|1. The Elantra Touring isn’t an Elantra at all and features an entirely new chassis with a shorter body than the sedan with a longer wheelbase for an even better drive.
2. The Elantra Touring has significantly more cargo space than the competition – and actually boasts more than the Hummer H3.
3. Available with just one engine, the 138hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder makes 138hp and gets 31 highway mpg.
The surprising thing about Hyundai’s new Elantra Touring model is that it is not an Elantra at all. In fact, it is based on the Korean manufacturer’s European i30 model and has its own unique platform.
Other European inspired traits include the vehicle’s driving dynamics, incredible interior space (despite being shorter in length than the sedan), as well as the obvious wagon design.
On the aesthetic side, the Elantra Touring has a nice profile and a front end that features projector headlights. Arguably the car’s best angle is from the rear, thanks to its Volvo-esque taillights.
The interior is equally impressive with a classy new design, excellent build quality and better-than-expected materials. The seat fabric is high quality and the Touring features Hyundai’s new blue backlighting. Overall, the interior trim is close in line to the Mazda3 (a main competitor) and far above other class rivals like the Caliber, Marix or Vibe.
The list of standard equipment is extensive and includes air conditioning, power windows, remote keyless entry, heated mirrors, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel with mounted cruise control and audio controls and an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support. (In Canada the base Elantra is more bare-bones and does not include AC, lumbar support or the tilt and telescopic steering wheel with mounted controls).
Standard on all models is a six-speaker 172-watt AM/FM/XM/CD radio with MP3 and USB compatibility and an auxiliary input jack.
Options include heated front seats and a sunroof.
THE ENGAGING DRIVE
When it comes to how the car drives, it really depends on which model you choose. Base models come with 16-inch aluminum wheels with 205/55/16 tires (or 15-inch steel wheels with 195/65/15 tires in Canada) that provide enough of a cushion to soak up road blemishes, whereas an optional 17-inch wheel package with wider and lower-profile 215/45/17 tires make for a much less cushy ride. We can’t hold this against the vehicle, however, as we’re certain those who would appreciate the added agility of some wider low-profile tires will gladly sacrifice a little comfort.
On all models steering is precise and thanks to the low center of gravity (due to it being a wagon and not a crossover) the overall handling dynamics are impressive. Again, in this regard it is far more like the Mazda3 Hatchback than the Caliber or Vibe/Matrix.
And while it drives more like the Mazda, it has interior cargo room “closer” to the Vibe/Matrix. And by “closer” we mean “far exceeding.”
The Touring offers class leading cargo space. The trunk alone provides 24.3 cubic feet of storage space and with the rear seats down that number stretches to 65.3 cu.-ft. – this compared to 19.8/48.9 cu.-ft. in the Vibe/Matrix and 17.1/43.8 in the Mazda3. In fact Hyundai boasts that the total cargo room exceeds that of many SUVs, including the Nissan Murano, Subaru Tribeca, Mazda CX-7 and even the Hummer H3!
Hyundai is also proud of the fact that the Elantra Touring offers so much interior space for cargo while providing class-leading passenger space. In total the little-wagon-that-can provides 12 more inches of front legroom than the Vibe/Matrix as well as 9 more inches of rear legroom. It also offers more shoulder room and has hip room almost equal to the best. Rear legroom is in abundance as during our test we noted that it was actually possible for a six-foot-plus driver to have six-foot-plus passenger seated immediately behind him.
Amazingly, despite all this talk of cargo space, the Elantra Touring is not a big car. In fact, it is actually slightly shorter in length than the sedan version. It does, however, boast a longer wheelbase, yet another trait that adds to its fun-to-drive factor.
SMALL DETAILS MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE
We’ve already mentioned the quality of the interior in the front seat and no less attention was paid to the rear. Hyundai designed the car to give excellent rearward visibility with useable windows at each corner in the rear, as well as “shingle” headrests. These headrests fold over the seats when not in use so that they do not impede rearward visibility. This stands in stark contrast to bulky headrests in competitive models that make seeing out the back a challenge. This design has additional advantages, allowing the rear seats to be folded flat without having to remove the headrests.
Attention to detail even flows through into the trunk where a carpet liner has been used. This we appreciated after commenting that the plastic coating in the Vibe/Matrix means that your personal items slide all over the place.
138 HORSEPOWER FOUR-CYLINDER GETS 31 HIGHWAY MPG
Other than its name, this wagon does share one other major component with its sedan counterpart – the engine. Both models come equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with continuously variable valve timing (CVVT) that makes 138hp at 6000 rpm and 137 ft-lbs of torque at 4600 rpm.
The output is sufficient, however, the Vibe and Matrix offer both a 1.8-liter and a larger and more powerful 2.4-liter engine and the Caliber offers a 1.8-liter, 2.0-liter and a turbocharged 2.4-liter engine in the SRT4. With the four-banger the Touring makes 10hp less than the 1.8-liter Dodge and 6hp more than the 1.8-liter Toyota or Vibe.
If a manual transmission is what you are after, Hyundai’s five-speed unit is excellent and gives better access to the available power. Manuals are becoming rare birds these days and yet the stick shift is well suited to the sporty sedan-like driving dynamics of the Touring, especially when equipped with 17-inch wheels.
The optional automatic is a four-speed, and seems to work better and gear-hunt less than the four-speed models in other Hyundai products. A four-speed isn’t ideal but that is exactly what you’d get in a Matrix with an engine of this size – although an optional five-speed auto can be had with larger 2.4-liter engine Matrix models.
With the automatic the Touring achieves an acceptable 23 mpg in the city with a more respectable 31 mpg on the highway, this compared to a rating of 25/32 for the Matrix and 23/27 for the 2.0-liter Caliber. Dodge does like to push its 30 mpg highway rating for the Caliber but that is only for 1.8-liter models which are only available with a five-speed manual.
The Mazda3 is far removed from the Elantra Touring and the other cars in this class as it isn’t offered with a smaller engine, just a 158hp 2.3-liter that does come with a five-speed auto., but doesn’t get overly impressive mileage.
In the safety department the Elantra Touring comes well equipped with six airbags including passenger and driver front and side airbags as well as side curtain airbags for both the front and rear. ABS with brake force distribution is also found on all models, as is electronic stability control. (Note: Canadian models come standard with just driver and passenger airbags with the other airbags optional. ABS is optional, not standard, and ESC is not even offered as an option.)
Statistics like horsepower and fuel economy make the Elantra Touring a competitor, however, there is far more to this little wagon than that. The cargo statistic puts the E.T. into almost an entire other category of vehicle. Surprisingly this Hyundai is priced beyond the competition with the base Touring starting at $18,495 ($19,295 with the auto.). It does, however, come well-equipped at that price. We commented that base Canadian models don’t come as well equipped but they also come at a significantly lower MSRP – just $14,995.
The Premium-Sport model starts at $19,995 ($20,795 with auto.), and because of how Hyundai creates and sells its cars, the prices won’t and can’t go up much from there.
Other than the Cargo room, the features that set the E.T. apart are the interior design and material quality, as well as the driving dynamics.
Those looking for command-seating won’t find it in this vehicle but those looking for something that is even more functional than the current alternatives with a more driver-oriented approach will truly appreciate this latest Hyundai.
In this segment we always hear about functionality and fun and the Elantra Touring delivers more of both.
Class-leading passenger and cargo room Better-driving dynamics than crossover competitors Well-equipped interior and safety on base models (in the U.S.A.)
City fuel economy could be improved Those who like command seating won’t find it here Entry level pricing exceeds competitors