Received my first taste of the 2011 Hyundai Elantra at its press preview in San Diego on December 3. Here's the 411: It's big enough on the inside for the EPA to classify it as a midsize car; yet by its outside dimensions, it's still a compact. The tongue-in-cheek theme of the press program was "Save the Asterisks." This to highlight that every new Elantra earned an EPA highway mileage rating of 40 mpg without any equivocation. That is, there are no asterisks leading you to tiny mouse print qualifying the 40 mpg claim. In fact, fuel economy is up 18 percent over the last generation Elantra.
Reflecting Hyundai's "Fluidic Sculpture" design concept, Elantra's skin is a collection of angles and chiseled lines. Likewise the interior is a far cry from some of the cookie-cutter cabins in this segment. It is handsomely styled and well assembled.
Leading the segment in power-to-weight ratio, the Elantra uses a peppy 148-horsepower 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine to turn its front wheels via a six-speed transmission. The tranny can either be manual or a driver-shiftable automatic.
Some key highlights include four-wheel antilock disc brakes with traction control and stability control, Bluetooth cell phone connectivity and voice recognition, six airbags, available heated rear seats, and a six-speaker Audio system with CD player, iPod integration and auxiliary input jacks.