2012 Hyundai Elantra Review from Edmunds.comWhat Edmunds SaysThanks to head-turning styling, a fuel-efficient engine and a long list of standard safety featuresand upscale options, the 2012 Hyundai Elantra is a top pick for a small sedan.ProsOutstanding fuel economy on all models; lots of features for the money; comfortable and well-built cabin; large trunk; long warranty coverage; distinctive styling.ConsLimited rear headroom; not as sporty as some rivals.Whats New for 2012After a complete redesign last year, the 2012 Hyundai Elantra gains an "Active Eco System" thatmodifies engine and transmission parameters at the push of a button to increase fuel economy byup to 7 percent. The names of option packages have also been changed.IntroductionOnce a crummy also-ran, then a dark-horse alternative and now one of the sales leaders, theHyundai Elantra is quite the success story. After last years complete redesign, the Elantra hasshed its frumpy, anonymous styling and gained fluid curves and a coupelike roof line. The 2012Hyundai Elantra looks good, and that counts for a lot in a segment not normally known for visualexcitement.
Thankfully, theres substance to go along with the Elantras new sheet metal. Its 1.8-liter enginedelivers commendable power for its class and the type of thrifty fuel economy achieved only byits competitors when equipped with special high-efficiency packages. Fuel economy improveseven further for 2012 thanks to a new system known as Active Eco. When the driver selects thismode, the Elantras automatic transmission shift points and throttle response are adjusted toincrease fuel economy by up to 7 percent. The downside, though, is more sluggish performancewhen the mode is engaged.Inside the cabin, occupants are greeted by a bold dash design and controls that are still easy touse. Overall materials quality isnt quite best-in-class (that award goes to the Ford Focus), but theElantras cabin isnt bargain-basement either. The Elantra can also be loaded up with the sort ofcomfort and electronics features indicative of a luxury car. Other than a lack of rear headroomfor taller folks, the cabin is generally quite spacious.So the 2012 Hyundai Elantra is comfortable, well-built, fuel efficient, abundantly equipped,sharply styled and covered by Hyundais long warranty coverage. Of course, other small cars likethe Chevrolet Cruze, Focus, Honda Civic and Mazda 3 are also great choices, makingcomparison shopping a must. But when it comes to the small sedan segment, we can finallyendorse the Elantra as a top pick.Body Styles, Trim Levels, and OptionsThe 2012 Hyundai Elantra is available in GLS and Limited trims.The base GLS comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels, keyless entry, heated mirrors, fullpower accessories, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-only steering wheel, a 60/40 split-foldingrear seat, a trip computer and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, anauxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.The GLS Comfort package adds 16-inch steel wheels, cruise control, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, solar glass and, when equipped with an automatic transmission,Hyundais Active Eco system. The GLS Preferred package adds 16-inch alloy wheels, foglamps,upgraded interior trim, a sliding front center armrest, illuminated vanity mirrors, steering wheelaudio controls and Bluetooth.The Elantra Limited adds all of the GLS Preferred equipment plus 17-inch alloy wheels, asunroof, leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel andshifter. The Limited Technology package adds automatic headlights, keyless ignition/entry, arearview camera, an upgraded sound system, a touchscreen infotainment interface and anavigation system with real-time traffic, weather and other information.Powertrains and PerformanceEvery 2012 Hyundai Elantra is front-wheel drive and comes standard with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque. Vehicles sold in
California-emissions states get a partial zero-emissions vehicle (PZEV) version of this engine,which lowers output to 145 hp and 130 lb-ft of torque. On the GLS, a six-speed manualtransmission is standard, and a six-speed automatic is optional. The Limited comes standard withthe automatic.In Edmunds performance testing with a non-PZEV engine, an Elantra Limited went from zero to60 mph in 9.4 seconds -- slightly slower than average. No matter which engine/transmissioncombo you choose, youll end up with very impressive fuel economy, though. EPA estimates are29 mpg city/40 mpg highway and 33 mpg combined.SafetyThe 2012 Hyundai Elantras list of standard safety features includes traction and stability control,antilock disc brakes, active front head restraints, front seat side-impact airbags and side curtainairbags. In Edmunds brake testing, an Elantra Limited needed 125 feet to stop from 60 mph -- agood distance for the segment.In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the Elantra earned a top score of "Good"for its performance in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.Interior Design and Special FeaturesThe Elantras interior features a curved center stack and stylized climate controls that provide abit of extra flair while still being easy to use. The design is attractive and the materials, while notquite best-in-class, at least have a rich look to them. With available high-end features likeleather, heated front and rear seats, an excellent navigation system and a rearview camera, youcan even equip an Elantra to near-luxury levels.In general, the Elantra offers a lot more space than youd expect from a compact car. Headroomup front is plentiful for 6-footers and the steering wheel is a bit smaller in diameter than usual,which enhances the sense of space up front. The backseat is fine for kids and even most adults,though vertically gifted folks will find its abundant legroom and shortage of headroom a mixedblessing. The Elantra features a large trunk with 14.8 cubic feet of cargo room, a generousnumber for this segment. Its 60/40-split pass-through is also quite large.Driving ImpressionsWhile the 2012 Hyundai Elantra isnt quite as exciting to drive as it is to look at, its certainly notdull. The new 1.8-liter engine has plenty of pep for daily driving, and the six-speed automatictransmission shifts smoothly and willingly downshifts. The cabin is a relatively quiet place, withlittle wind noise to speak of, though there is enough road and engine noise to remind you that theElantra is still a compact economy car rather than the high-dollar sedan it appears to be.If youre looking for some driving fun in your compact car, the Elantra doesnt have the outrighthandling abilities of the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus and Mazda 3. Those cars quite simply feel a
little more sophisticated. But in general, the Elantras balance between ride and handling is oneof the best in the segment.