2006 Hyundai Elantra

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2002 Hyundai Elantra

This 2002 review is representative of model years 1996 to 2006.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Hyundai joins the growing hatchback market with sporty new model.
Pros:
  • Versatile hatchback design
  • Fun to drive
  • Well equipped
Cons:
  • Engine needs lots of revs
  • Average resale value
  • Long-throw clutch

Hyundai has spiced up its 2002 lineup with its European-style Elantra GT hatchback sedan.

Hatchback autos are regarded as practical in Europe, with large cargo openings that facilitate loading of awkwardly shaped items. But most Americans long have wanted cars with trunks because many associate hatchbacks with cheap economy autos sold here in the 1970s and 1980s.

That's changing. Mercedes-Benz offers a new hatchback coupe for 2002, and other automakers may follow suit. And the Volkswagen Golf hatchback continues to do well.

When Hyundai Motor America wanted to expand its U.S. car line, it asked its South Korean bosses if it could sell the Elantra GT hatchback sedan sold in Europe. After all, there's a pretty good market for sporty cars in America.

"Go ahead, but soften the suspension for American tastes," replied the Hyundai Motor Co bosses.

It took some arguing from Hyundai executives on this side of the Atlantic to convince Hyundai Motor that such a move would remove the appealing sporty nature of the GT.

Fun to Drive
The European-tuned suspension makes the front-drive Elantra GT more fun to drive than the regular, similar Hyundai sedan. That model has minimal changes because the 2001 model was made longer, taller and roomier, with more refinement and comfort.

The front-drive Elantra GT has larger Euro-market front and rear anti-sway bars and gas-filled shock absorbers tuned to European specifications. A fully independent rear suspension with offset coil springs helps handling. So do fairly wide 60-series tires on alloy wheels. And the Elantra GT has 4-wheel disc brakes for better stopping power.

Long-Throw Clutch
The power rack-and-pinion steering is quick and precise, while handling is sharp and there is nicely progressive brake pedal feel. The ride is supple despite the firmer suspension, and the manual shifter works well. However, the light clutch has a rather long throw you expect in something like a high-powered Chevrolet Corvette and not a rather low-powered Hyundai.

No Added Horsepower
Alas, the Elantra GT has no more horsepower than the regular Elantra sedan. Both come with a 140-horsepower 4-cylinder engine.

That 2.0-liter engine is sophisticated, with dual overhead camshafts and 16 valves, but needs lots of revs for lively acceleration despite its fairly long piston stroke. That's because it is small and the Elantra GT isn't especially light. The car weighs 2,635 pounds with the standard 5-speed manual transmission and 2,698 pounds with the 4-speed automatic.

The engine revs at a high 3200 rpm at 75 mph in fifth gear, but fuel economy still is good: an estimated 25 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway with the manual gearbox and 23 and 32 with the automatic.

Very Well Equipped
The GT is a bargain, if Hyundai's marginal resale value isn't considered. It's so well equipped that the only options are anti-lock brakes and an associated traction-control system for $525 and a $650 power tilt-slide sunroof. However, those desirable items aren't priced as separate options and must be ordered in a $1,175 option package.

Still, standard equipment includes leather upholstery (unusual in a low-priced car), air conditioning, side front airbags, AM/FM/CD, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, remote keyless entry, fog lights and power windows, door locks and mirrors.

An annoying flaw: It's easy to accidentally activate the rear power windows instead of the front ones because window controls are set too far forward on the driver's door.

Good Passenger Room
The Elantra GT looks slick and has plenty of room for four 6-footers in its fairly quiet interior. The center of the rear seat is rather firm, but okay for a third adult on short trips. The manually adjustable front seats work well, although the driver seatback lever on my test GT didn't function properly.

The white-on-gray gauges are designed more for style than easy reading, but there are large, fairly smooth sound system and climate controls. Cupholders are easily reached in the front console, and front doors have fairly large storage pockets. Small dashboard-area compartments are handy places to put toll change.

However, rear windows don't go all the way down, which could lead to spills at fast-food outlets.

Large Cargo Area
The cargo area has a low, wide opening characteristic of a hatchback design, and there is plenty of cargo space.

The 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks flip forward to enlarge the cargo area, but should fold flatter. The hatch is easily opened and a large interior handle helps make it simple to close.

Those on fairly tight budgets who want an economical GT sedan might want to take a hard look at the Elantra GT, which has one of the best long-term warranties in the industry

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BB06 - 9/17/2014 5:03:40 AM