Hyundai Elantra GLS Wagon (1999)
If you're a name-brand kind of consumer, then the chances are that you're not going to rush out and buy a Hyundai. It just not the kind of name that trips off the tongue, inspiring envy and commanding attention. However, this South Korean company, which first launched in the USA in 1986, has been building a small following in the cheap-but-reliable marketplace, offering no-frills vehicles which include many, normally paid-for, options as standard, and handle pretty well, considering the price you're paying.
The Elantra Wagon is pleasant looking enough, my GLS coming in a fetching 'racing' Green paintjob, with beige interior. The interior was fairly minimalist, as one might expect, but adequate. A lack of cupholders, a measly-sized storage compartment between the seats, and the lack of a vanity mirror on the driver's side were somewhat surprising, given that this car is evidently targeted at the female/family driver, but that aside, everything was nicely appointed in an uninspired sort of way.
The 2.0 litre, 16 valve DOHC, 4-cylinder engine, which develops 140 hp at 6,000 rpm and 133 ft/lbs of torque at 4,800 rpm, actually offered fairly sluggish acceleration, which was not aided by the fact that the automatic transmission (standard on the GLS, optional on the base car) seemed intent on changing gears whenever it felt like it, rather than when the revs demanded it. Consequently, accelerating onto the freeway was a somewhat hit and miss affair, a ready-to-punch-the-gas left foot, ever ready for those unexpected, sudden changes.
The power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering was actually pretty good, although a little more precision would have been nice. The brakes were extremely responsive, with 4-channel ABS coming as a standard feature on the GLS, and supplied solid stopping power with no loss of control. The Elantra also handled fairly well, gripping the road well in the corners, offering a pretty firm ride. The suspension system uses MacPherson struts with coil springs in front and a multi-link design with offset coil springs on the rear. This translates to each wheel reacting independently to road conditions, and tires retaining flat contact with the road. Which is always good, I think, especially if it's a family kind of car, with Johhny and Susie ready to remind you of their breakfasts at the earliest opportunity.
The Elantra was nice and roomy, with ample room for 5-up and fairly good cargo space, given that it's not an overly big wagon. With the rear seat up, capacity is 32.3 cubic feet, and this increases to 63 cubic feet with the 60/40 rear seat folded down, which apparently brings it out top of the class among compact station wagon. It also comes out at the top of its class in leg, hip and shoulder room, as well as EPA passenger volume.
The Elantra may not be economical with its roominess but certainly is when it comes to fuel consumption. Averaging 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, it represents a limited-budget family with a pocket-friendly means of transport.
So maybe driving is believing. Well, that's their catch phrase, not mine. I don't know that I would go that far, but the Elantra Wagon did pretty well overall. It's roomy, for its size. Comfortable, in a minimal way, and if you can't get going as you might wish, you can at least stop in an efficient manner. I'm not sure that there are not better deals to be had for the nearly $14, 500 that you'll need to slap down for the GLS, but given that Hyundai will give you limited bumper-to-bumper coverage for 5 years or 60,000 miles and that you will receive 24 hour roadside assistance coverage, at no extra charge, for 5 full years, with no mileage limit, it certainly doesn't seem like a bad deal. But then, is the prospect of using that assistance really a good incentive to buy in the first place? Hardly ideal, but then in a competitive marketplace of number-cruncher-designed-cars, manufacturers seem intent on trying anything to get you into their brand. This one was called a Hyundai, by the way.
FACTS & FIGURES Hyundai Elantra GLS Wagon Base Price $13,999 Model Tested $14,444 2.0 litre 16 valve, 4-cylinder DOHC engine HP - 140 @ 6,000 rpm Torque - 133 @ 4,800 rpm Front suspension - fully independent MacPherson struts, w/ offset coil springs & stabilizer bar Rear suspension - fully independent multi-link rear axle w/ coil springs & stabilizer bar Transmission - 5 speed manual w/ overdrive or 4-speed automatic w/ overdrive Steering - Speed sensitive power-assisted, rack-and-pinion Brakes - Full-featured 4-channel ABS Dual Front airbags Power windows, door locks & mirrors