For 2005, the Hyundai Elantra adds new trim levels: the four-door sedan adds the SE line, while the four-door hatchback, available only in top-line GT trim for 2004, now adds the more affordable GL and VE trim. Prices have dropped, but note that the 7-year/120,000 km powertrain warranty introduced with much fanfare in 2004 has been quietly dropped back to its previous 5-year/100,000 km. That moves it even further out of line with the 10-year powertrain warranty given to American buyers.

The Elantra shares its platform with the newly redesigned Kia Spectra and Spectra5, but although prices are similar, the Spectra contains side and curtain airbags as standard equipment which are unavailable on the Elantra in Canada. (In the U.S., side airbags are standard equipment on the Elantra.)

All Elantra models share a 2.0-litre engine and come with a five-speed manual that can be optioned up to a four-speed automatic.

Both the sedan and hatchback start in the base GL trim line, which includes 15-inch wheels, tilt wheel, CD/MP3 system, 60/40 folding rear seat, manual remote mirrors and variable intermittent wipers. The hatchback GL also includes four-wheel disc brakes, sport-tuned suspension and a rear wiper/washer. Air conditioning is optional on both models, but while it’s a factory installation on the hatchback, it’s a dealer-install on the sedan.

The sedan and hatchback both move up to the VE line, which adds air conditioning, power windows, heated power mirrors and power locks with keyless entry, and cruise control.

The top line in both models – the sedan’s new SE, and the hatchback GT – includes 15-inch alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, fog lights, six-speaker stereo, leather-wrapped steering wheel and power sunroof.

A perpetual bestseller in Hyundai’s line-up, the Elantra is a smooth performer in this price range, offering numerous standard features at a price that undercuts the base models of Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Mazda3. The quality of materials and fit-and-finish has improved immensely from an automaker that, not that long ago, wasn’t considered much of a contender.

The introduction of lower-priced trim lines on the hatchback model is welcome, allowing buyers to get into this practical envelope without having to take all of the upper-line features.

Still, given its commitment to quality and customer satisfaction, it’s tough to understand why Hyundai wouldn’t offer the same crash protection devices as its sister company Kia – or why Canadian buyers can’t get the side airbags and longer warranty that Americans take for granted.

The Elantra is built in Ulsan, South Korea.

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