Hyundai Blue: A Green Elantra

by The Car Family

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Just when you thought you had to buy a hybrid or diesel to get good fuel mileage for your family vehicle along comes the bargain prices Hyundai Elantra Blue. With prices starting about $14,000 you can get yourself into a downright great car that is surprisingly fun to drive and has ample cargo space. Indeed the handling, braking, and ride quality are exemplary considering the price. The Blue is in effect a fairly basic Elantra with the emphasis on good fuel mileage. We always have liked the Elantra, especially the five door semi-station wagon touring models and so it wasn’t surprising that we quickly felt at home in this model. There were some exceptions such as a long throw on the five-speed standard transmission linkage and steering that was a too light. Otherwise this is good value especially considering the long warranty and such standard features as remote entry, electronic side mirrors, and a surprising good engine.

Mom’s view: The interior is bland, but useful. I would definitely go with the optional comfort package that includes an exceptional stereo. The gauge package is missing some engine data instrumentation and the seats could use a bit more padding, but overall, this is a bargain. However, be warned that the clutch takes a while to master with its high take-up point. The Blue can hold four adults in comfort and there it is easy to place an infant seat in back as well. There are plenty of little storage areas and the glove compartment is adequate. The cupholders are poorly placed and be careful when you are using the parking brake as your hand can easily hit any container placed in the cupholder. Despite this, considering the price and what the competition is offering, this is a best buy. It is no Mazda 3, but it is so much more comfortable to drive and gets better gas mileage.

Safety wise you get antilock disc brakes, active front head restraints, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. The crash scores were good for front crashes, but side-impact scores were marginal. Overall, I liked this Hyundai and found it willing to perform its duties as a family vehicle at a far more competent level the price would suggest.

Dad’s view: The Blue is the low price leader for the Elantra series and it drives like anything but a low priced vehicle. Hyundai has fiddled with such items as reducing friction to get better mileage, but the real secret is that this front-wheel drive sedan isn’t slow. Using the five-speed manual transmission to keep the four-cylinder engine on task makes passing and mountain driving easy despite the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rating of 138 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque.

I was able to consistently get to 60 mph in under nine seconds with two on-board. All of this with a fuel economy rating of 36 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. The range is well over 400 highway miles. And as for the Blue being, green, the eager engine has an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle rating.

Young working woman’s view: Not much to look at, but I learned a long time ago not to judge by appearances. It is generic in every way except the blue interior night instrument lighting and sculpture dash. The headlights are good and the dome lighting acceptable. The rear seats have a 60/40 split fold down and there is a modest sized pass through into the trunk’s 14 cubic feet of storage. The Blue model really is too basic for me despite power windows, keyless entry, and a tilting steering wheel. I would go with the must have $1750 Comfort option and get air-conditioning, cruise control and a CD/MP3 player with a USB/auxiliary audio jack for iPods. You can also opt for the satellite radio, but regardless of your audio source, the six- speaker sound quality is excellent.

Young working male’s view: The Blue sort of grows on you. At first you notice the ultra quick steering, eager brakes and the smooth engine. It is very compliant and eager to please and quiet. Bumpy roads and tight corners didn’t raise a concern with the independent front and rear suspension, but this isn’t a Mazda 3 or Honda Civic so don’t get carried away. On the other hand, neither of those are as comfortable and roomy to drive on long trips. Of course, the 195/65/15 tires could be upgraded for better handling, but you would probably sacrifice fuel mileage and softer ride. It has a quiet ride, but with the terrific stereo it really won’t matter. Essentially, this is basic, reassuring transportation. Add that to the Hyundai warranty that offers 5-year/60,000 miles bumper to bumper coverage and roadside assistance and a 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain coverage and there is little not to like in this Blue considering its price. For open source software reviews go to http://www.eracks.com

Family conference: A bargain. Although the crash scores are not as high as we would like, this is nevertheless the best vehicle in this price range for a family. It isn’t exciting to look at, but when you add in the long warranty and gutsy engine you have a must test drive vehicle and we believe that the dealers just might be willing to negotiate on that must have Comfort package.

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