2011 Hyundai Elantra Review – First Drive

Great looks, fuel economy, features and price make the 2011 Elantra an immediate top choice in the compact segment

2011 Hyundai Elantra Review – First Drive

As cars become larger, heavier and increasingly complex, there’s been a rise in pseudo-nostalgic grumblings for “the good old days” of 20 years ago, when vehicles were light-weight, fun to drive and fuel-efficient.


1. Every 2011 Hyundai Elantra model, regardless of trim level or transmission, gets an EPA rated 29/40-mpg (city/hwy).

2. A 1.8L 4-cyl makes 148-hp and 131 ft-lbs of torque and can be had with either a 6-speed manual or automatic.

3. Optional equipment includes luxury items like a 7-inch Nav system, a 360-watt audio system, proximity key, a bush-button ignition, as well as heated from and rear seats.

4. Pricing starts at just $14,830 with top trim levels at $21,980.

Fetishizing a bygone era is nothing new, and in some respects, these people are right. Does a Honda Civic sedan really have to weigh over 3000 lbs? Do we really need a Toyota Camry with 268 horsepower?

On the other hand, the automobile has made some profound advancements in the last couple decades, and the 2011 Hyundai Elantra is one of the best examples of this phenomenon.


With their new compact car, Hyundai is emphasizing two of the increasingly important aspects of the automobile – technology and fuel economy. You won’t find horsepower figures or 0-60 times being flaunted on the Elantra’s spec sheet. The big news on the quantitative front is the 29-mpg city and 40-mpg highway fuel economy rating, giving the Elantra bragging rights over the rest of the competition.

Rivals like the Ford Fiesta or Chevrolet Cruze can only return this sort of mileage with specially prepared models that have been tweaked to deliver every last mpg. On the other hand, every Elantra, from the $14,830 base model with a 6-speed stick shift, to a $21,980 fully loaded automatic transmission Limited model, will return 40 mpg on the highway.


While outright speed isn’t a selling point, Hyundai’s performance path for the Elantra does include various measures to cut weight from the car, notably using high strength steel in different areas, to increase rigidity and keep the curb weight down. So as much as an aerodynamic shape (with a drag coefficient of 0.28 cd) helps reduce drag and improve fuel economy, a lighter drivetrain does its own part to help by dropping 62 lbs from the outgoing model.

A base Elantra weighs 2,661 lbs, while a loaded model tips the scales at 2,877 lbs. Considering that the Mazda Miata, long considered the benchmark of light weight cars, now weighs 2,511 lbs, the Elantra isn’t doing too badly while carrying two rear doors, a proper back seat and a real trunk.

The Elantra is technically classified as a mid-size car, and Hyundai claims that interior passenger space is on par with a Lexus ES350. The svelte weight is even more impressive when one looks at the opulent features available on the Elantra – heated front and rear seats, a back-up camera, Bluetooth connectivity, a 360 watt stereo, automatic headlights and a power sunroof.

At the launch even in San Diego, we were able to sample a base model GLS with the 6-speed manual and a fully optioned Limited model with the 6-speed automatic transmission. One Hyundai representative suggested that the Limited, with its 17-inch wheel and tire package, was the one to have for the twisty stuff, and while an automatic gearbox is as exciting as lima beans, we decided to trust him based on his experience developing the chassis for the Genesis and Equus, not to mention the first generation Miata during his previous tenure at Mazda.

Truthfully, none of the Elantras are corner carvers. The car certainly feels light, and doesn’t have the overbuilt feeling that the Cruze does, but it’s really difficult to imagine a single Elantra buyer driving one in anger.

That’s not to say you can’t have fun with this compact car. The old maxim extolling the fun of driving a slow car at its limits applies directly to the Elantra.

The biggest impediment to having fun are the four-wheel disc brakes, which are not linear in their application, and bite hard very early on. In every day driving, this might stop you from flattening a kid who ran into the street to chase his errant basketball, but it also prevents you from smoothly braking in a straight line and can lead to a less-than-smooth driving experience – although owners are likely to get used to the feeling quickly.


The new 1.8L four-cylinder (annoyingly code named “Nu”, after the Greek letter) has an adequate 149-hp, but lacks the torquey punch of the Cruze’s turbo engine, particularly during passing maneuvers. On the other hand, the Elantra’s gearbox is world’s better, without any of the coarseness or unacceptable lagging between shifts, helping the engine utilize the powerband in an efficient and expedient manner.

The 6-speed manual is expected to have a single digit take rate, and we’re not surprised. Aside from American buyers’ antipathy towards stick shifts, this one isn’t very good, with a shifter that feels like its being rowed through a tub of yogurt, although the clutch requires little effort and should make city driving a breeze.


The interior materials are certainly on the upper end of the spectrum for this segment, with the majority of the controls placed on the tight, compact center stack. The iPod integration on the base GLS model can be little tedious, with users being forced to scroll through their ostensibly large list of artists and songs using the standard audio controls, but the LCD screen on the Limited makes the task less frustrating.

Once you get your music sorted out, you’ll find the Elantra is at home on the highway, where the car moves silently and effortlessly across the open road, immune to crosswinds or buzzy powertrain noises that plagued the previous generation of small cars.

The driving position immediate strikes us as better than many competitors, and the ride quality, while not as composed as the Cruze or Corolla, won’t trouble the average customer looking for a comfortable, compliant ride.

Rear seat passengers will find adequate space, despite the sloping roofline’s propensity to minimize headroom on other cars. Overall, we’re pleased with the Elantra’s styling, which looks like a more rotund version of the current Sonata, and will likely prove a hit with style-conscious consumers who can’t quite afford a premium nameplate.

Interestingly, the Elantra does share one trait with premium German luxury cars in that it looks best when equipped with large wheels and low profile tires.

One notable selling point not being touted by Hyundai is safety. One Hyundai rep stated that he wasn’t able to confirm if the Elantra would get a 5-star crash test rating, a near ubiquitous rating in the compact car category, let alone the mid-size class that the Elantra is technically classified as by the EPA.


Car manufacturers face a two-fold problem in today’s market. Auto sales have always been a zero-sum game; the consumer’s money can go to one product and one product only, forcing other competitors to lose out on a sale.

As little as 10 years ago, there was a clear hierarchy of product quality, and Hyundai was firmly entrenched at the bottom. But times have changed, and today, it’s pretty hard to buy a bad car. The argument can even be made that the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla are the inferior products, having been languishing on the market past their expiration date.

With such a hyper-competitive market, Hyundai has delivered exactly what customers are looking for, by offering a stylish, affordable compact loaded with cool gadgetry and class-leading fuel economy. It may not be the most thrilling drive in its class, but it’s hard to find a more practical choice than the 2011 Elantra, and this alone will make the car a winner in this crowded segment.


2010 Honda Civic Sedan Review

2009 Toyota Corolla

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Review – First Drive

2010 Nissan Sentra 2.0 S Review

2010 Mazda Mazda3

« Back



AutoGuide.com’s Continental Control Sport Tires Giveaway – By subscribing to the AutoGuide.com Newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win four (4) Continental ControlContact Sport AS Tires, or four (4) Continental Control/Contact Tour AS Tires, sponsored by Discount Tire (value of $900.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff.




  1. PRIZE:One (1) Winner will be randomly selected to each receive:four (4) Continental ControlContact Sport AS Tires, or four (4) Continental Control/Contact Tour AS Tires from Discount Tire (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $900.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded “as is” with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.


  1. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older.VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production,  implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.


  1. ENTER BY INTERNET:Beginning on Monday, August 1st, 2016, you may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to the Newsletter.


  1. SELECTION OF WINNER:One (1) entrant will be selected on or about August 13th, 2016 by random selection of entrants who have subscribed to the AutoGuide.com Newsletter. The winner will be contacted directly by a representative of Sponsor via email. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.


  1. ODDS OF WINNING:Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.


  1. RESTRICTIONS:The prize package consists of four (4) Continental ControlContact Sport AS Tires, or four (4) Continental Control/Contact Tour AS Tires from Discount Tire approximately valued at $900.00 USD.  If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor’s or Prize Supplier’s control (collectively, “Force Majeure Event”). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.


  1. CONDITIONS:By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants’ names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States.VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.


  1. SPONSOR:The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.
Enter for a chance to Win a set of tires by subscribing to the AutoGuide.com newsletter.
Read Contest Rules

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked