Hyundai's most popular model slots between the subcompact Accent and the midsize Sonata in size and price. Revisions to the sheet metal and interior marked the 2004 models. A new instrument cluster was installed, and the 2.0-liter four-cylinder gained continuously variable valve timing.
Sedans are available in GLS and GT trim levels. Five-door hatchbacks formerly came only in GT form, but a new GLS hatchback for 2005 features a sport suspension and all-disc brakes.
The GT models get a tauter suspension with higher-rate springs, gas-filled shock absorbers and larger-diameter stabilizer bars. All-disc brakes, fog lamps and 15-inch alloy wheels are installed.
Strong character lines highlight the Elantra, which features styling that's more chiseled and European than previous models. The Elantra rides a 102.7-inch wheelbase, measures 178 inches long overall, stands 56.1 inches tall and stretches nearly 68 inches wide. GT models have a body-colored rear lip spoiler. A moonroof is optional.
Each Elantra seats up to five occupants. A three-place 60/40-split folding rear seat expands the sedan's trunk space, which totals 13 cubic feet. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, a cassette player, a tilt steering column, a rear defogger, and power windows, locks and mirrors. Remote keyless entry includes an alarm.
A unique instrument panel in GT models holds purple-lit VDO gauges. The GT features leather seating surfaces, cruise control and a six-speaker CD audio system.
Under the Hood
A 2.0-liter four-cylinder powers the Elantra lineup. In states with Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle requirements, the engine develops 132 horsepower, but it's rated at 138 hp in other areas. A five-speed-manual gearbox is standard, and a four-speed-automatic transmission is optional.
Seat-mounted side-impact airbags are standard, and antilock brakes are optional.
Even though the Elantra isn't overly enticing at first, it tends to grow on an open-minded driver and turns into an appealing little automobile. Performance with the manual transmission is surprisingly frisky, and the Elantra accelerates with spirit. Well matched to the engine, the gearbox and clutch permit gentle engagement for easy takeoffs. But putting it into Reverse can be a chore at times.
Except for a slight growl during acceleration, the Elantra is quiet on the road. The Elantra whips through corners with ease; some body lean is evident, but not enough to be troubling. Because its suspension copes adeptly with rough spots, the Elantra's ride is pleasantly smooth for a small car.
Attractive seats are firmly cushioned and offer very good back support. Backseat legroom is amazing, and even the center rear position isn't too bad.
Handling is a bit tauter on the fun-to-drive GT, and ride comfort suffers only modestly. The GT's gauges are large, but their distinctive purple hue isn't the easiest to read at night.