The completely redesigned 2011 Hyundai Elantra represents such a big improvement over its predecessor that it has become the best-reviewed economy sedan available. Reviewers are unequivocal in their adoration of the Elantra's distinctive styling, good ride, upscale options, high-quality interior and exceptional fuel efficiency. It is the combination of these qualities, paired with very competitive pricing, that makes it a reviewer favorite.
Excellent competitors like the tried-and-true 2011 Honda Civic (Base MSRP: $15,605 to $25,490) and 2011 Mazda3 (Base MSRP: $15,800 to $23,010) have their upsides, but most reviewers say the new Elantra simply delivers more for the money. Generally, experts consider the brand new 2012 Ford Focus (Base MSRP: $16,270 to $22,765) to be the Elantra's closest competitor, and the two are neck-and-neck in many respects. The kicker is the Elantra's lower base price, which is consistent with and amenable to its economy-car mission.
The Hyundai Elantra has panache. Reviewers universally praise its new, exterior sheet metal and interior design. Scott Burgess of The Detroit News goes as far as to call the exterior design "modern and classic in the same breath," which is impressive for any car and doubly so for an inexpensive one. Many reviewers second that opinion, using words like unique, fresh and edgy. The new style carries over to the interior as well, which is praised by Automobile Magazine for not only looking "elegant, expensive, and well built," but also for having "not a cheap part and not a single bad angle." The aforementioned review from The Detroit News goes on to say that "the interior is simply stunning."
Speaking of the interior, the Elantra offers a wide array of options, many of which are traditionally found only in more expensive cars. For example, the 2011 Hyundai Elantra can be optioned with keyless ignition/entry, front and rear heated seats, leather upholstery, a 7 inch GPS navigation screen, a rearview backup camera and a 360-watt premium stereo. Furthermore, the Elantra's interior is sizable for an economy car -- in fact, the EPA considers it a midsize car based on interior volume. Reviewers find the front seating area roomy. The rear seating is spacious enough for many, but some reviewers express concern over putting taller passengers in back due to a lack of headroom. Edmunds.com says, "vertically gifted princes will find its abundant legroom and shortage of headroom a mixed blessing." The Elantra offers a spacious trunk that can swallow up to 14.8 cubic feet of cargo, a figure comparable to larger family sedans.
Ride quality and handling in the 2011 Elantra are also lauded by most reviewers, though they aren't perfect. Some competitors have sportier handling, and some reviewers experience ride imperfections. Edmunds.com editors describe the overall feel to be "stable and planted, with relatively little body roll through turns -- qualities that translate into an extra sense of confidence behind the wheel." They go on to say that the ride quality is "well-damped" and should be "far from objectionable for most buyers." Nearly all reviewers come to the same conclusion, like Motor Trend, which calls the Elantra "quick and nimble in town, on the highway, or even your favorite back road."
About.com reviewer Aaron Gold has a contrary opinion, saying there is "too much up-and-down body motion on curvy, bumpy roads," though this isn't a concern in most reviews. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.) Also, a few sources noted that the Elantra lets in more engine and road noise than is generally preferred.
The Elantra's 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine delivers 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque, which all of the experts say is adequate. Motor Trend says the "new engine proved plenty capable, providing a nice burst of power off the line and linear delivery across the power band." The same article goes on to say that the Elantra "never exhibited that thrashy feeling you get with lesser four-bangers."
Not only is the Elantra's engine sufficiently powerful, but it is also very efficient. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the 2011 Hyundai Elantra will deliver 29 mpg city/40 mpg highway/33 mpg combined, which makes it one of the most fuel efficient economy cars available. Competitors like the 2012 Ford Focus and 2011 Chevrolet Cruze (Base MSRP: $16,275 to $22,225) can provide similar fuel economy, but to reach 40 mpg in highway driving, they both need to be equipped with special trim packages that cost extra money.
As of this writing, the 2011 Hyundai Elantra has not been crash tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Standard safety equipment includes antilock brakes, active front head restraints, front side airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, traction control and stability control.
The reliability of the Hyundai Elantra is predicted to be above average, as rated by a major consumer magazine. Additionally, the generous basic and powertrain warranties -- five years/60,000 miles and 10 years/100,000 miles, respectively -- are sure to provide peace of mind.
The 2011 Hyundai Elantra offers the best combination of value, quality, performance and comfort available in an economy sedan. The 2012 Ford Focus is mentioned by many reviewers as being the most equal competitor, matching and even surpassing the Elantra in many ways. When similarly equipped, though, the Focus costs more. Comparison tests between the Focus and Elantra, and other upcoming competitors like the all-new 2012 Honda Civic (due later this spring/summer), are likely to be insightful and very close in their outcomes. Autoblog.com summarizes the Elantra's stance in the economy car world by saying that "right now, the little sedan has the bones to be king of the compact roost."
The cheapest version of the Hyundai Elantra carries a base MSRP of $14,830, but be aware that significant features like air conditioning are missing.
Edmunds.com describes the new 2011 Elantra as having "head-turning new styling," and editors say its combination of style, utility, practicality and fuel efficiency may make it "the belle of the ball" in a space crowded with capable competitors. Available high-tech features such as keyless ignition and rearview cameras are cited as options that aren't available with many competitors.
Review: 2011 Hyundai Elantra, Editors of Edmunds.com
ConsumerReports.org tests the new 2011 Hyundai Elantra and provides a detailed overview based on driving impressions and other experiences. ConsumerReports.org also provides reliability data and owner-satisfaction data.
Review: New Cars: Small Cars, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
The 2011 Hyundai Elantra is at the top of its class when it comes to fuel efficiency. With either the six-speed manual or the six-speed automatic, the Elantra gets an EPA-estimated 29 mpg city, 40 mpg highway and 33 mpg combined. Unlike the 2012 Ford Focus and the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, the Elantra doesn't require a special trim package to achieve this level of fuel economy.
Review: 2011 Hyundai Elantra, Editors of FuelEconomy.gov
4. Automobile Magazine
Like other experts, this reviewer finds the Elantra's styling to be modern, pleasing and noticeably better than the competition. Furthermore, the reviewer says that if it weren't for the new 2012 Focus he would be tempted to say that the 2011 Elantra "is so far ahead of everything in its class, it's playing by itself." As a bonus, he notes that in his opinion "there's not a cheap part and not a single bad angle."
Review: First Drive: 2011 Hyundai Elantra, Jason Cammisa, Dec. 9, 2010
Autoblog.com gives high praise to the new Elantra for all aspects of the car, including its intuitive and high-quality interior, stellar fuel efficiency and stylish exterior. The reviewer, Zach Bowman, concludes that "the little sedan has the bones to be king of the compact roost."
Review: First Drive: 2011 Hyundai Elantra, Zach Bowman, Dec. 6, 2010
6. Kicking Tires blog
Mike Hanley finds the Elantra surprisingly spacious, smooth and fuel efficient. He says it's an agreeable, practical economy car that has "all the necessary attributes to compete and win in its segment."
Review: 2011 Hyundai Elantra: First Drive, Mike Hanley, Dec. 6, 2010
7. Motor Trend
This review spends ample space discussing the new Elantra's fuel efficiency relative to its competitors, pointing out that it has excellent mileage and only more expensive competitors deliver the same fuel efficiency. The powertrain is described as very smooth, and its relatively low curb weight allows it to feel nimble in the curves. The conclusion is that "for now, it's poised to lead the class."
Review: First Drive: 2011 Hyundai Elantra, Scott Evans, Dec. 11, 2010
This AutoWeek.com first-drive review gives a positive impression of the Elantra, calling it "a solid option to consider in the class." Consumers seeking a sporty economy car may be better served elsewhere though, according to this reviewer.
Review: 2011 Hyundai Elantra, an AW Flash Drive, Mark Vaughn, Dec. 5, 2010
9. The Detroit News
This expert at The Detroit News is impressed by the features offered on the Elantra and notes that equivalently equipped cars would be far more expensive. The interior is described as stunning, and the ride is called comfortable and quiet. The quality and value offered by the Elantra are called "fantastic news for consumers," he says.
Review: Auto Reviews: 2011 Hyundai Elantra, Scott Burgess, Feb. 17, 2011
Again, styling is highlighted as a plus for the 2011 Elantra. Michael Karesh is less smitten by the car's handling and ride, which he says is too "busy." Karesh concludes that the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze and 2012 Ford Focus are slightly better.
Review: Review: 2011 Hyundai Elantra, Michael Karesh, Jan. 31, 2011
11. Wall Street Journal
Throughout this piece, Dan Neil draws direct comparisons with the 2012 Ford Focus, which he feels is the only other contender for best economy car. He gives the edge to the Ford Focus, saying that the Elantra "doesn't quite have the leg of the Focus," referring to its level of driving engagement. But the Elantra is noticeably cheaper as well.
Review: Hyundai Takes a Bold Stand in the Compact Race, Dan Neil, Feb. 26, 2011
Shoppers would be doing themselves "a great disservice by not test-driving the Elantra," according to Aaron Gold at About.com. Gold says the Elantra is a stand-out choice, if not the most sporty to drive, and cites its strong styling, interior design and fuel economy. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: 2011 Hyundai Elantra Test Drive, Aaron Gold