As mentioned in my last post, I had the “opportunity” to drive the 2010 Hyundai Elantra GLS for a couple of days earlier this week. I say “opportunity” because, like my previous car reviews, this “opportunity” was occasioned by the need to take a short business trip…this time to the lovely and scenic destination of Beaumont, Texas. I hope you caught the sarcasm. If you’ve never been to Beaumont, you’re not really missing anything. I generally try to avoid going there myself. Unfortunately, I was not able to find anyone of the three other adjusters on my team based in Houston who could cover the mediation. So, that left me stuck playing “which would you prefer” with my travel options.
To put it simply, there is no easy way for me to get to Beaumont. Option A involves me submitting myself to the tender mercies of the TSA and boarding an inconveniently scheduled puddle jumper flight from DFW to the regional airport in Beaumont. I say inconveniently scheduled because I have yet to find a flight option there and back that worked with my scheduling needs. Option B also involves a TSA tickle and grope before boarding a Southwest Airlines flight out of Dallas Love Field to Houston’s Hobby Airport and THEN renting a car and driving an hour and a half to two hours to Beaumont. That was the option that I used to choose before the TSA got their Larry Flint and Hugh Hefner on with the traveling public. It wasn’t the best solution scheduling wise, but it usually got me home the same day. Option C involves me renting a car in Dallas, driving the five hours to Beaumont the day before my meeting, staying the night in a hotel, conducting business on day two and driving the five hours back home after business is done.
Since I don’t generally enjoy getting groped by anyone other than The Queen, I chose Option C. The Queen, who has become accustomed to having me within minute of household reach, did not like the idea of being without her house preacher for the better part of two days. The Queen has started feeling somewhat better than she has in the last four years since her mystery illness began and decided that it was time to visit other realms. So, the plan was hatched for The Queen and I to pick up the rental car and leave Sunday, stay the night at the lovely MCM Elegante` Hotel (a horrible name for a decent hotel which used to be a Hilton back in the day before being sold to new management and renovated), and return Monday after a mediation in the afternoon. While I was attending to business on Monday, The Queen would take the rental to explore the foreign land of the greater Beaumont/Port Arthur area affectionately known as the Golden Triangle. She had a particular interest in laying on a beach in a garden spot known as Pleasure Island. That’s a story for another day, but the short version of it is that Pleasure Island is anything but a paradise unless your idea of paradise is petrochem refinery central.
My normal Enterprise rental car outlet is closed on Sundays. So, I had to revert to a previous favorite for out of town rentals: Avis. The good folks at Avis set me up with a Silver 2010 Hyundai Elantra GLS and sent me on my merry way.
As with my previous car review, here are the official disclaimers and disclosures.
1) Hyundai has not paid me one thin dime for this review. As far as I know, Hyundai has no clue that I exist.
2) I (actually my company) paid for the privilege of being able to rent this vehicle from Avis. Again, no promotional consideration was paid by Avis to me for this review. Aside from the guy at the Avis rental counter, I don’t think they have a clue who I am either.
3) I have nothing personal against Hyundai or any other car manufacturer. I have looked at Hyundai products on several occasions, and I can honestly say that I really like what they’ve done with the Genesis. To date, I have not purchased one of their products; however, my mother purchased a 1986 Hyundai Excel GLS when they first started being sold here in the U.S. She drove that car for into the early ‘90s, and I drove it from time to time when one of my early cars was down for maintenance.
4) I am not now, nor will I be in the near future, in market for a new car. In fact, I will probably never buy a brand spanking new car ever again. I’m more than happy to let some other hapless soul take the hickey on depreciation while I merrily pick up gently used cars for more reasonable prices.
The car I was given was fairly well optioned out for a GLS model. It had cruise control, a CVT automatic transmission, AM/FM radio with CD player and XM Satellite, power locks and windows, and a sunroof. It had a few other interesting things that we’ll get to shortly.
The exterior of the car is unremarkable. The styling, if you want to call it that, is neither stunningly award winning nor psychotically strange. In fact, I had to walk out to the car at lunch on Monday to retrieve The Queen’s cell phone and walked right past the stupid thing. Not exactly an eye catcher there. The Hyundai website claims that the 2011 Elantra has a drag co-efficient of 0.28. That might be true, but the aerodynamics of the 2010 weren’t exactly gusty wind friendly.
The interior is a little more remarkable than the exterior if not necessarily in a particularly user friendly way. That’s not to say that the interior is bad. It’s just that it has some quirkiness to it.
For instance, let’s talk about the sun visors. Most sun visors on normal vehicles have a vanity mirror that you flip a cover up which switches on a light next to the vanity mirror. Well, the Hyundai engineers apparently wanted to be unique. So, they designed a vanity mirror cover that you slide to the side instead of flipping up. But wait…there’s more. When you buy the Ronco sliding vanity mirror cover it comes with the alternative installation location for the vanity mirror light in the headliner at no extra charge.
Another “interesting” interior design fixture is the goofy door map pocket “cup holder” which apparently isn’t really a cup holder since the Hyundai engineers saw fit to make sure that they imprinted a “no cups” symbol into the plastic door panel. So, what exactly is a circular shaped spot in the map pocket supposed to be used for?
Head room was mostly adequate for my 6’4” frame; however, the sunroof takes just a skosh too much away from the ceiling for my comfort. The manually adjustable seats were good enough but not great. After a few hours of sitting in them, I was stiff but not in tremendous agony.
The instrument cluster was well laid out if a tad minimalist. There was an interesting little green light that came on next to the odometer that said “ECO”. I have no idea what information this was supposed to convey to me, the driver, as there was no owners manual in the car and no quickly locatable information on the nets. I assume that it is intended to let the driver know that the car is achieving economical gas mileage as it would go off when accelerating from a stop light; however, that’s just my theory.
The cruise control buttons were well placed on the steering wheel where they were supposed to be (instead of hanging off the wheel like the Dodge Caliber), intuitive and easy to use. The cruise control performed its appointed task and held speed well.
The radio controls were a little confusing. More than once, I went to hit the info button and accidentally hit the set up button by mistake. That was annoying. I generously overlooked that small issue because the car came equipped with XM Satellite radio which, as I’ve previously mentioned, is the must have option for a long road trip. Had the XM not been available, the Hyundai engineers thoughtfully provided a USB port in the center console for an iPhone or other audio device. Fortunately, we didn’t have to resort to using that option.
Performance was about what you would expect from a 2.0 liter, 16 valve, 4 cylinder, 138 HP engine. The Hyundai website claims the 2011 will get “up to 40 MPG” gas mileage. Edmunds.com claims the 2010 will do 34 or 35 miles per gallon on the highway and 26 in the city. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to give you a firm answer on the gas mileage. When I picked up the car, it had just a needle width under a full tank on the gas gauge. After 311.4 miles of almost exclusively highway miles, I put in 11.456 gallons of gas which calculates to 27.18 miles per gallon. Not terribly impressive for an “economy” car. If you assume that the needle width on the gas gauge meant that the tank was a gallon light when I picked it up, that still only gets you up to 31 miles per gallon which doesn’t beat my eleven year old Nissan Maxima by much, if any. The Elantra does come with an 14 gallon gas tank which is easily sufficient for a 300+ mile range (beating the Dodge Caliber in the legs with a baseball bat all day long).
Finally, I wanted to take a moment and talk about safety and build quality. Overall, build quality wasn’t bad. Fit and finish are what you would expect for a car that has an MSRP of $16,895. There were no annoying rattles, and this particular car had 16,000 miles on it giving plenty of time for anything not properly tightened down to work its way loose. The car came equipped with seat mounted side impact air bags. Fortunately, I didn’t get to test those out, but I hope they do more to protect the occupants than the doors will. The door skin metal on the Elantra sounds and feels like the skins are made of lighter gauge metal than I would normally expect for a car. In fact, I am fairly sure I saw the door skin bulge outward when I pulled on the exterior door handle. Not very comforting.
I will say this though. The windshield is tough. We had an encounter with a golf ball sized chunk of rock tossed of by a rock hauler headed the opposite direction on a two lane state highway. The speed limit in that area was 60 or 70 making the closing speed well over 100 miles per hour. I was in the passenger seat with The Queen driving when I looked up just in time to see the rock coming straight at me at eye level. I had just enough time to raise my arms before impact. The rock did a fairly good job of pulverizing the safety glass, but the windshield held even though it showered the interior with little tiny (and some not so tiny) shards of glass.
As the song “Signs” goes: “Thank you Lord for thinkin’ ‘bout me, I’m alive and doin’ fine.”
By the end of the trip the cracks had migrated all the way down to the bottom of the windshield and had made significant progress across the width as well.
So, overall impressions. The Elantra isn't a bad car, but it's not a great car for its intended purpose either. The price you pay for what you get is fair; however, an "economy" car should get at least 40 miles per gallon on the highway in my humble opinion to make it worth the sacrifice in power and comfort over a bigger car. I probably wouldn't purchase one myself, but your mileage may vary.