Full 2010 Hyundai Elantra Review
What's New for 2010
For 2010, the Hyundai Elantra adds a new, fuel-efficient Blue model along with improved fuel economy for all other models. A new grille and chrome trim spruce up the appearance, while iPod/USB connections are now standard down to the GLS trim.
The 2010 Hyundai Elantra is one of those cars that will make you feel like you've found something special. It's like a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that doesn't look like much from the outside but serves up tantalizing meals on the inside. The unassuming Elantra aces just about every test that really matters for economy car buyers. For a price comparable to the Honda Civic, Mazda 3 and Toyota Corolla, the Elantra delivers much more space and comfort for passengers. To further sweeten the deal, the Elantra also comes with a slightly lower price, respectable fuel economy, a capacious trunk and a generous warranty.
Hyundai hasn't tinkered much with the current-generation Elantra since it debuted back in 2007, but there are a few notable changes for 2010. This year's new entry-level Blue trim level provides enhanced fuel economy thanks to engine tweaks that include a "smart" alternator management system, lower-friction engine components, revised transmission gear ratios, engine calibration changes and a shift indicator for the manual transmission. The rest of the automatic-equipped Elantra line also receives these engine modifications to similarly raise fuel economy. The overall increase is modest -- just an extra mpg or two -- but it does help the Elantra stay competitive with other small sedans in terms of efficiency.
As with any car, there are some flaws, but the Elantra keeps these drawbacks to a minimum. Some interior materials are on the cheap side -- though this is hardly unusual in this price bracket -- and the vehicle's side-impact safety scores are disappointing. Another detriment is that the Elantra also doesn't inspire much in the way of excitement either through styling or driving dynamics. In exchange, though, you'll get an impressive amount of comfort and refinement normally found in much more expensive cars.
Overall, the Elantra remains one of our top choices in the compact sedan market even if it is often overshadowed by more prominent competition. We like it more than the current Corolla -- in fact, the Elantra does a better job of meeting the traditional Corolla strengths of refinement and comfort than the Toyota does. Only the more economical Honda Civic and the sportier Mazda 3 challenge the Hyundai for our top recommendation. In any case, the 2010 Hyundai Elantra delivers more than expected, just like your favorite hidden restaurant. The only question is whether you'll want to keep it a secret or not.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Hyundai Elantra is a small sedan available in Blue, GLS and SE trim levels. The base Blue model is a bit of a stripper and only includes 15-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat and a tilt-only steering wheel. An optional Comfort package adds air-conditioning, cruise control and a CD/MP3 player with a USB/auxiliary audio jack. The GLS model includes all the Blue's standard and optional features plus foglights. The SE model tops off the features list with 16-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a telescoping steering column and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. A power sunroof is optional on both GLS and SE trim levels, but heated front seats are only offered on SE models.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Hyundai Elantra is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that sends 138 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. In California-emissions states, Elantras with automatic transmissions meet Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) standards, but output is reduced to 132 hp. The Blue model is offered only with a five-speed manual transmission, while GLS and SE models receive a four-speed automatic transmission as standard equipment. In a previous test of a five-speed manual Elantra, we reached 60 mph from a standstill in a respectable 8.4 seconds.
The EPA estimates fuel economy for the Elantra Blue at 26 mpg city/35 mpg highway and 29 mpg in combined driving. The GLS and SE models attain nearly identical numbers at 26/34/29 mpg.
Every Elantra comes standard with antilock disc brakes, active front head restraints, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. Stability and traction control and brake assist are only available on the SE model.
In government crash testing, the 2010 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 a second-worst score of "Marginal" in side impact testing. Rear-seat side protection was rated as "Good," though it was the "Poor" driver torso and "Average" pelvis and leg protection that brought down the overall score.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the 2010 Hyundai Elantra exhibits the look and feel of a more expensive sedan. While there is a scattering of hard plastics and wobbly buttons, occupants are generally surrounded by well-textured panels that have been solidly assembled. Adding to the upscale ambience is a gracefully sculpted dash and cool blue lighting that we'd expect to find in more upscale brands like Acura.
Drivers and passengers alike will appreciate the spacious cabin with plentiful headroom and legroom -- even for taller folk. Storage is also quite good, with numerous pockets and bins, while the trunk ably contains up to 14 cubic feet of cargo. Rear 60/40-split-folding seats allow for even more cargo if needed.
On the highway, the 2010 Hyundai Elantra treats occupants to a mostly quiet cabin. Wind and road noise are pleasantly abated, but the engine can be a bit noisy above 3,500 rpm. The Elantra does an admirable job of soaking up road imperfections while also maintaining its composure through tight turns with a decent amount of grip. But compared to cars like the Civic and Mazda 3, the Elantra comes off as rather spiritless.