2011 Hyundai Elantra Review and Prices

Last Updated: Mar 4, 2011

Like this Review

2011 Hyundai Elantra Buying Advice

The 2011 Hyundai Elantra is the best compact sedan for you if you want an economy car that looks anything but.

The 2011 Hyundai Elantra is fully redesigned with striking styling, an upscale interior, and 40 mpg highway ratings for every model in the lineup. With a new body shape mirroring Hyundai’s midsize hit, the Sonata, the compact-class 2011 Hyundai Elantra is roomy for its size and a strong value. The most popular version is priced at $18,350, including destination, and comes with a six-speed automatic transmission, alloy wheels, heated mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, and a USB iPod interface. The model line starts at $15,550 and tops out with the fully equipped $22,700 Limited version boasting heated leather front and rear seats, a navigation system, and pushbutton ignition. The sedan’s station-wagon companion, the 2011 Hyundai Elantra Touring, retains an older design and awaits its own remake in a couple of years.

Should you buy a 2011 Hyundai Elantra or wait for the 2012 Hyundai Elantra? There’s a lot to recommend the 2011 Elantra, not least the appeal of being first on your block with arguably the prettiest car in the class. The 2012 Elantra won’t change in any significant way, though Hyundai hints a sporty turbocharged version is in the wings. Meantime, the 2011 Elantra does well enough with its 148-horsepower four-cylinder, one of the most powerful engines in the class and among the most frugal, too. Still, two important rivals arrive for model-year 2012: the all-new 2012 Ford Focus and the redesigned 2012 Honda Civic. If you’re not completely smitten with the 2011 Elantra, you might exercise a little patience and compare it against that fresh competition.

2011 Hyundai Elantra Changes back to top

Styling: The 2011 Hyundai Elantra is a minor breakthrough in compact-car styling with detailing and overall proportions that bespeak a larger, more expensive car. It looks fully contemporary, with radically raked-back windshield pillars, an artsy nose, and deftly sculpted body sides. Minimal sheet metal “overhangs” fore and aft of the wheel openings give it an aggressive stance.

Of particular note is the delicate but complex shaping of the taillamps, which lend the rear end a wide, premium-sedan character. A letdown is the section in which the rear roofline converges with the rear doors; it forms a delta that from the outside creates a chunky wedge of metal and from the inside, pinches the side windows enough to detract from the rear passengers’ feeling of airiness.    

The 2011 Elantra continues within Hyundai’s lineup as the larger alternative to the subcompact Accent and as a size-class down from the midsize Sonata. Dimensionally, the 2011 Elantra is larger than the far more prosaic 2007-2010 Elantra generation it replaces, gaining two inches in overall length and in wheelbase, though its roofline is two inches lower. Wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear axles and key to a car’s interior space. The 106.3-inch wheelbase of the 2011 Elantra matches the 2011 Honda Civic sedan’s as the longest in this year’s compact segment, giving Elantra outstanding front-seat space and generous rear-seat leg room for a compact car. With one of the lowest rooflines in the class, however, rear passengers over 5-foot-9 or so may be most comfortable in a bit of a slouch.

Overall, the 2011 Elantra’s exterior measurements are in fact a near-duplicate of the 2006-2011 Honda Civic sedan’s – a car whose styling still looks ahead of its time and one Hyundai confides inspired key elements of the 2011 Elantra’s shape.

Inside, the 2011 Elantra’s all-new cabin vies for best-in-class with forms that are wholly modern without compromising functionality and materials grained and molded to avoid the stigma of budget-pricing. Audio controls are mounted high in the center of the dashboard, with the climate system conveniently just below. Nothing is obstructed and the switchgear is clearly identified and operates with uncommon precision. Buttons are sized for use with gloved fingers and the knurled knobs that govern audio volume and main climate settings deserve special praise for their upscale feel.

Seats are firm and supportive, the front buckets won’t squeeze the wider of beam among us, and the rear cushion has good thigh support. A demerit is a rear center armrest hinged too low to comfortably prop up your elbows. Trunk volume is near the top of the compact class, at a usefully shaped 14.8 cubic feet.         

The 2011 Hyundai Elantra sedan lineup is divided into two trim lines, GLS and Limited, with several options packages grouping popular features. Visual distinctions are minor: 2011 Elantra Limited models get outside mirrors with turn-signal repeaters and grille accents tinted dark instead of chrome. Limiteds also come with 17-inch alloy wheels while 2011 Elantra GLS models have 15- or 16-inch wheels, alloy or steel with wheel covers, depending on trim package.

The 2011 Hyundai Elantra Touring will account for less than 20 percent of 2011 Elantra sales but is a tempting buy as a roomy compact wagon that’s surprisingly fun to drive. Its styling is utilitarian-square and it comes in GLS and better-equipped SE models.   

Mechanical: The 2011 Hyundai Elantra sedan has one engine and a choice of manual and automatic transmissions and in any form earns fuel-economy ratings of 29/40 mpg city/highway. Hyundai points out that while rivals may promise highway ratings of 40 mpg, that figure is attained only by selected models within their lineups, models that might actually cost more than base versions.

The 2011 Elantra’s sole engine is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder rated at 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque (think of torque as accelerative force, horsepower as the energy that sustains momentum). Among base engines, the 2011 Elantra’s horsepower and torque ratings are among the highest of any compact car. It uses the latest in high-efficiency valvetrain engineering, but stops short of advanced direct fuel injection. The latter, Hyundai says, was not needed to reach the desired output and fuel-economy targets and its absence helps keep the purchase price down.           

The 2011 Hyundai Elantra’s transmission selection is fully up-to-date. A six-speed manual is standard on the GLS and a six-speed automatic is optional on the GLS and standard on the Limited. Several rivals use five-speed manuals and automatics – the Toyota Corolla still uses a four-speed automatic – and Elantra’s automatic is among the relative few in the class with a floor shifter that can be moved into an adjacent gate and toggled to replicate manual-type gear control.

The 2011 Elantra hews to compact-class convention with front-wheel drive, which places the bulk of the powertrain over the wheels that also propel the car. That promotes wet-surface traction and packaging efficiency. Elantra’s suspension also sticks with tradition, being independent in front but torsion-beam in the rear. Compared to a more sophisticated four-wheel independent suspension, the torsion beam saves cost and is more space-efficient, though it can’t deliver the same balance of ride and handling. In this the 2011 Element trails class leaders such as the Honda Civic and Mazda 3, which are among the few similarly priced compact cars with an all-independent suspension.

Hyundai regains some points by equipping every 2011 Elantra with four-wheel disc brakes – many rivals use less-effective, and less costly, rear drum brakes. And all 2011 Elantras come with a full complement of active safety tech, including antilock brakes for more controlled emergency stops, traction control for added grips in take-offs, and antiskid stability control to minimize chances of sideways slides. The Limited model has 17-inch tires on alloy wheels. The GLS comes with 15-inch tires on steel wheels and is available with options packages that include 16-inch steel or alloy wheels.           

With a manufacturing focus on weight-saving body construction and mass-minimizing mechanical components, Hyundai is quickly becoming an industry leader in building vehicles that are lighter than most rivals. With curb weights starting at 2,661 pounds and topping out at 2,877, the 2011 Elantra is among the lightest compact sedans, to the benefit of fuel economy as well as acceleration and handling.

On the road, the 2011 Hyundai Elantra sedan places in the upper tier of compact-car performers but can’t quite match the lively manner or precision feel of the sportiest 2011 entries in the category, the Civic and Mazda 3. Acceleration is more than adequate for daily driving and the 2011 Elantra gets up to pace without drama. It cruises at highway speeds in a relatively relaxed manner, too.

However, overtaking slower traffic or ascending a steep grade with any verve at all demands virtual full use of the throttle pedal. Besides exposing the 2011 Elantra’s modest engine displacement, this results in rather unpleasant powertrain resonances that are at odds with the car’s otherwise relaxed demeanor. Indeed, the 2011 Elantra nicely muffles undue road noise, with the exceptionally long windshield-wiper arms about the only source of untoward wind rush at higher speeds.

Ride quality is hard to fault at these prices. Sharp bumps and ruts register but rarely jolt, and the 2011 Elantra settles surely after negotiating high-speed dips and rises. In fast corners, noseplow and body lean are nicely controlled, and while the Limited’s 17-inch tires offer more grip in turns, most drivers will probably be happier with the more progressive feel and better absorbency that come with the GLS’s taller-sidewall 16s.

Unfortunately, neither tire size has much effect on Elantra’s steering feel. Hyundai admirably uses electric power assist, which eliminates the fuel-robbing loads placed on the engine by a conventional hydraulic-assist system. Straight-ahead accuracy is fine and the car tracks true in sweeping turns. But as you initiate a change of direction, assist seems to build, fall away, and build again inconsistently, robbing the steering of the linearity essential to top-notch road manners.

Interestingly, with a basic design drawn from Hyundai’s European engineering work,.the 2011 Elantra Touring wagon is another matter. It has an all-independent suspension and hugs the road and soaks up bumps with a degree of composure designed to please haughty German drivers. The Touring is lackluster under the hood, however. It retains the underperforming 2.0-liter four-cylinder that powered the 2007-2010 Elantra sedan. It has 138 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque and continues with a choice of a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic.   

Features: The 2011 Elantra continues Hyundai’s press for features-per-dollar leadership in every category in which it competes. Even the least-expensive 2011 Elantra sedan comes with such conveniences as a USB iPod interface, power windows and locks, and power heated mirrors. And Hyundai makes both the GLS and Limited available with a navigation system – many rivals restrict navi to high-priced versions – and equips the Limited with a feature no direct competitor offers – heated rear seats.

In addition, every 2011 Elantra comes with remote keyless entry, height-adjustable driver’s seat, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks, and a dashboard screen that displays such information as distance to empty, average gas mileage, and average speed.

The standard audio system is a 172-watt, six-speaker setup with both an auxiliary input jack and a USB interface. The navigation system comes with a 360-watt premium audio system with satellite radio. The navigation system itself adds a 7 inch dashboard touchscreen that doubles as the monitor for a rearview camera and can display personal picture slideshows loaded via the USB port.    

Hyundai does discriminate mildly against manual-transmission 2011 Elantras. For example, manual-transmission GLS buyers have to spring for an option package to get air conditioning, cruise control, and a telescoping function to go along with the standard tilt steering column. Most seriously, manual-transmission Elantras are not available with Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone connectivity. Bluetooth is standard on Limited models and is available at extra cost on automatic-transmission equipped GLS models.

Standard passive safety features include front torso-protecting side air bags and head-protecting curtain side airbags for both seating rows.

2011 Hyundai Elantra Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2011 Hyundai Elantra sedan is $15,550-$22,700. (All base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee; Hyundai’s fee for the 2011 Elantra is $720.) In general, pricing of the 2011 Elantra undercuts that of most rivals at the entry-level of the lineup. It runs neck-and-neck for the most popular versions in the middle of the roster, though typically with more features than direct alternatives. And at the top of the line, the 2011 Elantra undercuts key competitors on price while matching or exceeding them on available features.   

The 2011 Hyundai Elantra GLS model with manual transmission has a base price of $15,550. Adding the Popular Equipment Package increases its price to $16,800 and adds such features as air conditioning, cruise control, telescopic steering column, solar reflective glass, a windshield shade band, and 16-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers in place of the standard 15-inch steel wheels.

The 2011 Elantra GLS with automatic transmission starts at $17,800. Its standard equipment includes the contents of the manual-transmission GLS’s Popular Equipment Package.

Hyundai says GLS models will account for some 60 percent of 2011 Elantra volume and that the single biggest seller will be the GLS with automatic transmission and the Preferred Equipment package. This version is priced at $18,350 and adds to the base GLS 16-inch alloy wheels, steering wheel audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity, cloth-insert door trim, a front sliding center armrest, a driver-side sunvisor extension, and illuminated vanity mirrors and ignition.

The 2011 Hyundai Elantra GLS automatic-transmission model can also be ordered with the Navigation Package. Priced at $20,100, this version includes the Preferred Equipment Package plus the navigation system with its 7-inch screen and rearview camera and the 360-watt premium audio setup.

The 2011 Hyundai Elantra Limited starts at $20,700. It includes everything in the GLS Preferred Equipment Package and adds the 17-inch alloys, power title-and-slide moonroof, fog lamps, the turn-signal mirrors, and the darkened grille trim. Inside, Limited standard equipment includes leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, and a one-touch-up driver’s power window.

The 2011 Elantra Limited is also available with its own Premium Package. This is the top-of-the-line 2011 Elantra model, priced at $22,700. It comes with the navigation-rearview camera-premium audio system, plus remote keyless entry with pushbutton ignition.

Base prices for the 2011 Hyundai Elantra Touring are $16,715 for the GLS model and $20,215 for the SE; add $1,200 to both for automatic transmission.

2011 Hyundai Elantra Fuel Economy back to top

The 2011 Hyundai Elantra’s fuel-economy ratings are 29/40 mpg city/highway for all sedans with either transmission. Hyundai rightly touts these numbers as significant, considering the only other 2011 compact car to claim a 40-mpg highway rating is the Chevrolet Cruze Eco model. It starts at $18,895, mates a 138-horsepower turbo four-cylinder with a specially geared six-speed manual transmission, and has specific aero body trim. The Eco is just one of five Cruise models; the others are rated between 22/35 and 26/36 mpg, depending on powertrain.    

Hyundai credits weight-conscious construction and more efficient powertrains for the 2011 Elantra’s 18-percent improvement in fuel economy over the 2007-2010 Elantra, which rated 24/33 mpg with manual transmission and 25/33 with automatic.

The 2011 Elantra Touring retains its fuel-economy ratings of 23/31 with the five-speed manual transmission and 23/30 with its four-speed automatic.

2011 Hyundai Elantra Release Date back to top

The 2011 Hyundai Elantra goes on sale in December 2010.

What's next for the 2011 Hyundai Elantra back to top

Don’t look for any changes to equipment or styling for the 2012 Elantra sedan models; they’ll be model-year 2011 reruns. Elantra seems ripe for a sport version, and that suggests Hyundai could turbocharge the 1.8-liter four, boosting power and torque without a huge hit to fuel economy. Whether that would occur for model-year 2012 or sometime beyond is the South Korean automaker’s secret.

Hyundai makes a 274-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter available in its larger Sonata sedan, but that engine would be overkill in the Elantra. Significantly, however, the turbo Sonata comes in both sporty and sedate trim, in keeping with Hyundai’s aim to position the more powerful engine as a sensible alternative to a V-6, not necessarily as a narrowly focused high-performance choice.     

Hyundai also offers the gas/electric Sonata Hybrid, and could follow suit with an Elantra Hybrid in the near future. The gas-engine component of the Sonata Hybrid is a specially tuned version of its standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder. But the electric-motor system, using a Hyundai-developed lithium polymer battery pack, seems scalable to Elantra’s 1.8-liter four.

Longer-term, look for the next fully redesigned Elantra no sooner than model-year 2016. That would give this basic design a lifecycle of at least six model years with developments along the way that could include the turbo and hybrid versions and possibly some styling tweaks near the end of the design generation.

2011 Hyundai Elantra Competition back to top

Chevrolet Cruze: It’s a little overhyped, but when a domestic carmaker fields a compact that at least runs near the front of the field, that’s news. Cruze debuts for model-year 2011, replacing the Chevy Cobalt and coming to the U.S. after several years in GM showrooms in Europe, Asia, and other markets. This four-door sedan may be a tick behind the 2011 Elantra for handling but seems a little quieter on the road – though it, too, suffers intrusive engine growling during hard acceleration. The entry-level Cruze has a 1.8-liter four with 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque; it starts at $16,995 and rates 26/36 mpg with a six-speed manual transmission and 22/35 with a six-speed automatic. Versions with a 1.4-liter turbocharged four include the aforementioned Eco model. Their base prices range from $18,895-$22,695 with ratings that hover around 24/36 mpg for non-Eco editions. The turbo also has 138 horsepower but 148 pound-feet of torque and furnishes marginally better acceleration but just as much commotion as the 1.8 when you stomp the throttle. Cruze has baby-Malibu styling that will appeal to more conservative small-car buyers. Ergonomics are subpar, however, and creating a huge-for-the class 15-cubic-foot trunk seems to have been done at the expense back-seat accommodations. Rear leg room is tight.    

Honda Civic: Model-year 2011 marks the last for a landmark compact car design that bowed for 2006 and will be replaced by an all-new Civic for model-year 2012. That the 2011 Civic may still be the best all-around compact on the road is testament to the soundness of the outgoing design. Its double-tier spaceship dashboard looks wonky but works well, quality of construction and materials is outstanding, and the cabin is roomy and comfortable. Honda pricing strategy reserves such infotech as navigation, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity to the Civic line’s higher-priced models, but there’s plenty of value here, starting with precision engineering in the suspension and steering that makes for the best overall driving manners in the class. Coupes and sedans are offered, both with a 1.8-liter four with 140 horsepower, 128 pound-feet of torque, and ratings of 26/34 mpg with a five-speed manual transmission and 25/36 with a five-speed automatic. Base-price range for these models is $16,355-$24,705. The sporty 197-horse Civic Si sedans and coupes come only with a six-speed manual, rate 21/29 mpg, and start at $22,995. The sedan also is available as the Honda Civic Hybrid with a gas-electric powertrain of 110 net horsepower, a 40/43-mpg rating, and a base-price range of $24,700-$27,900.

Mazda 3: Vies with – some would argue, exceeds -- the Civic for driver-satisfying road manners, but beyond dispute is the appeal of this line of spirited compact sedans and their very, very cool four-door-hatchback companions. Model-year 2010 tweaks toned down the mad-clown-smile styling of the front end, but the balance of any Mazda 3 body remains a study in racy good looks. These are roomy little cars, too, with the hatchback boasting 43 cubic feet of cargo volume by folding down its rear seat. Sedans are available with a 2.0-liter four of 148 horsepower and 135 pound-feet of torque. They rate 25/33 with the five-speed manual transmission and 24/33 with a five-speed automatic and have a base price range of $16,595-$19,745. Sedans and hatchbacks also can be equipped with a strong, smooth 2.5-liter four of 167 horsepower/168 pound-feet of torque. It rates 20/28 mpg with a six-speed manual and 22/29 with a five-speed automatic and models with this engine have a base price range of $20,340-$24,605. Finally, the MazdaSpeed3 hatchback packs a 2.3-liter turbo four that comes on strong with 263 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. It’s rated at 18/25 with the mandatory six-speed manual and starts just under $25,000. This Mazda’s next freshening is slated for model-year 2013.