2007 Hyundai Elantra GLS
2007 Hyundai Elantra GLS. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Laurance Yap

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Photo Gallery: 2007 Hyundai Elantra

It may look like a little car, but it’s really a big car.

Like many recent Hyundais, the Elantra is a much bigger car than the one it replaces, and one that’s bigger inside than most of its competition. Indeed, while it’s ostensibly a compact car, competing against the likes of the Chevy Cobalt, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, the Elantra is classified by the U.S. EPA as a midsize car – one whose passenger space is actually on par with larger vehicles like the Acura TL. The extra room comes thanks to a stretch in wheelbase compared to the last Elantra, as well as a higher seating position for all occupants: when you sit higher, you can sit more upright, making more room for legs and elbows. The result is a cabin that feels remarkably spacious and that is comfortable for backseat riders even on long trips. (Oh yeah, the trunk is huge, too).

Quality – something Hyundai is focusing a lot of effort on these days – is appreciably better than the old Elantra. The surfaces are all low-gloss and nice to the touch; panel gaps are tiny; the seats are upholstered in durable-looking cloth or soft leather. More importantly, the cabin is full of thoughtful luxury-car touches. The storage compartments in the dash and centre console have rubber liners to keep their contents from rattling around. All of the switches are backlit at night. There’s an extra power outlet so you can plug in your MP3 player as well as your cell phone (too bad the audio system, even in my top-of-the-line GLS, doesn’t have an auxiliary jack; it does, however, play MP3 CDs).

2007 Hyundai Elantra GLS
2007 Hyundai Elantra GLS. Click image to enlarge

Having been very impressed by the refinement of Hyundai’s latest efforts in its higher-end models like the Azera and Santa Fe, I was expecting a lot of the new Elantra. For the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. This is a very comfortable car, with a smooth ride no matter how harsh the road surface is, and excellent management of wind and engine noise. Press hard on the accelerator for passing, however, and the 2.0-litre, 138 hp engine gets pretty buzzy; it revs eagerly enough but isn’t as refined as, say, the units in the Honda Civic or Mazda3. Should you choose an automatic with your Elantra – my GLS tester came only as an auto, while a five-speed manual is standard on lower grades – you only get four speeds, when Honda and others are now offering five.

The Elantra’s relatively aggressive styling – it has a sharky nose and the flares over its wheels are a reminder of the first-generation Tiburon – prepares you for some sporty moves and indeed, it hangs on very well in corners, with tautly-controlled body motions and a real sense of stability. On the 16-inch wheels and all-season tires, the Elantra can maintain a lot of momentum along a winding road, settling into an easygoing rhythm that belies its size and price positioning. Special mention must go to the brakes, which are four-wheel discs on the GLS (base GL models get a disc/drum setup; add an option package and you get discs all around) and are coupled to a firm, progressive pedal. One major discordant note, however, is the steering, whose power assistance seems to have a mind of its own.

2007 Hyundai Elantra GLS
2007 Hyundai Elantra GLS
2007 Hyundai Elantra GLS. Click image to enlarge

Sometimes it’s light as a feather, sometimes it’s pleasingly weighty. It turns out, after a glance at the press kit, that assistance is actually determined by engine speed rather than road speed or steering angle, which accounts for its odd feel.

For a value-priced family car (you can get into an Elantra for less than $16,000) that’s not a fatal flaw, partly because the rest of the package is so compelling. Even the base model comes with ABS brakes and a nicely-equipped interior. Several packages up the comfort level of the GL model: you can add air conditioning by itself or as part of a comfort or comfort “plus” package; airbags and head curtain airbags are on the GL comfort plus and GLS models. The GLS has adds leather, automatic climate control and many other goodies, but the nicest package may be the GL Sport, with its power sunroof and slightly more aggressive look for $20,595.

Either way, you’re getting a very roomy, very nicely-made car. The Elantra isn’t the complete slam-dunk that some other new Hyundais (particularly the Santa Fe) are, but then again, it’s playing in perhaps the most competitive market segment in Canada. If it isn’t the automatic choice in its class, it’s certainly one of the major contenders in it, and one whose laid-back, luxurious attitude is a nice contrast to its competitors.

Pricing: 2007 Hyundai Elantra GLS


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