A year with the 'Car of the Year' Hyundai Elantra
Gray modern car closeup on black background.
When the 2012 Hyundai Elantra first appeared on the street in late 2011, its look caught my eye. It had the swoopy aerodynamic functionality that always makes me look twice. It had very appealing lines. That got me thinking about it.
Then AJAC (Automotive Journalists Association of Canada) named the Hyundai Elantra Car of the Year for 2012.
When it started acquiring more awards, I started thinking harder. This was an automobile to consider should I find myself in the market for a new car. Which is what happened, and I bought one after checking out a Toyota Corolla, a Ford Focus and a Mazda3.
I was impressed with the Elantra’s driver ergonomics. The seating position was just as it should be. It had a good beefy dead pedal, supportive seats and adjustable steering wheel, both tilting and telescoping. What was also important for me was that I could easily “heel & toe” because of the way the brake and gas pedals are aligned. That is important to an enthusiast who doesn’t have the budget for higher-priced paddle-shifting cars.
This Elantra came with air conditioning and heated seats — wonderful in this cooler weather. The rear seats are comfortable and fold down in a 40/60 split to increase the cargo area.
Its headlights have a separate high beam and the taillights have the all-important amber rear turn signals. The brake lights are large and bright. This style of lighting is important for safety.
The six-speed manual transmission is a joy to use, with close-ratio gears that shift easily and precisely. It is so smooth you can shift gears without the clutch.
The trunk is large and easily holds my hockey bag or racing equipment. The rear seat room is exceptional for a compact car. I don’t have to compromise my seating position if someone tall is sitting behind me.
What has really impressed me is the outstanding fuel economy I have been able to achieve out of this peppy 1.8-litre twin cam four cylinder. In the summer I have averaged 4.9 to 5.2 litres per 100 kms while driving down to and around the city. It has increased to around 5.6 in the winter.
Here’s the best part: What I save in fuel costs covers a good portion of the monthly car payments.
With a twin cam engine of small displacement, you expect a rev-happy, high rpm power band engine with little grunt in the lower rpm range. I was shocked to find I could cruise this Elantra around town in sixth gear at around 60 km/h. The variable-valve timing and intake has made this little engine both economical and fun. That is a rare combination in the automotive world.
The Elantra also came with four-wheel disc brakes and decent handling. It also has a proper hand brake that is accessible while driving.
I bought my Elantra from Stouffville Hyundai. They set me up with a “Hyundai executive” Elantra, which simply means someone at Hyundai Canada put 16,000 kms on it for me.
They threw in an extra set of steel rims so I could mount a top quality set of winter tires. With the Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice WRT winter tires on it, I have had no problem driving to and from Minden, Ont.
You can see the Elantra in action on ice here.
So, is there anything about the Elantra I don’t like?
I’m not happy with the limited outward visibility. The sloping “A” pillars produce blind spots large enough to hide a vehicle. Rearward vision is also compromised but this is a result of that aerodynamic styling and efficiency. If you simply think “moisture,” the rotors seem to rust up.
The trunk, although large for a compact car, isn’t quite long enough for my hockey stick unless I fold down the seats. The wiper blades are a real Mutt and Jeff combo with one being 71cm (28”) long and the other only 33 cm (13”). The original ones were streaking the windshield but the dealer replaced them at no charge.
Recently, the driver’s side low beam headlight burned out. A trip to the dealer revealed the complete headlight pod must be removed to access the burnt out low beam. On top of that, the dealer replacement bulbs wouldn’t fit. This could have been costly but the Stouffville Hyundai dealership replaced the bulb at no charge. I should point out all the other bulbs can be accessed simply from under the hood.
It now has 40,000 kms on it and so far I have been a very happy camper with this Elantra.
Hyundai produced a winner with this car and I am very happy with it. I’m not sure if I’ll get 30 years and 800,000 kms out of as I have with my ’82 Volvo, but time will tell.
I have learned several lessons over my many years of motoring on how to make a car last that long and I have applied some of my trusted techniques to the Elantra. I took it to my favourite Rust Check shop on Warden Ave. and I switched it over to Mobil 1 synthetic oil.
Time will tell, but I’ll enjoy it in the meantime.
1. Great fuel mileage
2. Driver ergonomics; access to driver controls
3. Interior roominess; loads of rear-seat leg room
5. Well-designed engine without that “peaky” power band associated with small twin-cam engines
6. Slick easy to use 6 speed manual transmission
1. Blind spots from aerodynamic styling
2. Corrosion prone brake rotors