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2005 Hyundai Elantra GLS Review

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SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Hyundai


MODEL: Hyundai Elantra GLS ENGINE: 2.0-liter DOHC L4 HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 138 hp @ 6,000 rpm/136 lb.-ft. @ 4,500 rpm TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic WHEELBASE: 102.7 in. LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 178.1 x 67.9 x 56.1 in. TIRES: P195/60R15 CARGO: 12.9 cu. ft. ECONOMY: 24 mpg city/32 mpg highway/27.8 mpg test PRICE: $14,604 (includes inland freight and handling charge)

In this era of high-priced subcompact cars, it's nice to find one that isn't too expensive, yet offers almost everything you could want in solid transportation. I have to confess that I didn't think the Hyundai Elantra would be one of those cars. But after a week behind the wheel I became an avid supporter.

Elantra isn't going to knock you out with its styling. Here is a car that looks like a car. There are no fancy aerodynamic additions to a basic three-box design. Oh sure, there's a smooth transition from the roofline to the trunk, but this is a bread-and-butter basic sedan design. Our tester had an optional rear spoiler ($395) that wasn't really necessary. Mud guards ($60) completed the option package.

Under the hood is the peanut butter and jelly to go with the bread and butter. There's a standard 2.0-liter double overhead cam inline four that delivers 138 horsepower. Hooked to a 4-speed automatic transmission and driving the front wheels, this is a package that will probably be the big seller.

We found that the engine/transmission combination performed well on long trips and on local winding roads. There was some transmission lag when you tried to go from 30-50 mph or even 50-70 mph, but a person who owns an Elantra or is a constant driver could easily learn to adapt to this slight problem. The transmission shifted smoothly enough in normal day-to-day driving and was never a danger on Interstates.

My only problem with the transmission was that it was too easy to shift through "D" and into "3" as you're initially taking off. You don't notice this immediately until you realize ten miles down the road that the engine seems to be working harder than it should. I felt there should be a stronger detent between "D" and "3."

Economy is listed at 24 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. We drove the Elantra on a couple of long Interstate trips and averaged 27.8 mpg for our entire test. This, I thought, was phenomenal. So many so-called economy cars fail to deliver. The Elantra did. It also offered a smooth ride and is a great turnpike cruiser.

The cloth-faced front seats offered good comfort, while there was adequate rear seat legroom, even with the front seats pushed back.

The Elantra also had a few oddities that made it annoying. For one, there are remote trunk and fuel cap releases inside the car. But you can't open the trunk from the outside without a key, since the key fob doesn't have a remote trunk release feature. That key fob also had "unlock" on top rather than "lock." Most manufacturers do it the other way around.

On our long trips we had to make do with a basic audio system that included an AM/FM/cassette system with no CD player. It offered good sound, though, and we were able to live with the "sacrifice."

The trunk is listed at 12 cubic feet, but the rear seats fold to increase carrying capacity. We stacked a pair of golf bags in the trunk. There's also good storage in the center arm rest, and there are cubby holes in the doors. There's also a nice cubby between the audio and HVAC controls. It's great for a cell phone. There's also a tray in front of the shifter that could hold a phone. The Elantra had two 12-volt outlets.

I liked the instrument panel; solid white-on-black dials.

The underhood area was clean and everything was out in the open. A brace held the hood up rather than a gas strut, but that was a minor inconvenience.

So often I get to drive compact cars that are too compact and are less than ideal economically. Prices are also increasing in the compact field as quickly as they are rising in all other segments. The Elantra is a light shining in the wilderness. It's exactly what it claims to be, nothing more. At $14,604, it has a price that is hard to beat, too.

2005 The Auto Page Syndicate