Reviews

2013 Hyundai Elantra Walk Around

The Hyundai Elantra sedan looks striking with crisp, edgy styling. It has presence among four-door compact sedans. Most of the rest of the class looks dated by comparison. Viewed from the front, the hexagonal grille presents a more sinister grin than that of the Mazda 3. The headlight housings wrap into the fenders, the trailing edge back as far as the centerline of the front wheels. This is in-your-face styling as far as commuter compacts go.

In side view, the four-door echoes the styling of the Hyundai Sonata midsize sedan, with a raked windshield, roofline flowing into the trunk, coupe-like rear side window shape, and a forward-leaning shape. The crease that runs a rising arc from the front wheel, through the door handles and over the rear-wheel openings into the taillights mirrors the shape of the old British-built Triumph TR7 sports cars.

From the rear, the Elantra sedan is very similar to the larger Sonata, so much so that in the distance or without anything for scale you have to be well-versed on your Hyundais to tell the difference. The tail lights are long, wavy wraparound fixtures echoing the curves that lead in to the rear bumper and promote airflow to help keep the lights clean; on a dirty road surface the license plate should be the first part shrouded in muck.

The Elantra Coupe has a sleeker, wedgier shape, without infringing too much on Genesis Coupe territory. In front, the wide-mouth hexagonal grille is framed by more swept-back headlamps, while the side view reveals more angular A- and C-pillars. Because the coupe is still decently sized, its doors are awfully long, which is most noticeable when getting in and out in tight parking quarters. In back, the integrated spoiler, wraparound taillights and dual chrome exhaust tips accentuate the sportier character.

The hatchback Elantra GT design began in California, then was finished off in the studios of Europe, its biggest market. The five-door hatch has a slightly friendlier look, with a large black insert across the signature Hyundai hexagonal grille turned upward into a faint smile. The overall length of the GT is nine inches shorter than the sedan, and also several inches shorter than the Limited model it replaces. But it doesn't by any means look diminutive. Although still a compact hatch, the lines and proportions of the Elantra GT resemble those of larger, more luxurious crossovers. It, too, uses fluid shapes such as wraparound head- and taillights that make it clear the GT is part of the Elantra family.

Interior

Hyundai Elantra's interior doesn't resemble that of cost-cutter compacts, instead marrying style with interesting materials. For example, the headliner employs a mix of material that includes volcanic rock to an interesting effect more attractive than fuzzy cardboard or plastic. We think the nice interior is part of the value proposition offered by the Elantra. It has neither hint of cheapness nor pretense of luxury.

The sedan has a lot of passenger volume, and particularly roomy up front. Both of our 6-foot, 3-inch test dummies fit fine, even with a sunroof, and neither had the seat all the way back. Front seats proved comfortable for hours with a decent range of adjustability. Rear seats are also comfortable, with a center floor that's nearly flat and a well-padded center seat that sits slightly higher.

On the coupe and GT models, drivers and front passengers of just about any size will be comfortable, but a steeply raked roofline significantly reduces headroom in the rear. As such, backseat passengers taller than 5 feet, 7 inches will most likely find the tops of their heads rubbing against the volcanic-infused headliner.

The sedan and GT versions offer good outward visibility, despite wide D-pillars, which are a function of new safety regulations. However, rear visibility on the coupe is significantly reduced due to its radically sloped rear window.

The instrument cluster and center stack design on all Elantras are clean and simple. Both versions of the center display (the one that comes with with the standard audio system, as well as the 7-inch touchscreen with navigation) are easy to read, even in bright sunlight. Both user interfaces are mostly intuitive, save a few functions that seem to take more steps than necessary, such as changing the EQ on the audio system. On base models with the manually operated air conditioning, we found the lowest fan setting a bit too windy. We prefer the wider range of adjustability offered by the dual-zone automatic climate control.

All variants of the Elantra boast interior storage that is ample and conveniently located. Door pockets are practical but not cavernous, cupholders will carry everything except Big Gulps, and electronics plugs aren't right next to the cup holders waiting to fill with spilled coffee or cola. Those who prefer to keep their iPods and phones concealed will like the coupe's covered storage area aft of the shifter, while the GT's open console space offers quick access.

Although plastic is used on many surfaces on all Elantras, it is mostly attractive and well-executed. We were pleasantly surprised to find the center AC vents were color-matched to the surrounding trim, which not always the case on even more expensive cars. Leather upholstery on models so equipped was a bit disappointing and was more akin to vinyl than butter. In some areas, stitching appeared to buckle ever-so-slightly in certain places on seat cushions. Still, you'd be hard-pressed to find real cowhide on other cars for the price.

Trunk space in the sedan and coupe measures nearly 15 cubic feet, more than the Civic or Kia Forte, but shy of the Chevrolet Cruze and Mazda3. The trunk opening on both cars is not huge but sufficient, with 60/40 folding rear seats that increase capacity, although they do not fold completely flat.

The Elantra GT's hatch shape gives allows for a roomy 23 cubic-feet of trunk space, with a max 51 cubes with the seats folded down. That's more than the five-door versions of the Ford Focus and Mazda3, but falls just short one cubic foot short of the Subaru Impreza.

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