Monday, October 19, 2009

Five Reasons To Put the 2010 Hyundai Elantra on Your New Car Shopping List

Time was, Hyundai cars were a bit of a joke in this country. After a strong launch here in 1986 by selling sedan and hatchback versions of its Excel subcompact the firm managed to get a reputation for manufacturing less than high quality cars.

But that all changed with the introduction of Hyundai's 10-year/100,000 mile warranty on all vehicles. And fortunately for the South Korean firm, this coincided with the company seeing its quality rankings improve to Honda- and Toyota-like levels.

With that as background, here are five reasons to consider the 2010 Hyundai Elantra.

Reason 1: Like Any Hyundai, the 2010 Elantra is a Screaming Bargain

Hyundais in this country have always sold in part on the strength of their high value-to-content ratio, and the Elantra is no different. With prices starting at $14,120 for a five-speed GLS model, Hyundai is still managing to keep its pricing humble.

Do take into account that any GLS purchaser will no doubt want the $1,700 popular equipment package, as it is the only way to get air conditioning.

Reason 2: Check out that Warranty

Even though Hyundai's 10-year warranty is no longer revolutionary--what with brands like Suzuki copying the idea--who wouldn't like to buy a new car with coverage for that long?

The most catastrophic thing that can happen to a car owner who is still making payments is the failure of a transmission or engine. With the Hyundai Elantra and its generous warranty, you never have to worry about it.

Reason 3: The 2010 Elantra Touring Model

If you're on a tight budget for a new vehicle but know that your load-carrying needs extend beyond a sedan's capability, check out the Hyundai Elantra Touring, a new model last year.

Known as the Hyundai i30 in Europe, this ultra-cool hatchback just oozes European charm and panache. Prices for the Elantra Touring maxed out at $17,800 for a well equipped 2009 model. The only option was a sunroof.

This year Hyundai saw fit to take out many features that made the Touring cool and created a version for $1800 less. Buy the top-line Touring model, or buy the sedan.

Reason 4: A Hyundai is as Reliable as a Toyota or Honda?

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a hyper-reliable Hyundai. In the latest J.D. Power quality surveys, Hyundai found its way into the upper echelon of car manufacturers, right below Honda and above Toyota.

Honestly, though, it makes sense that Hyundai would make their vehicles as reliable as possible. They don't want to foot the bill for repairs from those seemingly endless warranties.

Reason 5: Since When Does Hyundai Equal Performance?

Time was that economy cars were tinny penalty boxes, with little or no concern for the latest safety and performance advances. But just check out the specs on the 2010 Hyundai Elantra.

All Elantras come with a 138-horsepower 2.0-liter engine with 16 valves, as well as four-wheel disc brakes. For drivers seeking the utmost in control, Hyundai offers a five-speed manual transmission on all models.

As you might expect, most of the Hyundai Elantra's competition comes in the form of the ubiquitous Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. But everyone drives one of those, and the Elantra is on average $2,000 to $3,000 less than comparable versions of these Japanese models.

In buying an Elantra, not only do you get the joy of driving something unique, but you will have money left over to do something irrational ... like buy a whole new clothes wardrobe.

In Milan, Italy.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Review: 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T Track makes more out of less

The 2.0T is the low man on Hyundai's Genesis Coupe totem pole, disappointing the power addled and whooping it up too much for pinkie-waving tea drinkers. However, raw power isn't what this turbo model is all about, and once that's made clear, the coupe becomes a delightful flavor in Hyundai's best recipe. All the careful execution of the Genesis Sedan carries over, with an extra dollop of involvement. It's a driver's car, pure and simple. And that's a recipe we enjoy as much as Mom's London Broil.

While the car-crazies have hotly anticipated the Genesis Coupe's retail arrival, mainstreamers have yet to get the memo that Hyundai has its afterburner lit. Entirely different than the Tiburon it sent packing, the Genesis Coupe is a rakishly good looking car with crisply pressed, creative styling. So it looks good, but how's it drive?

One thing's for certain, the Genesis Coupe has serious potential. In 2.0 Turbo form, the GEMA four-cylinder that Hyundai shares with Mitsubishi and Chrysler is mildly boosted to deliver 210 horsepower and 223 pound-feet of torque. The torque is all-in by 2,000 rpm, and there's serious untapped potential in the aluminum engine. In fact, the Hyundai 2.0 shares some of its design with the raucous Mitsubishi Evo's powerplant, although parts differ between the two. The Evo connection is a tantalizing road map to increase the force-fed Genesis' hijinks, and the aftermarket ought to have a field day once it sinks its teeth in.

In the engine room, things are tidy and laid out in a businesslike fashion; the details have clearly been sweated. The turbocharger hangs off the passenger side of the block, and is plumbed through an intercooler before pressurizing the intake tract. There's plenty of room underhood for larger plumbing, aftermarket boost controllers and the usual hot-rodding suspects. The engine has been constructed with all of the right details: aluminum block and heads with cast-in cylinder liners, a bedplate for the lower end, oil sprayers to cool the pistons and dual overhead cams with continuously variable valve timing. Stout stuff. And the square dimensions, with both bore and stroke equaling 86 millimeters, make a good trade-off between off-boost torque and revvability.

The Track suspension package starches up the chassis with stiffened springs and dampers, adds larger diameter stabilizer bars (25mm front and 22 mm rear), stuffs 19-inch wheels with staggered, summer-only Bridgestones under the fenders, and upgrades the brakes with Brembo pieces. Four-piston calipers all around in the obligatory shade of red squeeze 13.4-inch rotors in front and 13-inchers out back, which is impressive braking hardware on a vehicle that's just shy of $28,000 dollars. More importantly for building performance cred, the Track package is not available with an automatic transmission.

Exiting a corner with Tutta Forza called up, a Track-trim Torsen limited-slip differential helps get the power down. The 2.0T has to work hard to break loose – which might strike some as less impressive to some than the big-torque V6 version, but on the track, most wheelspin is little more than wasted motion. While the Coupe and Sedan share a platform, there's nearly five fewer inches of Genesis wheelbase in the two door. A more substantive change is the strut front suspension in the coupe instead of the sedan's control arms. The struts keep costs down, but not at the expense of performance, and the strut towers are braced to keep the geometry stable. The Track suspension in our Genesis Coupe 2.0T is simply the finest job of performance-minded chassis calibration we've ever sampled from Hyundai. The extra stiffness might make your pocket change jingle, but it's still got enough compliance to be comfortable on most surfaces. The ride is busy, but it's acceptable for the extra capability, and more cushion is available by opting out out of the Track package. It's cheaper, too.

The rest of the goodies covered in the Track package are mostly cosmetic and comfort upgrades, including all the goods in the Premium trim level like an Infinity audio system, power moonroof, a power driver's seat, auto-dim mirrors and push-button start. Inside, aluminum dresses up the pedals and the comfortable, bolstered seats are covered in a combination of black leather and red "high friction" cloth. Navigation is forthcoming, too, though our tester sported a large, legible LCD at the top of the center stack in its place. Exterior details include foglamps, high-intensity discharge headlamps, and a large rear spoiler that we'd have accepted reduced downforce to avoid.

The driver's office is also a fantastically good effort. Controls are in the right places, the wheel and stubby shift knob are wrapped in leather, and the center stack is attractively clean while still carrying a full complement of controls for the ventilation and comprehensive entertainment systems. The metallized plastic that tastefully accents various surfaces in the interior may be easily marred, especially where the fob docks, so an entire keychain resting on the lower left corner of the console for thousands of miles is bound to leave a mark. In front of the driver are two metal-ringed nacelles housing legible gauges with halo-style lighting. All of the switches and buttons feel first-rate, and cheap plastics only invade unseen areas.

The only gripe we can muster is the way the steering wheel spokes occasionally block the stalks, making it difficult to see what you've set the intermittent wipers to. Casting an eye around the interior of the Genesis Coupe, you see refined design, and even though some surfaces appear richer than they feel, for the most part, only those who'd rather poke and prod the dash pad will be disappointed – the rest of us will be too busy driving the car.

Upon pressing the "go" button and setting off, we noticed pedals well placed for heel and toe downshifting, and the machinery is game to play along. Underway, there's a growl from the four-cylinder's exhaust, and you can detect the occasional whoosh from the mostly silent turbocharger. The Genesis impresses by being tight, rattle free, and more serene than we expected. A common complaint, at least among those who've tried the V6 Genesis Coupe, is that it has a heavy clutch. In the Turbo, we found the opposite to be the case; the clutch is light and the take-up point is vague. Likewise, steering feel has been widely praised when fitted with the other powertrain, but our initial impression was that it erred on the light side. However, the steering's communication won the day, conveying plenty of detail about what's going on at road level.

There's some softness when off-boost, especially in the first couple of gears where the shorter gearing of the Turbo prevents boost from building. It all fizzes up nicely in 3rd gear, though, and the 2.0 pulls strongly. At speed, a poke at the pedal delivers a responsive surge of pressurized acceleration. When attempting a quick tear through the gears, the electronic throttle's tendency to hang open during shifts precludes smooth driving. It's an emissions thing, for sure, but the calibration forces either slower shifts, or an acceptance of less graceful forward progress.

While there's certainly noticeable grunt delivered by the powertrain, the joy in the turbocharged Genesis Coupe is not in a thuggish shove into the seat. That's what the V6 is for. The 2.0T Track is all about being a pavement scalpel. The handling is clean and deft, the transmission plays along nicely as you row the six-speed gearbox, and the overall execution is impressive for a first effort at a rear-wheel drive coupe that's essentially a ponycar. The capable Genesis Coupe might not have you bellowing the theme to "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" in the same way that the telepathic Nissan 370Z does, and there are cars that will outrun it, but the Genesis Coupe can still hang without excuses.

The potential that lies within this inexpensive, well-crafted coupe is what's really exciting. The easy way to increased capability is winding up the boost. With the aggressive buy in price, there ought to be coins left rattling in the piggy bank for immediate upgrades. On the practical side, the Genesis Coupe offers a (very tight) back seat that folds, a trunk that's not too shabby for a coupe, and it can return 30 miles per gallon on the highway when driven far more gently than we managed. We made too many visits to Boostville to attain that EPA highway estimate.

While the Genesis Coupe is not perfect, it's an extremely solid entry into a newly refreshed RWD sport/ponycar class with plenty of competition. Anyone contemplating the neo-retro Mustang, Camaro, or Challenger ought to check out the Genny, as it offers a whole lot of performance for a solid price without egregious corner cutting. Hyundai's money has gone into the things that matter with this car, and it works phenomenally well, even if we were left wanting more torque in first and second gears every time we launched it hard. Wrap the package in handsome, original bodywork that's not trying to recapture 1969, and Hyundai's effort makes a compelling argument.

by Dan Roth

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hatchback Lacks Muscle, but Not Charm

CORNWALL, N.Y. -- Rosa Parks Brown, our chocolate Labrador, prefers subcompact cars. We think it's because subcompacts force humans to sit next to her. Parks, as we call her, loves humans, craves them. She hates being left alone in the rear compartments of large trucks, crossover utility vehicles or sedans.

In that regard, the subcompact Hyundai Accent SE hatchback, seemingly the least likely of vehicles to transport three adults, a large dog and all of their stuff, turned out to be ideal for our 320-mile journey here from our home in Northern Virginia.

Parks did the whole trip resting her head in the lap of her true master, our daughter Binta, or sticking her face as close as possible to the open front passenger window ostensibly to catch a breeze, but really to lick the back of the neck of the woman in the front passenger's seat, my wife, Mary Anne.

Other than my wife's occasional protests against being neck-slurped, it was a pleasant, easy trip -- surprisingly pleasant and easy.

The little Accent is the most affordable car made by Hyundai, a South Korean manufacturer that prides itself on the design and production of affordable automobiles. At Hyundai in the 1980s, that meant motorized trash, such as the now-defunct, seldom mourned Hyundai Excel subcompact.

Today's Hyundai no longer makes trash. In fact, the company has been reaching upscale and doing so successfully with models such as its new Genesis sedan. Next year, Hyundai will roll out its Equus sedan, a super luxurious automobile designed to compete with Mercedes-Benz's S-Class and BMW's 7-Series.

The only people laughing at the prospect of Hyundai taking on Mercedes-Benz and BMW are those who haven't been paying close attention to Hyundai.

I have written here and other places that Hyundai has mastered the art of Wal-Mart marketing. Some of you have taken that as an insult. It isn't.

To people who shop regularly at Wal-Mart, as we Browns do on our East Coast road trips, it is high praise. We get products and service we want with the quality we want at prices we consider unbeatable.

Hyundai understands that. It is committed to the proposition of high value for dollar, even in its least expensive car, the front-wheel-drive Accent hatchback.

The Accent is a subcompact with wiggle room, arguably with as much usable interior space as that offered by the more expensive Toyota Corolla. Fit and finish are as good as anything offered by Hyundai's Japanese rivals. In terms of air-bag count, standard safety equipment is better. You get standard side and head air bags in the Accent. You don't in the Corolla.

The Corolla has a more powerful four-cylinder engine -- 1.8 liters and 132 horsepower vs. 1.6 liters and 110 hp for the Accent. That makes the Accent more of a right-lane car than its Japanese rival. But both cars can exceed the top 65 mph speed limit on the New Jersey Turnpike with the same unhappy result: an expensive conversation with a New Jersey state trooper.

Still, I would've preferred a larger engine in the Accent. And here's hoping that Hyundai creates a special iteration of the Accent with, maybe, a turbocharged 1.8 liter, four-cylinder diesel. That would make getting up Mine Hill Road here a lot easier than struggling along in second gear, which is what we had to do in the gasoline-fueled four-cylinder Accent SE used on this trip.

But Parks didn't mind the second-gear stuttering. With a fuel efficiency of 27 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, using regular unleaded gasoline, we saved enough money to buy her some gourmet dog food.

Perhaps that's really why she prefers subcompact cars.

By Warren Brown
Washington Post

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Hyundai Genesis sedan earns top billing

After just a few miles behind the wheel of the Hyundai Genesis sedan, it was easy to understand why this vehicle was named the 2009 North American Car of the Year -- the first such honor for any product from this South Korean automaker.

It was also easy to forget I was driving a Hyundai, because it felt more like I was behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz. I kid you not.

The company that made the mistake of introducing itself to the U.S. market in 1985 by introducing the miserable little Excel hatchback has graduated into a full-line automaker with a stable of vehicles designed to fit almost anyone's tastes.

But there is more Hyundai magic on the way. While the Genesis has a base price range of $32,250-$37,250 (plus $800 freight), the automaker plans to bring an even more-expensive luxury car to the United States late next year -- its Equus sedan, which it displayed at the recent Pebble Beach, Calif., luxury-car show.

The Equus is already on sale in South Korea, competed head-to-head against such vehicles as the BMW 7-series and Mercedes S-class. No U.S. prices have been announced yet for the Equus, and it might even get a different name for this market, but it probably will push into the $50,000 range when it arrives.

For now, though, people who want BMW, Lexus or Mercedes-style luxury -- but without the prestigious name, mind you -- can be happy with the Genesis sedan.

This car is not to be confused with the Genesis Coupe, which arrived this year as a 2010 model. The coupe, which I also tested recently, starts at $22,000 and is much-less luxurious than the larger and roomier sedan by the same name.

Hyundai's U.S. sales have held remarkably strong during this year of historically depressed overall industry totals, a credit not only to cars such as the Genesis sedan and coupe, but the strength and value of the entire Hyundai lineup -- which begins with the under-$10,000 Accent subcompact.

The company's success this year, while other automakers have been struggling to survive, has been helped by its value-pricing strategy, and, perhaps most of all, its "Hyundai Assurance" plan. Under that program, the automaker pledges to buy back any new Hyundai during the first year of ownership if the buyer becomes unemployed or can't work because of health problems.

The new luxury sedan, which was introduced to Super Bowl TV viewers in January, also was honored by the Web site as the "Best New Car of 2009," and named a "Top 5 Luxury Car for 2009" by, the consumer Web site operated by the National Automobile Dealers Association."

Genesis also earned five-star safety ratings for both front and side impacts in crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Michael Deitz, Hyundai Motor America's product planning manager, contends that the Genesis "has the technology and features comparable to the world's leading premium sports sedans at a value Mercedes and BMW can't beat."

The car has the look and feel of a large, premium European sedan such as the BMW 5-series or Mercedes E-class, but at a much-lower cost. The styling is quite Mercedes-like -- not flashy, just classy.

The $32,250 starting price is for the base 3.8 model, which comes with a 290-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 engine.

On the top end, there is the 4.6-liter V-8 model, with an impressive 375 horsepower, beginning at $37,250.

Our tester was the model that most consumers are choosing – the 3.8 V-6. With extras such as a Premium Plus package ($3,000) and Technology package ($4,000), our tester rang up at $40,050 with freight.

With the Premium Plus package came 18-inch alloy wheels, leather-wrapped door and dash, power sunroof, power tilt-and-telescopic steering column, rain-sensing wipers, and more.

The Technology package added a 528-watt Lexicon audio system, integrated with a navigation system, with HD radio, XM satellite radio, and XM NavTraffic; a rear backup camera; adaptive headlights; front and rear parking assist; and cooled front seats.

Hyundai said it expected the Genesis to compete for customers with cars such as the Lexus ES, Chrysler 300 and Cadillac CTS, but added that it has performance capabilities and luxury features "comparable to sedans costing tens of thousands of dollars more."

The Genesis rides on a new rear-wheel-drive vehicle platform that Hyundai developed specifically for a luxury car, and it has an advanced five-link suspension at all four corners to give it both the ride and handling that consumers expect in a premium sedan.

Both engines come with six-speed automatic transmissions, although the gearboxes are different for each model.

With premium fuel, the V-8 has the 375 horsepower, but it's also designed to run on regular gas. The horsepower drops just slightly, to 368, with regular, but Hyundai says the car still outperforms all competitors in the amount of horsepower produced per liter of engine displacement.

While I haven't tested the V-8 model, I can tell you that the V-6 offered more power than I would ever need either in town or on the highway. The accelerator pedal takes a little getting used to, as just a small push gives the car a quick forward jolt -- bringing groans from my passengers, who said they though I was trying to snap their necks.

But once I got the hang of it, I heard no more complaints. It reminded me of the way my flight instructor taught me to handle the control wheel in the airplane -- "You don't turn the wheel," he said. "You just add pressure."

The ride was smooth and quiet, even at top freeway speeds, yet during spirited driving on twisty roads, the Genesis performed quite well, with no squishiness at all. Steering was more precise than I expected, as well, although not quite as crisp as that of a comparably sized BMW.

The Genesis has impressive EPA fuel economy numbers for a car with this much power -- 17 mpg city/25 highway for the V-8 and 18/27 for the V-6. Hyundai notes that this is better than many V-6 engines in smaller midsize cars.

Standard on the V-6 model are electronic stability control with traction control, antilock brakes, 17-inch alloy wheels, front and rear seat-mounted side air bags, roof-mounted side-curtain air bags, the electronic front head restraints, fog lights, automatic headlights, dual power/heated outside mirrors with turn signal indicators, heated leather seats with power adjustment up front, cruise control, white and blue interior lighting, keyless entry with push-button start, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel with audio controls, dual front fully automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror with universal garage opener and compass, AM/FM/CD/MP3/XM audio system with iPod/USB and auxiliary input jacks, Bluetooth and floor mats.

The V-8 models come with most of the features of the V-6, plus 18-inch silver alloy wheels, chrome lower body side moldings, upgraded leather seats, leather-wrapped dash and door trim inserts, power glass sunroof with tilt and slide, power tilt-and-telescopic steering column, integrated memory system, Lexicon 15-speaker surround -sound audio system, six-disc CD changer, illuminated scuff plates, wood-trimmed leather steering wheel, power rear sunshade and rain-sensing wipers with auto-defogger windshield.

The car seats five, and as a full-size sedan, it's quite roomy for both front and rear passengers, with lots of rear legroom even when the front bucket seats are pushed all the way back on their tracks.

But my 11-year-old twin grandkids were much more comfortable in the back seat by themselves. With no one sitting in the middle, the center armrest can be pulled down, and it provides two decent cup holders.

The car comes with Hyundai's great warranty, which includes five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper protection, along with 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain coverage, seven-year/unlimited mileage anti-perforation protection, and 24-hour roadside assistance for five years with no mileage limit.

Towing, lockout service and trip-interruption expenses are included.

G. Chambers Williams

San Antonio Express-New