2007 Hyundai Elantra Road Test

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2007 Hyundai Elantra Sedan

(2.0L 4-cyl. 5-speed Manual)
  • 2007 Hyundai Elantra Picture

    2007 Hyundai Elantra Picture

    The 2007 Elantra's independent suspension keeps body motions under control and the overall cornering limits are surprisingly high. | September 15, 2009

15 Photos

It's not about the warranty

We have a bulletin about the 2007 Hyundai Elantra: It's not all about the warranty anymore.

Sure, it's hard to complain about Hyundai's 100,000-mile warranty, but the all-new 2007 Hyundai Elantra is so good, it can stand on its own merits. This all-new redesign of Hyundai's compact sedan is more spacious, better built, more fuel-efficient and even more responsive to drive.

Yes, the 100,000-mile warranty adds a dimension to the 2007 Hyundai Elantra that other small sedans don't have, but you'll care more about this front-wheel-drive Hyundai's practical, enthusiastic personality on the road than the paperwork in the glovebox.

Would you believe it's midsize?
Thanks to its comprehensive makeover, the 2007 Hyundai Elantra sedan's overall interior volume has ballooned to 112.1 cubic feet, which makes it one of the most spacious small sedans on the market. Compared to the previous platform, the new Elantra's wheelbase has been stretched 1.5 inches, while its body is 2 inches wider and 2.2 inches taller.

Although the new Nissan Sentra is larger on the outside, the Elantra has more interior volume than the Sentra, and the Hyundai's front-seat legroom is more generous than anything in its class. This all-new Elantra has also been engineered to a high standard. Its chassis is 49-percent more rigid than before (9-percent stiffer than even that of the Toyota Corolla), and this translates to a quieter ride and better handling.

Just as important, the new Elantra reflects Hyundai's continuing emphasis on a long list of safety features as standard equipment. This includes disc brakes on all four wheels and antilock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, not to mention front seatbelt pre-tensioners, front airbags, front-seat side airbags and curtain-type head protection airbags for front- and rear-seat passengers.

Choose your trim level
The Elantra's model lineup is slightly different this year. The $13,995 GLS makes up the vast majority of the model mix, but a few key features like air-conditioning and an audio system are optional in order to create an artificially low price.

A $16,295 SE model includes all the interior niceties you expect, including air-conditioning, a six-speaker 172-watt audio system with a six-disc CD changer and an input jack for an MP3 player (plus standard XM satellite-ready radio), a full complement of power accessories, and even cruise control.

At the top of the line, there's the $17,295 Limited model with leather upholstery and heated seats. We tested an Elantra SE, and its $16,380 sticker price included floor mats as an $85 option.

Diet for a speedy small sedan
Hyundai's aging 2.0-liter DOHC inline-4 engine with its heavy iron block is under the hood, but the Korean engineers have coaxed some pretty strong performance out of it, as it makes 138 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 136 pound-feet of torque at 4,600 rpm. Engine response low in the rpm range is particularly good thanks to variable valve timing, and we got a chirp out of the SE's model's standard 205/55HR16 Kumho tires.

The Elantra isn't exactly meant to be a performance sedan, though, as the clutch take-up for the five-speed manual transmission is numb at best and grabs as it engages — not the kind of behavior you want in commute-hour traffic. And as smooth and enthusiastic as the engine might be at civilized speeds, the power delivery gets noisy above 3,500 rpm. If you restrain yourself at highway speed, the Elantra is actually fractionally quieter than a Honda Civic.

So it's noisy, but the Elantra's engine also delivers impressive acceleration. During our testing, the Elantra reached 60 mph in just 8.4 seconds, and it went through the quarter-mile in 16.4 seconds at 83 mph. These are numbers that put the Hyundai right in the middle of a pack that includes the Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Nissan Sentra.

Controlled consumption
When you look at fuel economy, the Hyundai Elantra is even more impressive. The Korean engineers tinkered with lots of details, including engine friction, transmission efficiency and tire rolling resistance, and all these little things added up to some big numbers. When equipped with the four-speed automatic transmission, the Elantra's fuel economy has improved no less than 4 mpg, to 28 mpg city/36 mpg highway. An Elantra with a manual transmission also improves to 28 mpg city/36 mpg highway.

We tested the 2007 Hyundai Elantra's fuel economy on a 170-mile loop, holding our top speed to 70 mph and generally driving as if Mom were riding shotgun. We were rewarded with an average of 34.5 mpg — better than any tank recorded during our '01 Elantra long-term test. For the complete 675 miles of testing, our Elantra SE with its five-speed manual transmission returned 26.7 mpg. In this class, only the Honda Civic (30 mpg city/38 mpg highway) and Toyota Corolla (32 mpg city/41 mpg highway) have significantly higher EPA mileage ratings.

Un-Hyundai handling
One of the Elantra's high-tech features that improve fuel economy is the incorporation of electronic power-assist steering, which adds 0.7 mpg to its mileage rating. Sometimes electronic-assist produces steering efforts that seem to vary unexpectedly, but the Elantra SE's electronic steering always felt right to us.

The Hyundai Elantra really surprised us on the back roads of the Santa Monica Mountains. The suspension delivers lots of comfort with plenty of wheel travel, yet the cornering limits are surprisingly high. The gas-charged suspension dampers help control body motions, and there's not too much roll in the corners. The Elantra SE's wide 205/55HR16 tires help the car track through the corners.

As a measure of its handling precision and cornering grip, the 2007 Hyundai Elantra averaged 65.3 mph through our slalom test. In this class of small sedans, only the Mazda 3's rating of 69 mph is faster. On the skid pad, the Elantra achieved 0.80g, on par with an '06 Civic EX equipped with the same tires.

As we mentioned, four-wheel disc brakes and ABS are standard, although the benefits lie in fade resistance and emergency maneuvering rather than sheer stopping power. In any case, our test vehicle stopped from 60 mph in 128 feet, a fraction shorter than the Honda's 130 feet but not quite to the standard set by the Mazda 3's 118 feet.

Furnished to a high standard
In keeping with its more sophisticated road manners, the 2007 Hyundai Elantra has a cabin with a surprising combination of good design and good materials. A soft shade of blue light now illuminates all the gauges at night, just like a Volkswagen.

Part of the secret of the Elantra's new spaciousness is a wider and taller body, yet the driving position doesn't feel unnaturally tall. Not that it really matters, as a tilt-telescoping steering wheel and a height-adjustable driver seat ensure that almost anyone can get comfortable behind the wheel. The field of view is expansive, which makes you feel safe and at ease in traffic. We liked the seats during our long drives, although the anti-whiplash head restraints for the seats aren't ponytail-friendly.

The Elantra's reconfigured interior also offers a surprisingly spacious rear seat, as the bench is high enough to let you find a comfortable position for your legs.

Lay down your warranty
Hyundai hasn't got the image Honda has in the U.S., but once you take a test-drive, you'll realize that the Korean company is trying hard to deliver the same spirit of practicality and fun that you find in every Honda Civic.

This is also the kind of car that makes a strong case with those who have sharp pencils in hand and are figuring the dollars and cents of a car purchase. Consider that the '07 Elantra SE is:

  • $580 cheaper than a comparably equipped Civic LX ($16,960)
  • $645 cheaper than a comparably equipped Sentra S ($17,025)
  • $790 cheaper than a comparably equipped Mazda 3 i Touring ($17,170)
  • $1,635 cheaper than a comparably equipped Corolla S ($18,015)

Great. Now we're patting Hyundai again on the back for its affordable pricing. Really, it's not the warranty, it's not the price — it's the car.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Stereo Evaluation

How does it sound: Considering the Elantra SE's $16,295 base price, the standard 172-watt audio system sounds fair overall. There's not much bass, but the six speakers fill the cabin nicely. Separation is lacking, but the strong highs add a bit of clarity to what would otherwise be a very muddy-sounding system.

How does it work: The Elantra's base audio system is so simple that it couldn't be anything but easy to use. The glowing blue display is easy to read and it's relatively large for such an inexpensive car. Buttons are well placed for the most part and the labels are easy to read. Steering-wheel-mounted audio controls are standard on the SE and Limited, and they are large enough to be useful.

Special features: An auxiliary jack for connecting handheld MP3 players is standard for the Elantra SE and Limited. An upgraded 220-watt system with six-disc CD changer is available as an option, but only on the high-line Limited model. XM radio will be available later in the 2007 model year and even the SE's standard radio will come pre-wired for that extra-cost option.

Conclusion: With six speakers and the option of XM Satellite Radio, the Elantra's stereo is just about where it should be in terms of performance and features considering its sub-$20,000 price. — Brian Moody

Second Opinions

Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton says:
I thought it'd be easy to recommend the Hyundai Elantra simply based on the content offered at its $16K as-tested price. I was a little surprised to learn there are 20 sedans from which to choose if you follow this Edmunds.com link to Sedans: Under $15K, including this 2007 Hyundai Elantra.

So which one is best in this obviously competitive segment? Across the board, the majority of base prices appear to be in the range of $13K-$15K, so there must be another factor. Fuel economy would seem another good way to sort out the winners from the losers, but my unscientific survey shows that 28 mpg city/36 mpg highway EPA ratings are common. Choose on appearance? That's up to you.

If it were up to me to pick an economy car, I'd choose one that doesn't feel like a stripped-down penalty box, and I'd make sure it drives with at least a modicum of enthusiasm. The Elantra fits this description very well.

I was immediately impressed with the quality of the Elantra's design, interior materials and features. From behind the wheel, it feels and looks like a more expensive car. When I tested the Elantra at the track, its ability to grip the pavement and inspire confidence in the driver made it a real standout in its class. I suspect there are people out there like me who'd prefer a sportier economy car like this over a slow, uninspiring, barely adequate one.

Content Editor Warren Clarke says:
The Elantra offers a bargain-basement price tag with remarkably few compromises. I was impressed with the look of its sheet metal. High beltlines are all the rage, so this design cue gives this Hyundai a very contemporary feel.

Given this car's price range, there's bound to be lots of plastic in the interior, but it's nicely textured, and there's a faux metal panel on the center console that pleases the eye. The plastic used for the cabin's door handles is designed to resemble brushed metal, and it blends nicely with the rest of the door to help give the Elantra's interior a reasonably upscale feel. The seat fabric is acceptable, but the dated-looking print is perhaps the cabin's most noticeable misstep.

Most impressive of all is the Elantra's 2.0-liter engine. The Elantra proved itself eager and capable both on the freeway and on surface streets. It was fun to drive, which is quite a feat for a car in this price bracket.

Consumer Commentary

"So I just bought the Elantra, pretty much the first one in the area which is pretty sweet. I have only driven it for about 150 miles, but all the first impressions are great! Interior with all the blue lighting is awesome. Standard features are great, too (with preferred package on GLS model)! It drives very smooth, very smooth. It's easy to be going faster than you think you are. 70 on the highway with low noise¿ Favorite features: Gas mileage is lookin' good, interior space, style, comfort, enjoyable ride. Suggested improvements: Automatic isn't extremely peppy, but gets the job done, paint job looks like it could have used another coat before the clear-coat." — Mcnack7, October 22, 2006

"On Oct 10th, my fiancé and I were in a car accident that totaled our 2004 Hyundai Elantra¿ After looking at many different cars and dealerships, we ended up going back to the guys who sold us the '04 and buying an '07. My first impression of the '07 was how well it handled. I'm able to turn corners sharper than before and my acceleration is amazing compared to anything else I've driven. The trunk space is amazing (though you wouldn't think so from the outside!) The small details are great — a purse/trash holder in front is neat!" — Kirsten, October 19, 2006

— Edited by Erin Riches

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