The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

Hyundai Elantra and Mazda3 Shine in New Consumer Reports' Tests


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

YONKERS, NY August 29, 2007; The redesigned Hyundai Elantra outscored the Mitsubishi Lancer, Nissan Sentra, and Scion xB in Consumer Reports’ testing of a group of four small sedans and wagons for the October issue. The Elantra now ranks sixth overall among the 14 small cars that CR has tested recently.

Also, Consumer Reports ranked the Mazdaspeed3 as its top-rated sports car following tests of three sporty vehicles for the same issue. The Mazdaspeed3 was tested against the redesigned Mini Cooper S and the Saturn Sky Redline.

“The redesigned Elantra is well-rounded, roomier, more fuel-efficient, and has a more pleasant interior than many more expensive cars,” said David Champion, Senior Director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut.

The Honda Civic remains CR’s top-rated small car, followed by the Ford Focus and Mazda3 in that order.

Prices for vehicles in the small-car test group range from $17,515 for the Mitsubishi Lancer to $18,855 for the Nissan Sentra. Prices for the three sporty cars ranged from $25,195 for the Mazdaspeed3 to $30,289 for the Sky.

The Elantra achieved a “Very Good” overall test score. The Lancer also earned a “Very Good” score, though at the lower end of the range. The Sentra rated “Good” overall. The xB, the only wagon tested, earned a “Very Good” overall score. It ranks second among the wagons and hatchbacks that CR has tested, behind the Mazda3. Among the sports and sporty cars, the Mazdaspeed3 earned a “Excellent” overall rating. The Mini Cooper S rated “Very Good” overall and the Sky Redline rated “Good” overall.

Two of the seven vehicles rated for this issue are recommended by Consumer Reports—the Scion xB and the Mazdaspeed3. CR is predicting that the xB will have above-average reliability based on the previous generation xB. Similarly, the Mazdaspeed3 is recommended based on the better-than-average reliability of the Mazda3. Consumer Reports doesn’t have reliability data yet on five of the other vehicles, the Elantra, Lancer, Sentra, Mini, and Sky. (The Sky is built on the same platform as the Pontiac Solstice; reliability for the Solstice has been well below average.)

Consumer Reports only recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s Annual Car Reliability Survey of its own subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

Full tests and ratings of the test group appear in the October issue of Consumer Reports, which goes on sale September 4. The reports are also available to subscribers of http://www.ConsumerReports.org.

Like other recent offerings from Hyundai, the Elantra mimics many Toyota qualities: It has user-friendly and clear controls; very good fit and finish; a comfortable, quiet ride; and handling that is safe if not agile. Unlike other recent new cars from Hyundai, the Elantra also gets good fuel economy for its class, 27 mpg in CR’s own fuel economy tests. The Elantra GLS ($17,555 Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price as tested) is equipped with a 138-hp, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that provides good acceleration. Its four-speed automatic transmission is both smooth and responsive. The brakes are very good overall.

With its enormous backseat, spacious cargo area, easy access and relatively powerful engine, the Scion xB is a logical alternative to a similarly priced small sedan, and it’s a good value. The xB ($18,360 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 159-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes the xB one of the quicker small cars available. The four-speed automatic transmission delivers both smooth shifts and quick response. The xB delivered 23 mpg overall in CR’s tests, which is less than the previous generation xB. The new model feels more grown up and is a good value for the price. Brakes on the xB are very good.

While it’s an improvement over the old model, the redesigned Lancer still scores only midpack in its class. The Lancer’s handling is quite agile and the steering is responsive, lending the car a sporty feel. But the ride borders on being too stiff, the engine is noisy, and the brakes were a disappointment. The Lancer also had subpar fit and finish and mediocre fuel economy. The Lancer ES ($17,515 MSRP as tested) is equipped with a 152-hp, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine was good. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) was smooth. The Lancer’s brakes are good overall.

The Sentra is a pleasant small sedan in everyday driving. It has a comfortable ride, quiet cabin, roomy backseat and well-designed interior. But CR’s engineers found the Sentra tricky to control in a simulated emergency maneuver, with a tendency for the tail to lose grip too easily and slide. The Sentra 2.0S ($18,855 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 140-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine matched with a continuously variable transmission. The powertrain delivers good performance and smooth and responsive shifts. Braking was also unimpressive.

Sporty Cars: Big Fun in Tiny Packages

Of the three sporty cars that CR tested this month, engineers and editors rated the Mazdaspeed3 best. It’s based on the already fun-to-drive and practical Mazda3, but has a stronger powertrain and a sport-oriented suspension. The Mazda rides tautly but is well controlled. The Mazdaspeed3 Grand Touring ($25,195 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 263-hp, turbocharged, 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers excellent acceleration. Its six-speed transmission is very good, though the gated shifter caused some drivers to miss shifts. Braking on the Mazda is also excellent.

Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Web site; the magazine’s auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To subscribe to Consumer Reports, call 1-800-234-1645. Information and articles from the magazine can be accessed online at http://www.ConsumerReports.org.