While I'm admittedly partial to the offerings by our domestic carmakers, if a really attractive looking foreign car is introduced, I'm not about to ignore it. Recently Korean automaker Hyundai started delivering a new vehicle to dealers, and it is one handsome crossover/station wagon.
The vehicle I'm speaking of is the subject of today's column - the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring. I first heard about the Touring from Rob, my son, who lives in Kalamazoo. Knowing that I'm going to replace my Neon in the months to come and knowing that I'm looking for something economical with a little more utility, he steered me to the Touring. Following a lunch date with Rob in Kalamazoo a few weeks back, I drove over to the local Hyundai dealer and briefly gave the new car the once over. Indeed, it did look nice. Time did not permit me to stay and take the car for a test drive. I postponed that pleasure for a later date.
On a warm sunny day recently I found a few moments and stopped by Signature Hyundai and arranged for a test drive of a new Elantra Touring. The new vehicle was introduced earlier this spring and is arriving at dealers now in increasing numbers. Signature had two models, one on their Napier Avenue lot and one on display at the Orchards Mall.
The model on the lot, and the one I took for a spin, was dark gray with only three options: the Premium Package that included a power tilt and slide sunroof, heated seats and 17' alloy wheels ($1,500); floor mats ($95); and mudguards ($85). With a starting price of $18,600, the aforementioned options and a destination charge of $695, the Monroney sticker on the side window came to a reasonable $20,975. Sweetening the deal was a $1,500 rebate or 60-month's financing at 4.39% interest.
I was especially pleased to note in the Elantra Touring's catalog that the interior can be purchased in beige. That is good news to buyers like myself who won't purchase a car with black or dark gray interiors. The model I test drove had the gray interior. Fortunately it was a cool day and I survived nicely. Didn't even have to turn on the standard air conditioning.
Speaking of standard equipment, the Touring comes nearly loaded with no-charge good stuff. Things that make the car so attractive -- in addition to its great looks - are the many safety and comfort features on the car. Here are items of note: outdoor temperature gauge, split rear seat, lighted vanity mirrors, express down power windows, cruise control, ABS, electronic stability control, traction control system, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, eight-way adjustable driver's seat and sport-tuned suspension. All that safety equipment enabled the Touring to garner five stars in driver/passenger frontal crash ratings and four stars on the side crash and rollover tests.
On my brief test drive, I found the Touring to be a competent driver. Power from the two-liter, four-cylinder engine is rated 138 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 137 pounds-feet of torque at 4,600 rpm. The five-speed manual with B&M Racing brand sport shifter is standard; the four-speed manual is optional. With only 138 horses under the hood, you would expect performance to be sluggish with about 3,000 pounds to pull around, but the Touring is a frisky mount and provides more than adequate power. You won't mistake the engine under the hood for a Hemi V-8, but its performance will please you most of the time, especially when you realize that you're getting 23 mpg in town and up to 31 on the highway. The engine burns regular fuel and the gas tank holds 14 gallons.
As one who drives long distances quite a bit, I often have to depend on the caffeine in a big bottle of Mountain Dew to keep me awake. Happily, the Touring has two big expandable cup holders in the center console. A slew of cubbyholes were thoughtfully placed throughout the passenger area and in the rear compartment. The center console armrest concealed two hidden compartments. Out back, by the tailgate, three covered storage areas are available to hide valuables. I appreciated the option on the power sunroof that enabled me to use it in the tilt position or in the open position. A classy, high-end touch.
If I had to find one complaint, it would be in the front seats. They are really firm. My rear prefers cushions a little softer and not quite so flat.
Other than that, the Hyundai Elantra Touring is one fine automobile. With an industry-leading warranty, good marks from both the government and from Consumer Reports, with a very attractive body and interior, there is little to fault this newest station wagon, - er, crossover -on the market. If you want to buy a car with a high North American materials content, the Touring is not for you. Only 1% of the vehicles have pieces and parts from North America. At the Ulsan, Korea, assembly plant, over 96% of the Touring is Korean-sourced.
If you need a small, economical and well-designed utility vehicle and you aren't reluctant to buy a foreign-made vehicle, then the Touring may be your steed.