I have a secret to share. My wife, family, and friends do not even know it, but I am about to tell the auto blogging community: I seriously like this little Hyundai in a big way. The Elantra Touring is a five-door hatchback that has, until now, been a European market car only.Ã‚Â
Hyundai is pitching this car as the “sporty” Elantra, with sharper suspension tuning and steering. The powertrain is, sadly, a bit pedestrian-the standard Elantra 2.0L four rated at 141hp, coupled to your choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. At least the five-speed promises a reasonable 31mpg on the highway. I think an extra 20hp and an extra cog in the tranny are a must here, but could be forgiven given the price.
Autoblog reported pricing on the Elantra Touring today-pricing starts at a very impressive $18,495USD. That buys you Hyundai’s typically long list of standard features, but the standard stuff that leaps off the page are Electronic Stability Control, XM radio, iPod connectivity, remote entry and a B&M Racing shifter. The Premium Sport Package adds 17″ alloys, a power moonroof, and heated seats. An Elantra Touring with the aforementioned package and optional automatic will run you about $20,500.Ã‚Â
This car, at this price point, is simply in a class by itself. The closest competition to the Elantra Touring is likely the VW Jetta SportWagen. For comparison purposes, I went to Edmunds.com, took a base Jetta witha 5-speed manual and spec’d it out as closely as possible to the Hyundai, and came close to $23,000-and you cannot get heated seats on the base Jetta. In the Jetta’s defense, the extra coin gets you about the same mileage, but with a 2.5L five-cylinder packing 29hp more than the Hyundai.
This is not Hyundai’s first attempt at a sporty five-door hatchback sold in North America. The Elantra GT debuted in 2001, and was often thought of as a slightly shrunken Saab 9-3.
But…and this is a huge but…Hyundai has an image problem here in North America. And I should add that at this point in time, the perception people have of Hyundai is unfair. The first Hyundai Excel was sold here in 1985-it was dirt cheap, and, well, junky. But few automakers can boast the the dramatic improvements Hyundai has made in its cars over the past 24 years. This year the Genesis rolled into showrooms, poised as a full-size, fully featured V-8 luxury sedan built to stand up to the premium luxury cars of Japan and Germany. To follow is the Genesis Coupe, which will compete against the Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger. These are almost impossible markets to break into, but Hyundai is trying its best. Crazy? Yes! But you have to respect a company that is trying this hard.
Still, image counts to many. You don’t brag to your old college friends that you just went out and bought yourself a brand new Hyundai. You buy a Hyundai for you. And in 2007, 467,000 Americans did just that. Hyundai knows it cannot alter its past, and its response to that problem are simply putting out the best cars it can today.
Has Hyundai evolved enough as a car company to make you think of them differently? Or does the old Excel still influence your opinion? And if your opinion has not changed, what would Hyundai have to do to change it? Let us know!