2011 Hyundai Elantra Blue Review

Be green while saving green with the Hyundai Elantra Blue

2011 Hyundai Elantra Blue Review
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The 2010 Hyundai Elantra Blue is an entry level, inexpensive car, but there’s nothing cheap about it. The fit and finish are exceptional. The materials in the cabin are on par or above par with other cars in its class, and the comfort and ride quality will never remind you that the sticker price is only $14,145. And historically, Hyundai’s Elantra scores very high on safety and reliability studies.

FAST FACTS

1. The Elantra Blue is a new entry-level trim model with improved fuel economy of 26/35-mpg (city/hwy) compared to 26/34-mpg for the 4-speed automatic (an improvement over last year’s 25/33-mpg rating).

2. Improvements in fuel economy come thanks to lower friction engine components, a new alternator management system and longer gears for the five-speed manual transmission.

3. The Elantra Blue is only available as a stick shift, starting from $14,145.

The 2010 four-door models are little changed from last year. This year, however, the entry-level trim is called Blue. Apparently, at Hyundai, Blue is the new green. The Blue model Elantra, like the Blue model on the smaller Hyundai Accent is the most fuel efficient and designated as an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle, the cleanest emissions model in their line-ups. It’s only a slight mileage improvement, however, and I think the marketing folks at Hyundai just found the word Blue to be a better sounding term than Base.

MINIMAL IMPROVEMENT IN FUEL ECONOMY

All Elantra models, including the Blue, the GLS, the SE, and the Touring (that’s the station wagon) are powered by the same 2.0–liter, 4-cylinder motor that puts out 138 horsepower and 136 ft-lbs of torque. The Blue model, which only comes with a 5-speed manual transmission, is rated at 26 city, and 35 highway miles per gallon. With the automatic on the GLS and SE models, the city rating is the same, but the highway mileage is 1 mpg less at 34. See what I mean about that Blue designation?

ROOMY, WELL-EQUIPPED CABIN

But no matter what the marketing department calls it, this entry level Elantra is a little gem of a car. Included as standard features are front, side and roof-mounted airbags, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Electronic Brake-force Distribution, a tire pressure monitoring system, power windows, door locks, and heated outside mirrors, a tachometer, intermittent wipers, tinted windows, two 12-Volt power outlets, remote keyless entry and alarm, 15-inch wheels, tilt steering wheel, intermittent wipers, a 6-way adjustable drivers seat and a 60/40 split fold-down bench seat with trunk mounted seat releases. That’s a lot of goodies for a base car at that price.

The cabin is the roomiest in its class, with plenty of head, leg, and shoulder room in the rear for 2 adults, and the rear seats are actually comfortable, which is unusual for cars in this price range. The front seats are also inviting and covered in a nice plush cloth with two-tone color treatment. The dash and door panels also get the upscale two-tone grey treatment.

To look at the various textures of the upper dash, lower dash and door panels, you’d think you were in a much more expensive car. It’s only after touching all the surfaces that you realize they are all made of hard plastic, and not padded leather. But at least the armrest on the door and the center console are padded, so it’s comfortable to rest your elbows on them when driving.

Being a base model, the dash and center stack aren’t overly burdened with knobs, switches and gadgets, so everything is laid out nicely and easy to operate. There are closing storage bins on the top of the dash and in the center stack, along with good storage room in both of the door pockets, glove box, and center console. Plus, there’s a cigarette lighter and ashtray, which can double as a coin holder. 

Looking at the trunk area from outside the car and where the rear seat backs sit, it would seem that the space inside would be small. But when you pop open the lid, you’ll be surprised to find a significant 14.2 cubic feet available. The good news is that the rear seatbacks are 60/40 split, and have two very convenient release knobs to lower the seatbacks. The bad news is that even with both seats folded down, the opening into the cabin is still very small. You’ll be able to store two sets of skis, but wide items will have to go in through the back doors. Also, those releases are handy, but the seats aren’t spring loaded, so you’ve got to push the seatbacks down manually, and they’re hard to reach. 

MODEST PERFORMANCE, SOFT YET AGILE RIDE

The Elantra’s engine is a revvy little powerplant, and with the manual transmission will get to 60 mph from zero in a respectable 8.8 seconds, just a bit better than average for the class. When you’re not driving in anger, the engine is fairly silent and clatter-free.  Cruising on the highway the motor turns just about 3000 rpm at 65 mph, and with a 6500 redline, it doesn’t have to work hard to keep up with traffic or cruise quietly along. On the highway, there’s very little wind noise either.

The independent front and rear suspension is well tuned for a compliant ride over bumps, and potholes, and it delivers less than expected body lean around tight turns. Overall, the chassis feels solid and poised. The steering feels light and neutral, and the grip from the 195/65/15 tires is very good. So the Elantra is more enjoyable than driving a Nissan Sentra, if not as enjoyable as the more nimble Mazda 3.

One particularly bright spot is the 5-speed manual transmission. It is one of the most user-friendly ones I’ve tried in a long time. The clutch effort is light and all shifts are butter smooth.

I thought that this would be a perfect transmission for somebody who had never driven a manual before so I took my nephew, who recently got his driving permit, out to teach him how to drive a stick. And I was right. Within half and hour, he was able to pull away from a stop smoothly, and go through the gears easily and without much of the herky- jerky movements one usually expects form a novice. And because the engine isn’t overly powerful, the gear ratios seem to mesh easily. I suspect that for many Elantra Blue buyers, this will be their first manual transmission, and this one shouldn’t make them regret it.

ADD-ONS MAKE BASE MODEL COMFORTABLE TO LIVE WITH

The test car came with a $1,700 Comfort Package, which includes AM/FM/XM – CD/MP3 six-speaker audio system, with auxiliary input jacks for iPod and USB and MP3 players. It also includes air-conditioning and cruise control. A Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System is a $325 option, carpeted floor mats cost $95, and an iPod cable for $35 were the only options. With delivery, this car comes to just $17,020. 

When you factor in the Hyundai warranty that offers 5-year/60,000 miles bumper to bumper and unlimited Roadside Assistance, plus the 7-year anti-rust perforation protection and the 10-year/100,000 mile Powertrain Warranty, the Elantra comes with a lot of piece of mind. Combined with an increasingly good reliability and durability rating, a college student or recent grad can pretty much buy this car worry free.

THE VERDICT

As an automotive journalist it’s easy to forget that not everybody loves cars, and wants or aspires to drive a powerful, luxurious or prestigious car. There are a lot of folks who view cars as mere appliances. They need one to get to work and back or from point A to point B, but couldn’t care less about how they work, or about their engineering. They just want it to be reliable, comfortable, and economical. And, of course, there are plenty of folks who might like a more luxurious car, but simply can’t afford one, and just don’t want to feel like they should be embarrassed by driving an inexpensive car. The Hyundai Elantra Blue is a car for those people.

Buyers will get a sensibly sized car comfortable for 4 adults to travel long or short distances. It will prove to be safe and reliable, a gas miser as gas prices rise, and a better overall package than many of the usual suspects like the Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic.

LOVE IT
  • Outstanding gas mileage
  • Comfortable ride quality
  • Well equipped for an entry-level car
LEAVE IT
  • Still lots of hard plastic inside
  • Rear seat backs aren’t spring loaded to fold down
  • Trunk liner materials look and feel cheap

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