2011 Hyundai Elantra

SAN DIEGO — The Korean onslaught continues with the introduction of the all-new 2011 Hyundai Elantra. It’s only been four years and four months since the launch of the last generation Elantra but appearance-wise it might as well have been a decade.

The new Elantra takes on the familial styling of its larger sibling Sonata, which also was recently re-designed. It competes in the fearsome compact segment with vehicles like the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze, Nissan Sentra and Mazda3.

Because of its character line sculpting the distinctive design gives the impression it’s in constant movement. It has muscular wheel arches, wraparound taillights, Hyundai’s signature hexagonal grille and sculpted hood creases. It’s 2-inches longer in wheelbase and 1-inch longer than its predecessor, giving it interior roominess. It actually has more passenger volume than the 2010 Lexus ES 350.

It has a perfectly adequate 1.8-liter 148 horsepower dual-CVVT engine that is more powerful and 74 pounds lighter than the outgoing 2.0-liter found in the previous version. The 1.8 develops 131 pound-feet of torque and boasts fuel economy of 29 mpg city/40 mpg highway. It’s mated to a 6-speed manual transmission that is standard equipment on the GLS trim level or a 6-speed automatic that includes an overdrive lock-up torque converter for higher fuel economy at freeway speeds (optional on the GLS; standard on the Limited).

The new Elantra proved a hoot to drive through a combination of twisty, mountainous roads and high-speed freeway driving. It has rock-solid suspension and excellent road-feel.  The transmission shifted smoothly and effortlessly considering all the work it had to do associated with ascending and descending extremely hilly terrain. Hyundai has put a lot of emphasis into minimizing wind and road noise and it’s readily apparent – especially at higher speeds.

There’s a ton of front-seat leg room but it comes at the sacrifice of those in the back. Additionally there’s a surprisingly large trunk.

There are a lot of standard and available features like leather seating surfaces, heated front seats and segment-first heated rear seats, 7-inches touchscreen navigation system with rearview camera…plus a selection of optional packages.

Elantra’s pricing also has a lot going for it. Starting price for a base 2011 Elantra GLS with a manual transmission is $15,550 and it goes up from there to $22,700 — for the 2011 Elantra Limited Premium. Both include destination charges.

— Al Vinikour