2007 Hyundai Elantra GL w/ Comfort Package
2007 Hyundai Elantra GL w/ Comfort Package. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Chris Chase

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Photo Gallery: 2007 Hyundai Elantra

That Hyundai’s Elantra is an important vehicle for this South Korean automobile company is an understatement: here’s a car that competes with some of the most recognizable nameplates in the compact segment: Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla – and the Mazda3 which has enjoyed massive success since its arrival in 2004.

The third-generation Elantra was well received when it arrived in 2001, but it has become dated in recent years, especially when compared to some of its newer competitors. The redesigned 2007 Elantra sedan is Hyundai’s answer to the competition.

But wait. that’s it? No space-age interior? No European-inspired sheetmetal? Anyone who thinks Senior Editor Paul Williams was being diplomatic when he wrote the new Elantra’s looks “communicate comfort and familiarity,” raise your hands. From certain angles, the new car looks frumpy and bloated. Other viewpoints are better, though: from the rear, it’s actually quite nice looking; classy, even.

2007 Hyundai Elantra GL w/ Comfort Package
2007 Hyundai Elantra GL w/ Comfort Package. Click image to enlarge

I liked the Redfire Pearl paint that our test car wore, which earned compliments from a few onlookers. Perhaps part of the problem was the 15-inch wheels and tires on our Elantra GL Comfort that tend to look tiny under the car’s high beltline (The 16-inchers that come with higher-end trim levels – there are five total – improve the car’s outward appearance immensely).

2007 Elantra pricing begins at $15,595 for the bare-bones GL (with a manual transmission) and tops out at $23,095 for the auto-only GLS. Our tester just about split the difference at $19,095 with the optional automatic; a GL Comfort with a stick shift goes for $17,995 but otherwise mirrors our tester specs, with air conditioning, power windows, locks and (heated) mirrors, cruise and heated front seats.

2007 Hyundai Elantra GL w/ Comfort Package
2007 Hyundai Elantra GL w/ Comfort Package
2007 Hyundai Elantra GL w/ Comfort Package. Click image to enlarge

It’s worth noting that a Civic DX-G sedan, which gives you all of our Elantra’s features save the heated seats and cruise, is worth $20,380 with an automatic tranny; a Mazda3 GS lacks only the heated seats and can be had for just shy of $21,000 with an automatic. In the Elantra, side and side curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes can only be bundled together in the GL Comfort Plus trim package priced at $19,295 with a manual tranny (an auto-equipped version goes for $20,395) while both the Mazda3 and Civic include these safety items in all trim levels.

If you’re like us, you probably spend more time looking at the inside of your car than the outside, and it is inside where the new Elantra is more of a styling success. Gone is the wannabe-Saab dashboard, replaced by an instrument panel that shares much of its clean, ergonomic design with other current-generation Hyundais. Some of the radio controls are still a little small, but the climate control knobs fall much more closely to hand than they did in the old car. These are very user-friendly, too.

There’s a heap of interior storage, too: a handy lidded compartment tops the centre stack; there’s an open cubby just below the radio; another compartment just below the heater controls hides behind a bottom-hinged door and there’s a shallow tray ahead of the shifter; flip up the centre armrest for yet another bin, and there are map pockets and bottle holders in the front doors.

2007 Hyundai Elantra GL w/ Comfort Package
2007 Hyundai Elantra GL w/ Comfort Package
2007 Hyundai Elantra GL w/ Comfort Package. Click image to enlarge

Our tester had heated cloth seats (leather is available in the top-end GLS) that felt fancier than the upholstery in the old Elantra. The heaters were a nice surprise in a mid-level trim package, and very welcome on a few cold, December mornings. They’re of the simple on-off variety – no variable settings here – so pay attention lest you inadvertently toast your buns.

Interior lighting is a bit of an issue. Readers of James Bergeron’s blogs may recall his gripe about how the instrument and dash lights wouldn’t dim sufficiently for him, and we can vouch for that, with the radio display being the big problem: it doesn’t dim along with the other lights (which are an attractive blue, save for the white numerals on the gauges). What’s really odd is that the lights behind the radio buttons are regulated by the dimmer control; the display is the only anomaly.

Interior space is great, particularly in the back, where the old car could get a bit cramped for taller passengers. There’s good room in front, but the seats still rub some backsides the wrong way (who knew there was a wrong way to rub a backside?). Also, there’s no lumbar adjustment for the driver’s seat, which would have helped with the comfort issues.

2007 Hyundai Elantra GL w/ Comfort Package
2007 Hyundai Elantra GL w/ Comfort Package
2007 Hyundai Elantra GL w/ Comfort Package. Click image to enlarge

The redesigned Elantra carries on with the same powertrain found in the old car: a 2.0-litre four-cylinder with either a four-speed automatic of five-speed manual transmission. While many of the Elantra’s competitors are available with a five-speed auto, this Hyundai’s 138 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque are enough to provide adequate, if not dazzling, performance. The motor still makes some rough and rumbly noises when pressed, but less of it gets into the cabin than in the old car.

The single biggest improvement over the previous Elantra becomes apparent once you get underway. The ride is worlds better, with none of the whooshy-mooshy ride motions of the old car. This car’s springs feel a little firmer than they were in the old Elantra; we figure most of the improvement comes from better-tuned dampers (also known, incorrectly, as shock absorbers), which contribute to a more settled ride and better high-speed handling. Road noise is hushed, too, and the car takes well to highway cruising where its solid, planted feel makes it seem like a larger car. Despite the firmer suspension, the car’s seemingly taut structure makes for a rattle-free drive even over rough roads.

Braking is strong, even if the binders are kind of grabby; GL and GL Comfort models get a front-disc/rear-drum set-up, while the GL Comfort Plus, GL Sport and GLS get rear discs. The steering, with its new electric power assist set-up, is way too light at low speeds and never felt as hefty as we like, even at highway speeds, where assist is reduced. Little to no road surface feedback makes it up to the wheel rim, either.

2007 Hyundai Elantra GL w/ Comfort Package
2007 Hyundai Elantra GL w/ Comfort Package
2007 Hyundai Elantra GL w/ Comfort Package. Click image to enlarge

The trunk is usefully large, but we were disappointed by the bare metal on the inside of the trunk lid. We know this is hardly the ultimate standard by which cars are judged, but it looks cheap – how hard would it have been for Hyundai to slap a piece of gray plastic or fuzzy fabric in there to cover the metal trusses and latch hardware? Another gripe is the old-school trunk hinges, which intrude into the cargo hold when the lid is closed. Most sedans these days use nifty multi-link hinges that stay out of the way.

We really like the way the new Elantra behaves, and we can live without a high-tech interior and edgy styling, but we’re not sure if we’d be willing to give up the extra standard safety features that Honda and Mazda offer in this class. Many young families rely on cars in this class for safe transportation. Why should they have to pay extra for that peace of mind?


Pricing


Specifications

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Crash test results


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  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Ford Focus
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Honda Civic
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2006 Kia Spectra
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Mazda3
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Nissan Sentra
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Pontiac G5 sedan
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Saturn Ion
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Toyota Corolla


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