The folks planning Hyundai’s media events know what they’re doing. When they invited hordes of car writers to San Diego for a chance to tool around in the 2013 Hyundai Veloster, they didn’t have over key fobs to the sporty hatchbacks right away. They made the gearheads behave themselves for a day behind the wheel of the more mild-mannered 2013 Hyundai Elantra.
While the Elantra is nowhere near as much fun to drive as the Veloster, it is well-known for its reliability, fuel economy and easy ride. Just as Toyota built its empire on the Corolla, as Nissan serves up the Sentra, and Honda proliferates its Civic, Hyundai banks on the Elantra as a foundation vehicle.
To that end, Hyundai up’d the styling cues for 2013. The automaker’s signature sweeping rear fenders and tapered passenger windows in the coupe aspire to give a traditional passenger carrier a sportier look. The GT leans more to the boxy side of the design table, but that distinguishes from the much more stylish Veloster.
But, the Elantra is not a sporty car – nor is it intended to be. During the full-day test drive, reporters could give the Elantra Coupe and GT a friendly run around the hills of Southern California to the Mount Palomar Observatory and back to Torrie Pines Golf Course. The Elantra always felt stable in the sharper turns.
Its MacPherson Strut, coil spring front suspension – and torsion axle gas-filled hydraulic monotube shock absorbers – offered a civilized, smooth ride even on the broken down, gravel-choked two lane roads leading up to the observatory.
Even amidst all of these pleasantries, the Elantra did feel consistently underpowered in both its coupe and GT formations. Like all of its affordable sedan competitors from the Far East, this South Korean usurper packs a four cylinder, 16 valve engine producing 148 horsepower.
That’s obviously not enough to get your blood pumping. But, on some of the borderland’s more severe hills, it didn’t feel like quite enough to get the car to the higher ground with any sense of urgency. But, for a base price starting at only $16,695, it’s safe to expect some shortcomings in the power plant performance department.
The interior is comfortable and well appointed, especially for such an affordable machine. The driver gets to choose from three handling settings – Comfort, Normal and Sport. Their intentions are self-explanatory. Comfort softens the ride by allowing more give in the suspension. Sport sucks everything up nice and tight in the hope of squeezing more sensitive maneuvering out of the car’s limited power train.
Various trim and interior options packages can add improved stereo systems satellite navigation, voice activation and other common features. Such refinements can raise the price up $20,945 for the top of the line Limited model.
In either its coupe of GT incarnation, the Elantra isn’t necessarily for car lovers. But it is certainly aimed accurately at drivers needing adequate drive quality, reasonable comfort and enough trinkets to add a flare of ambition. And, with the magic number of 40 mpg reachable on highway driving, the 2013 Elantra will keep itself neck and neck with its affordable rivals.