for a lower price. The 2006 Hyundai Elantra is not an undesirable car, it's just not the complete package it once was. Until the redesigned Elantra hits showrooms, we suggest you carefully consider the competition before you buy.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Hyundai Elantra sedan is available in GLS, Limited and GT trim, while the five-door hatchback comes in either GLS or GT. Standard equipment on the GLS includes air conditioning; power windows, mirrors and locks; keyless entry; a center armrest with storage; and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat. In addition to that, the GLS hatchback includes a sport suspension and four-wheel disc brakes. The Limited adds wood grain trim, leather seating, chrome trim and foglights. GT models provide all of the above, plus alloy wheels, cruise control, an instrument panel with red/blue illumination and trip computer, a six-speaker CD audio system and a rear spoiler. Among the factory options are cruise control and a CD player on GLS models, and antilock brakes and a sunroof on all trims.
Powertrains and Performance
Every Elantra comes with a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine good for 138 horsepower (132 with SULEV emissions equipment). Drivers have their choice of either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. If you like shifting your own gears, the manual is definitely the way to go, as it makes it easy to keep the engine in its power band. Equipped with the automatic, the Hyundai Elantra delivers ample around-town power but can feel sluggish during highway passing maneuvers, as the transmission waits too long to downshift.
Side airbags for front occupants are standard on all Elantras, and antilock brakes are optional. In government crash testing, the Hyundai Elantra earned five stars out of five for driver protection in frontal impacts and four stars for the front passenger. In side-impact tests, the Elantra received five stars for front-occupant protection and four stars for rear-occupant protection. The IIHS gave it a "Good" rating for frontal-offset protection, but a "Poor" rating for side impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the Elantra has a dated but simple layout. It's not exciting, but the switchgear is high in quality and all of the controls are right where you expect them to be. GT models have a more upscale flavor with leather wrappings on the seats, steering wheel and shift knob, as well as Volkswagen-inspired red-and-blue gauge illumination -- it's a nice idea, but it clashes with the green backlighting on the center stack. Hatchbacks offer 20 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the rear seats in use and 37 cubes when they're folded.
The 2006 Hyundai Elantra excels at Point-A-to-B driving where a comfortable ride and light, easy handling are assets. In GT form, the suspension has slightly thicker stabilizer bars and firmer shock tuning, but the ride quality remains smooth and forgiving. There's plenty of body roll around corners with either setup, but the car behaves in such a predictable manner you're never caught off-guard.