2006 Hyundai Elantra

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2003 Hyundai Elantra GT

This 2003 review is representative of model years 1996 to 2006.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Thrifty Elantra GT gets regular trunk to broaden appeal.
Pros:
  • Affordable
  • Fun to drive
  • New GT with conventional trunk
Cons:
  • Needs more punch
  • Long-throw clutch
  • Low resale

There are plenty of fun-to-drive cars, but it's always nice to find one with a price of only about $14,000. After all, everyone can't afford to buy, insure and operate a sporty car such as a $40,000-plus Porsche Boxster.

The new $14,149 Hyundai Elantra GT sedan can't match Porsche Boxster performance, but it is enjoyable. The 2003 GT is agile and its 2-liter, 16-valve engine provides lively acceleration with 135 horsepower. Hyundai says a horsepower ratings quirk has dropped the figure by five horsepower from last year's 140 horsepower rating.

More Punch Needed
Still, at least 150 horsepower from a slightly larger 4-cylinder engine with more torque would allow less gear shifting, more relaxed highway driving and better performance with the optional automatic transmission.

The front-drive, compact Elantra is the top-selling Hyundai model in America. The GT sedan, which has a conventional trunk, joins the base GLS sedan and GT hatchback models.

Conventional GT Trunk
The Elantra GT is now offered with a conventional trunk because Americans continue to associate a hatchback design with economy cars. More pragmatic European motorists don't share that view, but all those years of Japanese automakers selling cheap hatchbacks here have left many Americans with a negative impression of hatchbacks.

Why should Hyundai argue? It's best to offer a GT with both a hatchback and a conventional trunk. After all, this South Korean automaker's sales continue to soar.

The sophisticated, dual-overhead-camshaft 4-cylinder powers all Elantras. It propels the 2,635-pound car to 60 mph in an acceptable 8.5 seconds with the standard 5-speed manual gearbox, which has a slick shifter. However, the shifter should have a shorter throw, and the clutch has a decidedly long throw, although it's easy to depress.

Lots of Shifting
A driver must shift a lot to get the best performance off highways. Moreover, top gear is nearly useless on highways for passing maneuvers because it's an overdrive gear designed to coax estimated highway fuel economy of 33 mpg. The city rating is 24 mpg and only regular grade gasoline is needed.

The 4-speed automatic transmission, which takes some fun from driving the GT, shifts reasonably well and helps allow the same economy ratings.

The GT sedan and GT hatchback have the same $14,149 base price with the manual transmission and $14,949 with the automatic.

Nicely Equipped
The base $13,299 Elantra GLS only comes with automatic transmission. It's nicely equipped with items such as front bucket seats, side air bags, air conditioning, AM/FM/cassette, tilt wheel, split-folding rear seat, rear defroster and power door locks, windows and mirrors.

Added to the GT are a sports suspension with such items as larger anti-sway bars, 5-spoke alloy wheels and all-disc brakes for better stops during hard use during, say, mountain driving.

Leather GT Upholstery
The GT has leather upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, CD player (but no cassette), remote entry, fog lights, cruise control and a rear spoiler.

Hyundai is proud of gauges that have purple illumination at night, but their colors should make them easier to read quickly during daylight hours.

Option packages contain items like anti-lock brakes, traction control and a power sunroof. A sunroof is also offered as a stand-alone $650 extra.

Nice Roadability
The GT has precise steering and responsive handling. A smooth ride is provided by the supple all-independent suspension. Brakes provide short stops.

There is plenty of room for four 6-footers in the quiet interior and controls are nicely positioned. Climate controls are large, but radio controls are too small for easy driver operation.

Large storage pockets are found in the front doors and the console has dual cupholders that can handle a variety of beverage containers. A wide, flat coin tray recessed in the dashboard is a nice touch and the console has a fairly deep storage bin.

Cost-Cutting
The Elantra has generally solid construction, but there are signs of cost-cutting. For instance, my test Elantra GT sedan's plastic rear ashtray jammed shut and broke when I tried to open it with moderate force. Blame low-grade plastic. Also, there should be some kind of covering to hide the rough-looking inside of the trunk lid.

At least the trunk is large with a low opening. Split rear seatbacks flip forward to enlarge the cargo area, and there's a fairly large pass-through opening between the trunk and rear seat area. Seatbacks sit pretty flat, which wasn't the case with a 2002 Elantra I tested.

Long Warranty
The Elantra has one of the industry's longest warranties: 5-year/60,000-mile basic and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain.

Hyundai has a far better reputation than it once did, but can't match the resale value of established competitors; however, it's gaining ground.

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BB03 - 7/25/2014 11:26:42 AM