SAN DIEGO--Hard-charging Hyundai hopes its 2011 Elantra will shake up the compact segment by offering an entire lineup with a 40-mpg highway fuel economy rating and features the competition lacks.
The basics: Featuring the slick "fluidic sculpture" design language seen on the Sonata, the redesigned Elantra is a touch longer and sits lower than its predecessor.
The compact sedan is powered by a new 1.8-liter four-banger from Hyundai Motor Corp.'s Nu engine family that generates 145 hp and 143 pound-feet of torque.
The engine adds power and features an aluminum block and head that help shave 70 pounds from the outgoing 2010 Elantra's 2.0-liter iron block engine. Dual continuously variable valve timing, an improved electronic throttle control and a two-step variable induction system that boosts power and torque at high speeds help make the engine more powerful and fuel efficient than its predecessor.
The Elantra's engine is mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission developed by Hyundai. Regardless of transmission, the Elantra gets 29 mpg in the city and 40 on the highway.
Safety features include four air bags for front-seat passengers, electronic stability control, traction control and vehicle stability control--a system that combines stability control and power steering to help prevent drivers from losing control.
Notable features: Getting 40 mpg on the highway on all Elantra models gives Hyundai an advantage over key competitors such as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Chevrolet Cruze.
Unlike most competitors, the Elantra comes with standard four-wheel disc brakes. The Civic and Corolla, for example, offer disc brakes on only the front wheels.
Other features include standard split folding rear seats, an optional navigation system with a 7-inch screen, Bluetooth connectivity and standard USB and auxiliary audio connections.
What Hyundai says: "We think that the new Elantra is going to have the same impact in the compact segment" that the 2010 Sonata has in the mid-sized sedan segment, said Scott Margason, director of product planning for Hyundai Motor America.
Compromises and shortcomings: Unlike the 2010 Sonata, the Elantra's new engine does not feature gasoline direct injection. The 1.8-liter Nu engine could have included the fuel-saving technology, but Hyundai viewed it as too expensive.
The market: Hyundai expects to sell about 145,000 Elantras annually.
The skinny: With standout styling, 40 mpg standard, nearly 150 hp, Hyundai's 100,000-mile warranty and a sticker price of a little more than $17,000 for an Elantra equipped with an automatic transmission, the competition should be worried.