When it comes to purchasing a car on a budget, there are obvious compromises that must be made in the interest of affordability. A quick look at the current crop of compact sedans will reveal that performance, style and creature comforts are the first to be sacrificed at the altar of frugality. The 2010 Hyundai Elantra Blue, however, bucks the trend by offering more athleticism and standard features than the competition, while also maintaining very favorable pricing.
The Blue is the entry-level Elantra. Elsewhere in the world, blue is equated with environmental friendliness, and thus this Elantra gets its colorful moniker in reference to its slight increase in fuel economy over the rest of the Elantra lineup. This mileage increase — which accounts for 2 mpg in both city and highway driving — is attributed to a "smart" alternator management system, lower-friction engine components, taller gear ratios and other engine tweaks. We certainly welcome these small gains, but we were surprisingly more impressed by the Elantra Blue's spirited driving dynamics.
Engine output is a bit lower than other competing cars, but the 2010 Hyundai Elantra Blue feels much livelier and, dare we say, more fun to drive than those competitors. Handling is also surprisingly good, with plenty of confidence-inspiring grip and poise. Likewise, the interior is a cut above that of other economy sedans, with plenty of standard features that buyers would normally have to spend additional funds to obtain as options. Add in Hyundai's 10-year/100,000-mile warranty and that value gap widens even more.
When stacked up against the cheaper versions of firmly entrenched compact sedans like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla (let alone the similarly eco-themed Chevrolet Cobalt XFE, the 2010 Hyundai Elantra Blue rises to the top of the heap by making you sacrifice the least. In our opinion, the Blue delivers more of everything for less, and should be on the top of your list.
The 2010 Hyundai Elantra Blue is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 138 horsepower and 133 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual is the only transmission available and drives the front wheels. While these numbers aren't terribly impressive, we were surprised with the amount of pep this drivetrain had.
In our usual battery of track tests, the Elantra Blue accelerated from a standstill to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, which is rather quick among competing vehicles. Stopping from that speed required 127 feet, which is just about average. In its time with us, our Elantra Blue test car averaged 25.2 mpg overall, with 34.4 mpg achieved on a highway-heavy stint. These figures compare favorably to the car's EPA-estimated 26/35 mpg for city/highway mileage.
Economy sedan shoppers generally overlook handling, as these cars generally lack sporty leanings. The Elantra Blue did manage to impress us, though, as it weaved through our slalom at 64.3 mph and pulled 0.80g through the skid pad. There is indeed a fair amount of grip in the curves, but the Blue's uncommunicative steering feel and response left much to be desired in these maneuvers.
Obviously, the average driver will likely never explore the handling limits of their Elantra, except when evasive maneuvers are called upon in an emergency. From this perspective, it performs quite admirably in its natural setting. The effortless steering and light clutch pedal seem well-suited to commuting and squeezing into tight parking spaces.
Despite the 2010 Hyundai Elantra Blue's bargain pricing, sacrifices are few in regards to comfort. The front seats offer plenty of head- and legroom for taller adults, while the cloth seats are well-shaped and cushioned for hours of comfortable touring. Wind and road noise are surprisingly abated given the Blue's price.
Rear seats are equally accommodating for the averaged-size adult passenger. These seats are fairly upright with plenty of headroom, and the tall seat cushions make the most of the available legroom.
As an economically minded car, the Hyundai Elantra Blue features the essentials and a few niceties for good measure. Overall visibility is quite good, while gauges, readouts and controls are a quick glance away and within easy reach. We were pleasantly surprised to find full power accessories and remote keyless entry standard, whereas many competitors offer them as an option.
Our Elantra Blue test car featured the optional Comfort package that adds air-conditioning, cruise control and a six-speaker stereo with iPod connectivity — all of which were simple in their operation. We were suitably impressed with the ease of use of the iPod integration, which allowed for quick searches of our favorite tunes and artists. We are also pleased to report that the sound quality from this system was excellent for a car in this price range.
Trunk space measured 14 cubic feet, which was enough for large suitcases and golf bags. The 60/40-split folding rear seats expand that space for longer items, but the pass-through is fairly narrow and cannot accommodate bulkier objects. Elsewhere in the cabin, we found plenty of pockets, bins and cupholders for our personal effects. A rear-facing child seat is easily installed, but will require sliding a front seat forward slightly, which may be problematic for larger front-seat passengers.
Design/Fit and Finish
Like most sedans in this price range, the 2010 Hyundai Elantra Blue is plainly styled, without much in the way of personality. The interior is also far from inspiring, but the cabin never feels like a cheap penalty box. The dash is made up of several flowing organic shapes that continue into the door panels with uncommon grace.
Hard plastics abound, but they are well-textured enough to give the impression of a midrange sedan. In our test car, the interior elements were tightly fitted with consistent gaps, and emitted little or no squeaks or creaks over rough pavement.
Who should consider this vehicle
Buyers looking to step up from an entry-level car like the Hyundai Accent will find the 2010 Hyundai Elantra Blue to be a standout in terms of refinement and enjoyment. Among other competing cars in this range, the Elantra Blue continues to impress for these very same reasons.
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