2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport
2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2008 Hyundai Elantra

It was almost a year ago that I test drove the redesigned 2007 Hyundai Elantra GL Sport with the optional four-speed automatic transmission. At that time, I concluded, “While it’s not a performance sedan, the new Elantra GL Sport is a roomy, comfortable car with attractive if not innovative styling, a very nice interior, a roomy trunk, decent performance, reasonable fuel economy and a very good five-year basic warranty. My biggest concern is the unavailability of side and curtain airbags.”

Well, perhaps Hyundai has been listening to its critics because side and curtain airbags have now been made standard equipment in the 2008 Elantra Sport model which has been re-named the “GLS with Sport Package”. The 2008 MSRP has increased only modestly from $20,595 to $20,995.

As the Elantra underwent a major redesign in 2007, there are only minor changes for 2008: a new cabin roof headliner, a new auxiliary audio jack for music players, an engine immobilizer, and new power door locks on base L models. And as I mentioned, GLS w/Sport Package models have added side and curtain airbags.

2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport
2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport. Click image to enlarge

Some confusion may follow the changes to the 2008 Elantra’s trim level designations: the GL is changed to L, GL Comfort is changed to GL, GL Comfort Plus is changed to GLS, GL Sport is changed to GLS with Sport Package, and GLS is changed to Limited – sort of a wholesale trim level upgrade.

Pricing and standard equipment

Prices have gone up slightly for 2008, but the changes are difficult to measure exactly given the change in trim levels and shuffling of standard equipment levels. Base 2008 Elantra L models ($15,845) include the same 138-hp four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission as before, 15-inch tires and steel wheels, front disc/rear drum brakes, power rack and pinion steering, cloth seats, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo, tilt steering wheel, height adjustable driver’s seat, rear door child locks, rear tether anchors, and 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks.

2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport
2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport
2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport. Click image to enlarge

To those standard features, the Elantra GL ($18,095) adds air conditioning, power windows, heated mirrors, heated seats, keyless entry, cruise control, deluxe centre console with armrest, rear seat armrest, driver’s seat height adjuster, and rear centre head restraint.
The GLS ($20,595) adds 16-inch tires, rear disc brakes and ABS, active front head restraints, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and side and curtain airbags.

The GLS with Sport Package ($20,995) adds 16-inch alloy wheels, windshield sunshade band, front fog lamps, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, power glass sunroof with sliding sunshade, trip computer, and rear spoiler.

The Limited ($23,195) adds a standard four-speed automatic transmission, leather seats, automatic climate control, key set illumination, illuminated vanity mirrors, telescopic wheel, and windshield washer warning.

One important piece of standard equipment is missing. A block heater is an extra $119.

2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport
2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport
2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport
2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport. Click image to enlarge

Interior impressions

Though the Elantra is a compact four-door sedan, its cabin feels roomier than competitors like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Kia Spectra. In particular, the cabin seems wider and there is more legroom for rear passengers than many of its competitors.

The interior is well-finished too, with soft-touch plastics, soft cloth seating material, vinyl door inserts, and subtle metal-like trim accents on the steering wheel, dash and around the shift lever. The Sport model also has attractive stainless steel foot pedals.

The Elantra’s ergonomics are very good: the height adjustable driver’s seat and tilt steering wheel make it possible to find a comfortable driving position and there is ample headroom despite the sunroof; the shift lever is nicely positioned for reach, and the front footwells are wide. The round gauges with blue and white numerals are easy to read, the power window buttons on the door are angled for easy operation, the centre dash is pulled forwards to make the controls easier to reach, and the radio and heater controls are simple and straightforward. The GLS Sport also includes audio and cruise control buttons on the steering wheel hub.

2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport
2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport. Click image to enlarge

Storage areas abound. Aside from the glovebox and door pockets, there is a covered bin atop the dash, an open bin for CDs in the middle of the centre stack, and another covered storage bin just under the heater controls. At the bottom of the centre stack is an open tray and two 12-volt powerpoints, a handy spot for rechargeable devices. Behind the shift lever are two cupholders with spring-loaded cup grips, and behind that a centre armrest with two levels of storage. A sunglasses holder is incorporated in the overhead console. Rear passengers have mesh pockets on the back of the front seats and a centre rear armrest with cupholders.

My only criticism is that the leather-wrapped steering wheel is so smooth and slippery that’s it’s often difficult to grip; and though the front seat heaters are welcome on a cold morning, they have only one temperature setting which quickly becomes too hot.

2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport
2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport
2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport
2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport. Click image to enlarge

All Elantra’s have five three-point seatbelts and five height adjustable head restraints including active front head restraints which help prevent whiplash in a rear-end collision. The side airbags for front passengers and curtain airbags for both front and rear passengers add a significantly higher level of protection in the event of a side impact. For child passengers, rear anchors and tethers for child seats and rear child door locks are standard.

The Elantra’s rear 60/40 split folding seatbacks are released by pulling on a knob in the trunk but the rear seatbacks don’t fold entirely flat and the opening to the trunk is not very wide or tall. Still, it’s handy if you have a six-foot lamp stand to carry home.

The 402 litre (14.2 cu. ft.) trunk is quite big by compact car standards, and is fully lined. Under the cargo floor is a small, temporary spare tire. The trunk lid can be opened remotely with a button on the key fob, very handy when you have bags of groceries in the other hand.

Driving impressions

Despite its sporty appearance, the Elantra w/Sport Package is not really a performance sedan like, say, a Civic Si sedan. The Elantra Sport has the same engine, transmission and suspension as all the other Elantra models, although it does have the upgraded 16-inch radials and four-wheel disc brakes and ABS offered on the GLS and Limited trim levels.

2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport
2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport. Click image to enlarge

Its 138-hp 2.0-litre DOHC four-cylinder powerplant with continuously variable valve timing provides good off the line response and peppy mid-range acceleration but its acceleration times are just average for a compact car – independent acceleration tests of an almost identical 2007 Elantra GLS by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) last year, showed a 0-to-100 km/h time of 10.2 seconds, and an 80 to 120 km/h passing time of 7.1 seconds.

Above 4,000 r.p.m., this engine becomes rather noisy and unrefined, and as you accelerate and change gears, the engine tends to hang there for a second or two at higher revs when you lift your foot off the throttle.

Exacerbating this is a rather clunky manual five-speed transmission, which though it is easy to change from gear to gear, feels loose and rubbery, and makes little ‘clunking’ noises as you change gears.

2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport
2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport
2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport. Click image to enlarge

With the manual transmission, engine revs appear to be higher than they are with the optional four-speed automatic transmission. In fifth gear, I recorded 2,500 r.p.m. at 100 km/h, while in last year’s Elantra with a four-speed automatic transmission, I saw 2,200 r.p.m. at 100 km/h.

On the positive side, the Elantra’s engine is quiet and comfortable below 3,000 r.p.m., and the transmission and clutch require very little effort to operate. Its fuel consumption numbers of 8.4 L/100 km (34 mpg Imp) City and 6.0 L/100 km (47 mpg Imp) Highway are well behind the class leader, the Toyota Corolla with 7.1 L/100 km (40 mpg) City and 5.3 L/100 km (53 mpg) Hwy, but they’re still fairly frugal.

Handling and manoeuvrability are nimble, due in part to the Elantra’s fully independent suspension, low effort power rack-and-pinion steering, tight turning circle of 10.3 m (33.9 ft.), and standard 205/55HR-16-inch radials. This is an easy car to drive, with good sightlines and a compliant suspension that absorbs bumps and potholes quite well.

2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport
2008 Hyundai Elantra Sport. Click image to enlarge

Braking performance, as measured by AJAC, shows a 100 km/h-to-0 braking distance of 42.5 metres (139.4 ft.), about average in this class.

The Elantra GLS with Sport Package is certainly a sporty looking car, but not necessarily a sporty driving car. For reasons of comfort and refinement, I would recommend choosing the automatic transmission rather than the manual one.


The addition of side and curtain airbags to the 2008 Elantra with Sport Package is a big safety upgrade, but a rather unrefined engine and transmission detract from its otherwise easy to drive nature.

Pricing: 2008 Hyundai Elantra GLS w/Sport Package


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