It occurs to me that I need to provide my readers with some content other than humming the theme from Jeopardy while tapping my feet waiting impatiently for word from Texas Wesleyan regarding my law school application. No. There has been no change since my last post. It’s only been 5 days two of which were weekend days. What were you expecting? Seriously, y’all will hear about it as soon as there is anything to tell.
At any rate, it just so happens that I have an excuse to write another car review. It’s also my first opportunity ever to write a review for a new model year of a car that I’ve previously reviewed. As you all will recall, I drove the 2010 Hyundai Elantra to Beaumont about 2 months ago. Business took me out of town again last week to the hippie capitol of Texas: Austin. As with my previous out of town business trips, I rented a car. This time, the nice folks at Avis set me up with a 2011 Hyundai GLS.
Did the 2011 perform better than the 2010? Does it look better? Is it more comfortable? Is it a better value? These questions and more will have to be answered by people better qualified than me. That’s not to say that I won’t try to take a stab at giving you the benefit of my unqualified opinions.
First off, let’s set the stage for a moment. Avis gave me the keys to a white exterior with mostly beige interior GLS model. It was a fairly basic car as far as options are concerned. At least, it was basic by present day standards. Back in the 70s, you would have considered this puppy fully loaded. Today, it almost qualifies as bare bones, stripped down beater car to “only” have power steering, power windows, power locks, AM/FM/CD/XM Satellite radio, AC and cruise control. Honestly, I can’t remember when the last time I heard of a new car being offered with window cranks and without AC. According to Hyundai’s website, this particular model with the 1.8 liter 4 cylinder engine and 6 speed automatic transmission will set you back $17,800 including freight. Not a bad price for the package all things considered. You could spring for the “Limited” package, get a few more bells and whistles and pay another $2000 to $4000 in the process for such modern conveniences as a rearview camera, navigation system, pushbutton start, premium sound system, and leather seats heated front and rear.
Most of those “premium” options I can live without. Especially the heated seats. It doesn’t get cold enough, long enough here to worry about it. Besides, The Queen says I’m a walking space heater. So, why bother. I’d probably get into a wreck watching the rearview camera trying to catch someone picking their nose in traffic. I don’t have much use for nav systems since I know my way around the DFW area pretty well from living here almost my entire life and having the wetware equivalent of a moving map display already installed from the factory and programmed with an uncanny ability to find my way back to any location I’ve been to at least once. The Queen did mention the desire for a GPS unit the other day after winning another Magellan Award for “creative navigation in an urban setting.” Leather seats are nice, but…why? This is an economy car. Optioning the stuffing out of an economy car is counter intuitive. If you want a luxury car with all the luxury car bells and whistles, go buy something from Cadillac, Lexus or one of the other brands. If you can’t afford new, buy used.
Anyway, I’d better move on from the soapbox and actually talk more about the car again.
Let’s talk about looks for a bit. Aesthetics are a very personal thing for most of us as we’ve discussed before. You’ll either love this car or hate it. This is not my mother’s Hyundai I assure you. It’s not even the 2010 Hyundai I drove barely 2 months ago. According to Hyundai’s website:
The 2011 Elantra bucks convention with a style that breaks free of the traditional compact car ‘blah’ factor.
No argument there. “Blah” is definitely not a word I would use to describe the styling of this car. Unlike the 2010, it is most definitely not “non-descript”. To my eyes, this car is actually attractive. It’s a whole heck of a lot better looking than the 2010 Ford “I’m A Frickin’ Brick” Focus. Your opinions may vary about the styling, and that’s okay. If we all had the same taste, there would only be one car company. To each their own.
Let’s move on shall we?
The interior styling takes its cues from the exterior. More swooping and flowing lines. The interior looks nicer than the interior from the 2010. The beige fabric was accented with black and simulated brushed stainless steel in the dash and door panels. Something about the beige with black and silver didn’t look right to me, but at least it wasn’t stodgy looking. A few minor gripes with the interior before moving on. One: the driver’s side window sill was too high just like in the Ford Focus. Two: the driver’s side door arm rest was too low just like in the Ford Focus. Three: the driver’s side middle air vent was mounted in a location dictated by the flowing lines of dash that placed the cold airflow of the AC directly in line with the 3 o’clock position of the steering wheel resulting in my right wrist being constantly frozen.
How about those seats? I do want to track down the Hyundai engineer who designed those seats and buy him a drink. He has seriously earned some kudos in my book. Of the small cars I’ve driven so far, the seats in the 2011 Elantra were the best. They weren’t perfect mind you, but they were real close. There are only a couple of minor things keeping them from achieving greatness in my opinion. First, the side bolsters are a little high making vehicle exits a challenge by resisting the efforts of a persons’ thighs to swing out of the car in advance of putting said persons’ feet on terra firma. Second, there was no lumbar adjustment. The curve of the seat was almost perfect for my back, but there was just a smidge of space in the small of the back unsupported that would get uncomfortable after a while. Third, there was maybe a little bit too much springiness in the seat on really bouncy stretches of road. The seat cushioning was adequate if not even good. However, when you would hit a good bump, you almost had the feeling of bouncing on a small trampoline. I’m not sure this is even really a negative. Personal preference issue perhaps.
The Ronco sliding vanity mirror design has made a reappearance for the 2011 model year minus the goofy ceiling mounted vanity light. I suppose the ceiling mounted light could possibly be an option on the “Limited” model, but I wouldn’t know for sure. We also see an updated, dare I say improved, map pocket cup holder graphic. It seems that the good people at Hyundai realized that their 2010 design made no sense whatsoever, and they have gone back to the drawing board in search of greater clarity. Now, it seems, capped bottles are kosher for this receptacle; however, other unlidded beverage containers are not. That, or they are trying to tell you not to slosh your coffee on your water bottle.
Moving on to the numbers geekery part of the review, let’s discuss fuel economy. Hyundai claims this car will get 29/40 MPG out of 12.8 gallon gas tank. Oh, before I forget, Hyundai thoughtfully included a multi function trip meter that included settings for average speed, average miles per gallon, distance, elapsed time, etc. After resetting all metrics before leaving the house, I achieved 38.9 MPG on the trip traveling south for 184.1 miles at an average speed of 64MPH. On the return trip home, I was able to get the average miles per gallon up to 41.8 briefly before settling into a sustained average of 40.7 MPG for a stretch of 32.8 miles after a pit stop at an average speed of 62 MPH. Those numbers were achieved without making any concerted effort to drive sensibly for better gas mileage. Of course, The Queen does claim that I normally drive like a “grandpa” anyway. So, your experience may vary. All things considered, those are still good numbers especially when you compare them against the numbers put up by the 2010 a couple of months ago. Bottom line, you could do a lot worse and it’ll be hard to do much better this side of a diesel or hybrid.
The build quality seems to be much improved from the 2010. The door skins did not noticeably bow out when pulling the door handles. The doors made reassuring “thunking” noises when being shut. There was no major rattles or squeaks that I could hear. There was a bit of road noise when passing over a particularly rough patch in a construction zone, but that is to be expected. Fortunately, I did not have any encounters with flying objects. So, I cannot comment on the strength of the windshield.
To sum things up, the 2011 Hyundai Elantra GLS is a pretty good car for its intended purpose. Before giving it the Shepherd K “I’d Buy It” seal of approval, I’d want to put it up against the 2011 Ford Focus (which a quick look at Ford’s website reveals a 2011 model makeover) in a head to head comparison. But, I feel confident in saying that the Elantra and the Focus would be short list contenders for a fuel efficient, reliable commuter car if one were in the market for such a vehicle.