What's New for 2009
The Hyundai Elantra gets enhanced suspension and steering tuning for 2009, along with new interior instrument and radio displays. A USB/iPod audio jack is now available.
If you're reading this, that means you've stumbled upon the 2009 Hyundai Elantra. Good for you, because like Aladdin discovering the lamp inside that giant sand cavern, the Elantra represents a rewarding find among a variety of seemingly more tantalizing choices. Although compact sedans like the Honda Civic, Mazda 3 and Toyota Corolla get most of the attention from car buyers, the Elantra manages to match or even beat these little big boys at their own game, while featuring a lower price and a longer warranty. It's certainly a diamond in the rough.
For starters, the Elantra is the most spacious vehicle in the compact sedan class -- it's so big, in fact, that the EPA classifies it as a midsize. This can best be experienced in the backseat, where a high-mounted bench, generous foot room and ample head clearance make it an easy fit for full-size adults. The front seat also provides an impressive amount of space for taller drivers, given that competitors are often inhospitable for those north of 6 feet. The trunk and storage cubbies are also sizable.
On paper, the Elantra's engine is unremarkable. It's a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 138 horsepower and a heavy iron block. In the real world, however, it's surprisingly responsive and fuel efficient, with only a somewhat agricultural engine note at high rpm being a distraction. Once under way, the Elantra continues to impress with a smooth ride and confidence-inspiring handling. As long as you opt for the Popular Equipment package, even the lower trim level GLS cossets its passengers with a generous amount of features and a handsome, well-built cabin. In short, this Hyundai feels much more expensive than it is.
Now in its third year, the current-generation Elantra carries over with only the addition of a new USB/iPod audio jack, redesigned gauges and radio displays and enhanced suspension and steering tuning (although we never really complained about either). All said, the 2009 Hyundai Elantra continues to be one of our top choices in the compact sedan category -- especially for buyers who prioritize space and comfort over a fun driving experience. If your priorities are reversed, you should check out the Mazda 3. And if you're somewhere in the middle, try the Honda Civic. But no matter where you think you may land, congrats once again for stumbling upon the Elantra. We can't promise a genie, but you should at least be pleasantly surprised.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Hyundai Elantra is a small sedan available in GLS and SE trim levels. The base GLS is sparsely equipped with 15-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat and a tilt-only steering wheel. The Popular Equipment package adds air-conditioning, foglights, cruise control, illuminated vanity mirrors and a six-speaker stereo with a CD/MP3 player, USB/iPod audio jack, auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The SE adds that equipment, plus 16-inch alloy wheels, a telescoping steering column and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. The SE Premium package adds a sunroof (optional on GLS) and heated front seats. Leather upholstery can also be added to that package.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive Elantra is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine good for 138 hp and 136 pound-feet of torque. Both trim levels can be equipped with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. In California-emissions states, automatic-equipped Elantras are certified as squeaky-clean Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles (PZEV) but are rated for 132 hp. In performance testing, an Elantra with the five-speed manual went from zero to 60 mph in a respectable 8.4 seconds. Fuel economy also is right up there with the class leaders at 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined for an automatic-equipped Elantra. The manual transmission drops the city and combined numbers by 1 mpg.
Each Elantra comes standard with antilock disc brakes, active front head restraints, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. The Elantra SE adds stability and traction control and brake assist. In government crash testing, the 2009 Hyundai Elantra received five out of five stars for frontal protection and four stars for side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Elantra its top score of "Good" in its frontal offset test but the second-worst score of "Marginal" in the side test. Rear-seat side protection was rated as "Good," though it was "Poor" driver torso protection that resulted in the low overall score.
Interior Design and Special Features
As far as economy car interiors go, it doesn't get much nicer than the Hyundai Elantra. Sure, there are a few plastic bits, and the buttons are notably downgrade, but for the most part materials and build quality are impressive. For instance, the dash-top grain and cool blue lighting look like they could have been removed from an Acura. Indeed, the overall design is attractive and pleasing, looking as if it belongs in a much more expensive car. Your carpool buddies should be impressed. They'll also appreciate the Elantra's generous head-, shoulder-, hip- and legroom found in both the front and rear seats. Storage is also plentiful, with lots of cubbies and a 14-cubic-foot trunk.
The 2009 Hyundai Elantra only has 138 horses, but they're a hard-working bunch capable of getting this spacious sedan up to speed surprisingly well. They're also rather noisy, however, particularly above 3,500 rpm. More refined is the ride quality, which is smooth and stable, even at highway speeds. Wind and road noise are also negligible, making the Elantra one of the better choices in its class if you do a lot of highway driving. Although it's not especially fun to drive, the Elantra manages to hold tight through turns, offering plenty of grip and decent steering response.