Hyundai has made a very smart choice on its Elantra sedan for 2010: improved its fuel economy. And at the center of the improvement is a new frugal base model: the Elantra Blue.
Through some relatively simple engineering enhancements--such as a smart alternator, lower-friction components, and revised/taller gear ratios, along with revised engine calibration--Hyundai has improved fuel efficiency on the Elantra Blue (versus last year's Elantra models) by up to eight percent. EPA ratings now stand at 26 mpg city, 35 highway with the standard five-speed manual transmission--up from 24 mpg city, 33 highway on last year's model.
Due to "smart engineering enhancements" on other Elantra GLS and SE models, fuel economy ratings have gone up about one mpg in both city and highway ratings, to 26 mpg city, 34 highway.
Throughout the model line, the changes have been achieved while preserving the engine's power output. All models remain powered by a 138-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine; PZEV versions make 132 hp.
Unfortunately, these changes don't apply to the 2010 Hyundai Elantra Touring sport wagon.
Prices are mostly unchanged, with the base Blue model just $25 higher than last year's GLS. The base Blue, at a $14,145 MSRP, includes power heated mirrors, power locks and windows, keyless entry, a split-folding rear seatback, and a tilt (though not telescopic) steering wheel. Options include air conditioning, an upgraded 172-watt audio system with MP3 compatibility, iPod and USB inputs, and cruise control. In short, it's a gas-saver but not a blue-light special.
The GLS moves a bit upscale from last year, adding most of those options plus a few more minor features, such as fog lamps, while the top-of-the-line SE includes steering-wheel audio controls, leather trim, telescopic steering-wheel adjustment, sport-tuned steering and suspension, and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Of note is that the fuel-economy improvements in the 2010 Hyundai Elantra Blue model don't involve an extra-cost package (such as in the 2010 Kia Forte) or the need to step up to a higher-priced model. Hyundai points out in a release that the 2010 Elantra Blue is priced lower than base models of the 2010 Toyota Corolla, 2010 Ford Focus, 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, and 2009 Honda Civic.
General Motors likely revived this trend toward special trims of small-models with improved fuel economy. Last year GM produced an improved-efficiency XFE version of its Chevrolet Cobalt last year.
In the 1980s and into the 1990s, automakers produced various high-mpg trims such as the Dodge Omni Miser, Honda CRX HF, and Chevrolet Sprint ER