2007 Hyundai Elantra
Photo: Hyundai. Click image to enlarge

By Paul Williams

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Quebec City – Two years ago, Hyundai Canada committed to introducing seven new vehicles to the Canadian market – effectively replacing its entire vehicle line – in twenty-four months. With the introduction of the 2007 Hyundai Elantra, the company has done just that (the others are the Santa Fe, Accent, Entourage, Azera, Sonata and Tucson).

In the process, Hyundai has racked up numerous awards for its vehicles, including 2006 AJAC Canadian Car of the Year awards for its Sonata (Best New Family Car under $35,000) and Azera (Best New Family Car over $35,000). According to evaluators like JD Power and Associates, the quality of Hyundai’s vehicles now competes head-to-head with, and in many cases exceeds, those from North America and Japan.

Ranging in price from $15,595 to $23,095, the 2007 Elantra is a vehicle on which its designers have spent considerable effort in attending to the everyday details of vehicle ownership. Things like multiple storage containers, generous cargo capacity, interior roominess, quietness, and ease of operation figure prominently in this car.

2007 Hyundai Elantra

2007 Hyundai Elantra

2007 Hyundai Elantra
Photos: Hyundai. Click image to enlarge

And the shapely lines of its exterior design are something of an alternative to the sharper, angular look of its competition. They perhaps communicate comfort and familiarity, rather than the modern profile of the new Honda Civic, for instance.

“It focuses more on elegance and sophistication,” said Jay Moore, Hyundai Canada’s National Training Director, “rather than trying to be sporty, like other vehicles in this segment.”

To emphasize this observation, Hyundai Canada brought John Kim, the company’s Senior Vice President and Director of Design, from Seoul, Korea to explain the new look of the Elantra.

He pointed out that the “S” or “character” line down the side of the car is a particularly Korean design element, inspired by the flowing hills and mountain ranges that typify the Korean landscape. Mr. Kim demonstrated how the dashboard and front of the Elantra follow lines found in Korean architecture, and identified the numerous areas throughout the car where special attention was placed on the fine details of operation and practicality: another Korean trait, he said (mind you, the rear looks decidedly like a Volkswagen Jetta or Toyota Corolla).

2007 Hyundai Elantra
John Kim, Senior Vice President and Director of Design. Photo: Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

Indeed, the 2007 Elantra left me with the impression that many people have spent a lot of time doing their very best to get it right.

Under the hood of this front-wheel drive compact car is a 2.0-litre, inline four-cylinder engine that produces 138 horsepower and 136 foot-pounds of torque. A five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission is available, with the latter featuring a new step-gated shifter in the centre console.

Suspension is front MacPherson strut with coil springs and gas absorbers, and a rear multi-link system of independent coil springs. Front and rear stabilizer bars of 23 mm and 17 mm respectively, help reduce body roll when cornering. Steering is electrically assisted rack-and-pinion, and body stiffness is up 49% over the outgoing model.

2007 Hyundai Elantra

2007 Hyundai Elantra

2007 Hyundai Elantra
Photos: Hyundai. Click image to enlarge

The new Elantra is wider (30 mm) and taller (65 mm) than its predecessor. Increasing the height elevates the driver’s seating position by 46 mm, and noticeably opens up the cabin. Hyundai points out that the interior is so roomy that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies it as a mid-size car, rather than a compact.

Trunk space is also generous at 402 litres, and is made more usable by the large trunk opening that permits big items to be accommodated.

However, Hyundai has resisted the temptation to make the car longer (in fact, it’s 20 mm shorter than the previous Elantra), preferring instead to focus on the optimal use of internal space in an externally compact package.

Buying the new Elantra may be a little confusing, though, as there are five trim levels – GL, GL Comfort, GL Comfort Plus, GL Sport and GLS – plus manual and automatic transmission options (and I got the impression that a wagon might join the line, too). Without listing the components of each trim level, suffice it to say that the base $15,595 GL arrives with no air conditioner, wind-up rear windows, 15-inch steel wheels and rear drum brakes (an extra $800 buys air conditioning and gets you power rear windows), the $19,295 GL Comfort Plus includes six airbags, anti-lock brakes, four-wheel disc brakes, active front head restraints and steering wheel mounted audio controls. The $23,095 GLS automatic, according to Hyundai, “takes the Elantra upscale,” by including leather seating surfaces, leather door panel inserts and armrests, automatic climate control, 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights and a power sunroof. Notably, heated seats are standard on all but the base GL model.

2007 Hyundai Elantra
Photo: Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

Value conscious buyers can buy the GL with air and automatic transmission for $17,495.

The trim levels don’t tell the full story, though, as the Elantra is an exceedingly nice car to drive. It’s quiet, smooth and solid, and its engine was more than adequate in the driving conditions we encountered on the country roads and highways around Quebec City. Fuel economy is excellent, at 8.4/8.3 l/100 km city, 6.0/6.0 highway, (figures for manual/automatic), and the build quality throughout is of a very high standard. More than that, the car is extremely pleasant to sit in, with useful storage containers located in all the right places, tasteful interior fabrics and materials, tidy control layout, and unexpected touches like chrome accents for switches and instruments. Compared with luxury brands from Europe and Japan, the Elantra may have humble origins, but it has definitely been to finishing school.

2007 Hyundai Elantra

2007 Hyundai Elantra

2007 Hyundai Elantra
Photos: Hyundai. Click image to enlarge

And while the five-speed manual transmission endows the Elantra with a sporty driving feel, it’s the automatic that best suits the character of the car. At 120 km/h with the manual, for instance, the engine is turning at about 3,300 rpm, and is definitely audible in the passenger compartment (even with the Elantra’s extra insulation and triple door seals). In comparison, at the same speed an Elantra with the automatic transmission runs at a low 2,500 rpm, and is notably quieter and smoother.

Over potholes and abrupt changes in road surface, the Elantra is unflappable, refusing to pitch or lurch where other cars may react unpredictably. The seats are comfortable, the cabin is spacious, the car feels substantial, and owners are likely to feel well pleased with their purchase when behind the wheel.

As far as the character line along the side of the car goes, however, I may be in the minority, but it doesn’t do much for me. I think it produces a somewhat dated look that shortens the car and shrinks the wheels. The difference between a flowing line and an expanding waist is surely subjective, but there you go. The back, front and interior, I think are terrific.

This is another exercise in exceeding expectations from Hyundai. Their philosophy of “over-delivering” continues by building vehicles that look and behave as if they cost more.

The 2007 Hyundai Elantra belongs on your list when shopping for a vehicle in this class.

At a glance: 2007 Hyundai Elantra

  • Price range: $15,595 to $23,095,

  • Trim levels: GL, GL Comfort, GL Comfort Plus, GL Sport and GLS
  • Engine 2.0-litre four cylinder
  • Horsepower 138
  • Torque 136 lb-ft.
  • Fuel consumption City: 8.4 L/100 km (34 mpg Imp.)
  • Hwy: 6.0 L/100 km (47 mpg Imp.)
  • Competition: Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Kia Spectra, Chevy Cobalt, Pontiac Pursuit, Ford Focus, Dodge Caliber, Mitsubishi Galant, Nissan Sentra, Saturn Ion, Suzuki Verona, VW City Jetta

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