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1996 Hyundai Elantra

by Larkin Hill

SEE ALSO: Hyundai Buyer's Guide

It has style, it has grace, it defines compact space. Introducing the new and improved Hyundai Elantra…it redefines the term economy car. I mean…when the word Hyundai is mentioned the first thoughts are not exactly expensive and luxury…lets face it, we often think budget (bad word)!

Budget was the word I was thinking when I heard about the Hyundai… they are the ones that brought in the really small and unsafe Excel in the ‘80’s, right? I honestly was thinking bottom of the line, meaning the price tag would definitely define the quality of the car. WRONG! Oh boy, was I wrong…this thing was small, but not much smaller than a Civic, and even bigger than the Tercel and Corolla. And did this baby have curves, or what? It does not resemble it’s older sister the Excel, in fact it has class and a notable look. It’s really even pretty.

The exterior is sleek and flattering. It’s curvaceous and well proportioned, complete with a cute little butt. The body is all one, there is no separate bumper in the front or the back, it blends into a smooth one piece (popular in most of the ’96 cars). The Elantra has magically mixed the body of the Altima and the Civic to create a sweet little car.

The interior, however, has some mixed reviews. The space is generous for a compact car, it’s light and airy. There’s more than adequate head room and rear seat passengers neither have to slouch nor sit in a fetal position (something you are forced to do in many vehicles two and three times the price of the Elantra). In fact, the back seat is very comfortable, with the seats even giving a little back support. Yet, while there is adequate space, the interior is rather cheesy looking. Although comfortable and soft, the seats in the car I test drove were upholstered in an goofy confetti pattern, which contradicted the rest of its appearance. The remainder of the interior is not bad, the dash and the floor material look about the same as any other compact car, clean and simple. The compact trunk also had a lot of room, with back seats that fold down to provide additional cargo space (great if you’re moving to college or need to stuff baby things in a larger area).

The outer appearance and inner space is delightful, but the real test is it’s driving skills. Though, the look was great, the most impressive aspect of the car was its power. Its 130 horse power was maximized. It sped along the moment you touched the gas…this honey had zip! Because the Elantra is so light and small, the 1.8 liter performs like a power house. I was already in love with the exterior, so I was extra delighted when I could easily beat anyone next to me at the stoplight. To top it off, I could pass anyone I wanted on the freeway, even on the steep hills, with a full load of girls, and their shopping bags…I was sold.

Overall, to say the least, I was surprised with the Elantra. It has the look, and the performance…the only thing that’s missing is the a good reputation (meaning you’re not buying the car for it’s name). That’s probably why the lovely Elantra I drove is a mere $13,000 (for those of you who are out of touch with current car prices, this is low for all the perks you get). A comparably equipped Civic, Corolla or Tercel would most likely cost over $16,000. Not only that, but even some of the more expensive Hondas and Toyotas have significantly less horsepower and standard equipment. I say…give the Elantra a chance. This is a perfect first car for a teenager or a young mother; it’s attractive, sporty, affordable, safe, gets fantastic gas mileage, and has a cool name. I would want one!