2011 Hyundai Elantra: Up Close


As with its Sonata family sedan, Hyundai is betting that stylish design will help generate interest in its redesigned Elantra compact car. The new Elantra arrives at a time when automakers are redoubling their efforts in this segment, but the Elantra’s combination of looks and fuel efficiency — it’s rated at 40 mpg on the highway — has the makings of a sales hit. The just-announced starting price under $15,000 will only add to the allure for car shoppers.

More L.A. Auto Show Coverage

Even though it’s a sedan, the Elantra has the look of a coupe. The roofline slopes gracefully down to the trunklid, and the rising belt line makes a sharp upturn at the rear, giving the rear side windows a triangular shape. This diminishes backseat-passenger visibility, but it gives the car a distinctive, sporty shape.


While the Sonata wears a striking chrome grille, Hyundai went with a more subtle approach on the 2011 Elantra, and it works well. There’s a thin upper grille, and below the front bumper is a larger opening that’s reminiscent of the smiley-face grilles on a number of Mazdas. Pronounced fender flares and dramatic sheet-metal creases along the sides of the car enhance its visual appeal. I’ve been a fan of the upcoming 2012 Ford Focus’ design, which uses some of those same styling techniques, but the new Elantra is poised to challenge it in the looks department.

MMS ID 76133 (created by CM Utility) automatic-content-migration

The emphasis on design continues in the cabin, which takes on a much different look. Sweeping dashboard lines and a center console that rises to meet the dash give the interior a modern appearance. There’s decent room in front for taller drivers, and the Elantra I sat in was equipped with a high-resolution touch-screen navigation system mounted high on the dash.

MMS ID 70173 (created by CM Utility) automatic-content-migration

The backseat is relatively comfortable, and there’s decent headroom despite the sloping roof. It feels about as large as the new Chevrolet Cruze’s backseat. Lifting the trunklid reveals a deep, large cargo area.

Hyundai quietly sells around 100,000 Elantras a year, but the current model doesn’t enter the conversation when discussing best-in-class compact sedans. The automaker has a chance to change that in a big way with the redesigned Elantra, much like it did with the Sonata.

MMS ID 69009 (created by CM Utility) automatic-content-migration
Photo of Mike Hanley
Mike Hanley has more than 20 years of experience reporting on the auto industry. His primary focus is new vehicles, and he's currently a Senior Road Test Editor overseeing expert car reviews and comparison tests. He previously managed Editorial content in the Research section. Email Mike Hanley

Latest expert reviews