Hyundai made a huge splash in the midsize segment earlier this year with the debut of the redesigned Sonata sedan and looks to do the same in the compact market this time with the introduction of the redesigned 2011 Hyundai Elantra, which makes its North American debut here at the 2010 LA Auto Show.
As much as the Sonata represented a departure from previous generations of "play-it-safe" Hyundai cars, so does the Elantra. Its styling closely mimics that of the larger Sonata, down to the sweeping lines that have come to be a trademark of Hyundai's "fluidic sculpture" design concept. Even though the Elantra is a smaller car than the Sonata, we still found ourselves following the curves from front to rear and it looks like the concept transfers well even down to a smaller frame. The new design isn't purely for show either, the Elantra has a best-in-class drag coefficient of just 0.28.
Under the hood the 2011 Elantra carries a brand new engine. The 148-horsepower, 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine, which puts out 131 pounds-feet of torque, comes with your choice of a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. This new powerplant is 74 pounds lighter than its predecessor, yet still manages to add both more power (10 more horsepower) and efficiency.
That impressive efficiency manifests itself in the Elantra's impressive fuel economy numbers. Expect the Elantra to achieve marks of 29 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. Unlike the Fiesta and Cruze, which require special packages or trims to reach the 40 mpg number, all Elantra trims will reach that magic mark - even the base model.
Taking a peek inside the Elantra, it offers a surprising amount of cargo and passenger space. During the introductory press conference, Hyundai boasted that the Elantra has more interior space than the much larger Nissan Maxima. I had a chance to climb inside of the Elantra and after adjusting the driver's seat to a comfortable height, hopped in the back to check out the available space and was impressed to find that there was still a good amount of room between my knees and the front seat, something I was definitely not expecting. The Elantra also comes with a long list of premium options, including heated front and rear seats. That's right, the rear bench has heated seats as well.
The Elantra starts at an MSRP of $14,830, undercutting both the 2012 Ford Focus and the 2011 Chevy Cruze. To summarize, 40 mpg highway, a long list of standard safety features, Hyundai's 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, and a refined, room interior, all for under $15,000? We could be seeing the next big thing from Hyundai, just months after the Sonata.
Hyundai has also disclosed that they are developing a new version of the five-door hatchback Elantra Touring based on the new design.
Look for the redesigned Elantra to hit dealerships by the end of 2010.