It is a bit of marketing trickery to gussy up an otherwise unremarkable vehicle with a “GT” or “Sport” or some other ambiguous nomenclature in an effort in inject a little zest into an otherwise lifeless ride. This is especially true with cars such as the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring model. It’s unclear what is exactly so “Touring” about it other than the fact that it has a sizable wagon-hatch appendage. The idea of a “Touring” car evokes images of a Racing Green British Coupe heading to Surrey for the weekend, not a Korean wagon loaded with lawn chairs destined for the South Jersey shore. However, despite the pretense, Hyundai’s supersized Elantra delivers the goods in several areas that largely erases their careless misrepresentations.
While the global downturn is not a benefit to anyone right now, in the long run companies like Hyundai are going to be huge winners if only because consumer perception about “value” is changing. Hyundai has always been comparatively cheap compared to their Japanese counterparts, but now that actual build quality and styling are vastly improved, potential buyers may be forever changed into abandoning their preconcieved ideas and loyalties towards Honda and Toyota for the undeniably attractive price tags of up-and-coming automakers like Hyundai.
Harping on the vehicles dubious “touring” credentials one last time, the four-cylinder, 138 horsepower powerplant tucked inside the front-wheel drive Elantra is several positive things, but powerful it is not one of them. Which is not to say that it doesn’t perform admirably well. Testers complimented the small engines capabilities in uphill ascents and getting up to speed from a stop, especially when coupled with the five-speed transmission. Hyundai states 0-60 mph takes 8.8 sec with the manual transmission. The other transmission option is a smooth and nicely tuned automatic. Like many small cars, the Elantra delivers a reasonably sporty ride, with the Touring model adopting a slightly stiffer suspension than the standard sedan. Although no one would suggest driving dynamics are in the same league as the Mazda3 which Hyundai targeted as their benchmark, the newest Elantra is FAR more responsive in handling than the previous version. What’s more, the Elantra manages to be one of the more comfortable highway driving options in this segment with surprisingly low amounts of wind and road noise. Maybe there is something to this “Touring” thing after all.
It also performs exceedingly well as a safe vehicle option. The 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring comes fully stocked with antilock disc brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and front seat active head restraints. In government crash testing, the Elantra Touring received a perfect five stars (out of five) for its performance in a frontal collision and four stars in a side collision.
According to the EPA, the standard Elantra achieves 24/33 mpg in city and highway driving with the manual transmission, and 25/33 mpg with the optional automatic. The Touring model maintains much of that fuel sipping thriftiness with 23/31 mpg with a manual and 23/30 mpg with the automatic.
Styling for the 2009 Elantra Touring is unobjectionable, but certainly not as sporty as other five door hatchback options. This may actually be a benefit to the Elantra Touring’s success for those buyers interested in the more “mature” aspects of owning a hatchback that may not include extroverted performance or styling. Because the Touring is actually the European version of the Elantra, there are quite a few differences between hatchback and sedan. The most obvious difference is the extended roofline and high-mounted taillights that create a look somewhere in between hatchback and wagon. Still, while the increased cargo capacity is surely a benefit to utility, few would probably characterize the Elantra as being an attractive car.
Interior and Amenities
A single trim for the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights, air-conditioning, full power accessories, heated mirrors, cruise control, a tilt and telescoping steering column, an eight-way manual driver seat, a 60/40-split rear seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a six-speaker stereo with a CD/MP3 player, an auxiliary audio jack, a USB/iPod audio interface and satellite radio.
The Premium Sport package adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof and heated front seats. In total, the Elantra is an economy car with an economy interior. The good news is that as far as cheap interiors go, this may be one of the nicest. You’d expect plastic to be used liberally, and you get that with the Elantra, but whatever the grade of plastic Hyundai uses, it is of a higher quality with a nice tactile surface. Even better are Hyundai’s attention to build quality and the layout of controls and gauges. Tolerances are tight inside with the arrangement of controls within easy reach of the driver. The 125.5 cubic feet of interior space is a plus of course, but reviewers were disappointed that the backrests of the 60/40 rear folding seats do not lay flat; inhibiting the cargo area slightly.
Pricing starts around the $18,000 mark which is pushing it for those truly interesting in getting an economy car. It may not be as sporty as many would like, however, the Elantra Touring delivers far more than the typical entry-level car on the market, making it an attractive choice for those seeking an inexpensive and roomy commuting alternative.