"Good things come to those who wait." That's the excuse No. 1 daughter gave the last time she was asked to clean her room. It also was the excuse No. 2 daughter used when asked to set the dinner table. And it's what Hyundai of South Korea is saying about its 1994-model Elantra. We've long thought Hyundai would make a fine alternative to U.S. or Japanese economy cars, provided this were the 18th Century. Hyundai quality inthe '90s has been likened to Japanese quality in the '70s. Hyundai made a namefor itself in this country by selling on the cheap. The South Korean automakersaw an opening for a low-priced economy car to fill the void left by Japan andthe U.S. and took advantage of it with the Excel in 1986. Since then, however, while the U.S. and Japanese have been offering incentives to attract new buyers, Hyundai has been offering apologies to its old ones. To be blunt, we've never driven a South Korean car we'd want to give permanent residence to in our driveway while the title rests in the safe. Hyundai now says that the wait is over and that it has come up with a bunchof things that make its 1994 Elantra worthy to rub bumpers with the competition. For '94, Elantra sports some front- and rear-end cosmetic surgeryplus a driver-side air bag as standard, a long-awaited addition. Anti-lock brakes are an option to keep down the sticker price. Good things may happen if you're willing to wait, but Hyundai made consumers wait a lot longer for air-bag protection than the rest of the industry did. And consumers still have a wait ahead of them for dual bags, which are the norm at a time when Hyundai is catching up with a driver-side bag only. Robert Parker, vice president-sales for Hyundai, said the South Korean automaker will add dual air bags in the redesigned 1995 Sonata in March; in the restyled, smaller 1995 Excel (it may have a new name, too) next September;and the Elantra for the 1996 model year, when it gets a redesign at the same time Hyundai drops the Scoupe. Back to the present. Elantra is powered by a 1.8-liter, 124-horsepower, four-cylinder engine. The attraction is the 23 m.p.g. city/28 highway rating with the optional four-speed automatic transmission (the five-speed manual is rated at 21/28), not the ability to scoot from the light. And be advised that the engine/transmission like to growl when you kick the accelerator. The base price of the Elantra GLS we tested is $11,684 (with the manual, it's $10,959). Standard equipment includes power brakes and steering; independent suspension; front and rear stabilizer bars; gas-pressurized shocks; 14-inch Michelin steel-belted radials; AM/FM stereo with cassette; power windows, mirrors and door locks; body-colored bumpers, door handles and bodyside moldings; tinted glass; rear-window defroster; intermittent windshield wipers;digital clock; remote fuel-filler door, decklid and hood releases; and rear-door child-safety locks. Our test car added a $3,120 package consisting of an upgraded stereo with six speakers, non-Freon air conditioning, cruise control, aluminum-alloy wheels, anti-lock brakes and power sunroof. It also added carpeted floor mats for $58, a sunroof wind deflector for $52 and a compact-disc player for $395. The sticker topped $15,300, a total we suspect will send consumers to Chevrolet or Ford showrooms for a Cavalier or an Escort, or to a Saturn dealership for an SL1 sedan. All three are lower-priced, even though they might not offer as much standard equipment. What the Chevy, Ford and Saturn lack in standard gadgets compared with Hyundai, they make up for in resale value. And those three alternatives to Hyundai will be joined next month by the Dodge/Plymouth Neon. Hyundai insists its quality is better and it's safe for consumers to come back into the showrooms. To lure back those buyers, it offers a 36-month/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty plus 60-month/60, 000-mile powertrain and 60-month/100,000-mile corrosion and perforation coverage. There's also a 36-month/36,000-mile roadside-assistance program offering emergency towing and mechanical service through a toll-free hot line. To eliminate the contribution neglected servicing makes to poor quality, Hyundai also offers free maintenance for the first two years or 24,000 miles of ownership. Or, buyers can do their own servicing and maintenance and take a$250 rebate. Hyundai officials expect sales to rise in 1994 because Japanese car prices have risen and Hyundai fills the void at the lower end of the market. But Cavalier, Escort, Saturn and, soon, Neon, can make the same claim.
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||December 27, 1993|
|Richard Truett||Orlando Sentinel||August 5, 1993|
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