2011 Hyundai Elantra Should Keep Hyundai Elated
If Hyundai had a launched a new compact car this year and watched it become a consistent top-20 best seller, attracting more than 100,000 customers by the end of October, the automaker would rightly consider the vehicle a success. But when those are the numbers for your aged and outgoing model, and you're about to replace it with an all-new and improved-in-every-way version, your expectations are naturally a bit higher. Luckily for a certain high-momentum automaker, the redesigned 2011 Hyundai Elantra looks ready to meet those expectations'”and then some.
Going Out on Top
Guess which vehicle is the No. 2 seller for South Korea's No. 1 car company. Yep, it's the 2010 Hyundai Elantra, which racked up 110,519 sales through the first 10 months of the year, an increase of nearly 21 percent. In July, sales of the Elantra even surpassed those of the all-new 2011 Hyundai Sonata by almost 400 units. And this despite the fact that the current Elantra is relying on Hyundai's previous-generation styling and technology.
Which isn't to say today's Elantra is a poor choice; in fact, just the opposite. It puts up some of the best EPA numbers in the segment among entries that are currently on the road'”remember, the Chevrolet Cruze Eco and 2012 Ford Focus aren't yet available'”and it sports an MSRP that starts at just $14,145. If you can get past the car's somewhat cartoonish exterior and tech deficit, the 2010 Elantra could be an excellent pick as a basic daily driver. That, plus a general halo effect from the Sonata and Hyundai Tucson, has certainly helped keep the volume up.
The Newest Member of the 40-MPG Club
On the other hand, it's quite obvious that the 2010 model wouldn't be able to keep this kind of performance up much longer. The Cruze and new Focus are transforming the segment into a more premium environment, from which customers are going to expect higher levels of content and fuel efficiency, and be willing to pay higher prices to get it. And even if there were room for the Elantra to score customers who still preferred a bare-bones approach to driving, that would go against the grain of Hyundai's overall attempts to move up-market (see the Hyundai Equus).
That brings us to the all-new 2011 Hyundai Elantra, which made its public debut in the U.S. at the LA Auto Show. The completely redesigned Elantra is, frankly, exactly what we've come to expect from the latest batch of Hyundai and Kia vehicles: A dramatically styled product that offers high levels of standard content and technology, segment-leading horsepower combined with segment-leading fuel efficiency, and a price tag that still undercuts the competition.
Particularly notable is that mix of performance and fuel economy, something that's shared by the Sonata and is fast becoming a Hyundai trademark. The new Elantra's I4 engine puts out 148 hp/131 lb.-ft. of torque; no other competitor tops both those numbers except for the 2012 Focus, and that car will be more expensive and less fuel efficient'”sort of.
A key selling point is that the Elantra is expected to turn up EPA ratings of 29 mpg city/40 mpg highway regardless of transmission (six-speed auto or manual) and regardless of model. The "regular" Cruze gets an underwhelming-for-its-segment 22/35, and while the Cruze Eco will go 28/42, it also will carry an MSRP of $18,895. The Elantra starts at $15,550 (both prices include destination charges). To get into a new Focus with Ford's advanced PowerShift transmission'”a requirement to see 40 mpg highway'”you're looking at a net starting price of $18,090.
Hyundai v. Kia, Take 2
Just yesterday I was again floating the idea that Kia had a styling advantage over Hyundai, and a bit of a price advantage as well, and that that could turn into sales advantage for the former'”at least when both brands are fielding equally new products. But I do want to point out that that's not the case in the compact segment. Although both the 2011 Elantra and Forte are new-generation products, the Hyundai has a definite tech advantage, also reflected in its notably better EPA ratings, and it's actually not that bad looking.
What suddenly does look a little shaky in this segment is the sales prognosis for the rest of the competition.