2012 Hyundai Elantra Review and Prices

Last Updated: Feb 13, 2012

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2012 Hyundai Elantra Buying Advice

The 2012 Hyundai Elantra is the best compact car for you if you crave boutique styling at bargain-bin prices.

The 2012 Hyundai Elantra sedan reprises its blockbuster 2011 redesign, returning as a fuel-sipping small car with a strong value-for-the-dollar story. Every 2012 Elantra sedan again rates at least 29/40 mpg city/highway – and Hyundai aims to improve fuel economy further with addition of its ActiveEco gas-saving system. The 2012 Elantra sedan offers good interior comfort and boasts a body that looks like it belongs on a car costing more than its $16,000-$21,000 price range. The 2012 Hyundai Elantra Touring also returns as an aging compact station wagon related in name only to the 2012 Elantra sedan.

Should you buy a 2012 Hyundai Elantra or wait for the 2013 Hyundai Elantra? Buy the 2012 Elantra – we’re talking here about the sedan -- if you’ve compared it with the redesigned 2012 Ford Focus and 2012 Honda Civic and found those rivals wanting. Wait for the 2013 Elantra if you hanker for a two-door coupe version or a four-door hatchback replacement for the Touring wagon. The 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe is due in showrooms in spring 2012 and the 2013 Elantra GT hatchback in early summer 2012.

2012 Hyundai Elantra Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Hyundai Elantra sedan returns visually unchanged from its smashing model-year 2011 debut. The shaped-by-the-wind look continues on an aggressively proportioned four-door body with a radically raked-back windshield and a tail that seems to have been lifted from a premium-priced sedan. It’s a contemporary look far more imaginative than the relatively subdued 2012 Civic and rivaled for impact among compacts only by the Euro-curves of the 2012 Focus.

Dimensionally, the 2012 Elantra remains among the longer sedans in the class. A generous wheelbase (distance between the front and rear axles) contributes to fine leg room front and rear. Its form-before-function roofline, however, is among the lowest in the category, so rear-seat head room is a bit tighter than in more upright competitors such as the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze. Few 2012 compact sedans, however, have a trunk larger than Elantra’s 14.8-cubic-foot cargo hold.

The 2012 Hyundai Elantra sedan lineup returns base GLS and upscale Limited models, each with options packages containing a range of features that include a navigation system, rearview camera, and high-powered audio.    

The 2012 Elantra Touring returns as a roomy compact station wagon based on an entirely different design form the Elantra sedan. With seeds in the South Koran automaker’s European operations, the 2012 Elantra Touring retains squared-off styling and use a different powertrain than the Elantra sedan. It comes in GLS and uplevel SE trim.

Mechanical: The 2012 Elantra sedan returns with a single four-cylinder engine and a choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. The 1.8-liter four-cylinder retains ratings of 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque. It mates with the manual or automatic transmission in the GLS models and exclusively with the automatic in 2012 Elantra Limited models. The automatic has a floor shift with a separate gate for manual-type gear control. Automatic-transmission 2012 Elantras gain Hyundai’s

ActiveEco system that modifies throttle inputs and transmission shift points to maximize fuel economy. It’s activated by a dashboard button and Hyundai says it can increase real-world fuel economy by up to 7 percent.

On the road, the 2012 Elantra furnishes perfectly adequate power and smooth shifting, though impatient drivers may be frustrated by the liberal dose of throttle application required to pass other traffic or climb steep hills with any verve. Such full-throttle charges also generate intrusive engine ruckus. And unlike top competitors such as the 2012 Focus, 2012 Mazda 3, and 2012 Civic, the 2012 Elantra sedan does not have a fully independent suspension. Rather, it uses a less-expensive torsion-beam rear axle, which delivers perfectly acceptable levels of bump absorption and road manners, just not the composed ride and handling enjoyed by rivals with independent rear suspensions.

Like virtually every recent compact, the 2012 Elantra employs electric power steering that saves fuel by eliminated the parasitic drag of a hydraulic system. The electric system delivers confident straight-ahead stability and accurate enough turning, but the abovementioned Ford, Mazda, and Honda are among competitors with electric steering that has a more natural and linear feel as you initiate a change of direction.

No complaints about the 2012 Elantra’s standard safety gear. Antilock four-wheel disc brakes return to promote controlled emergency stops, traction control is on hand to enhance grip off the line, and antiskid stability control stands by to mitigate sideways slides. The 2012 Hyundai Elantra GLS sedan comes with 15- or 16-inch steel wheels or 16-inch alloys, depending on options and transmission choice, and the Limited returns with standard 17-inch alloys.

The 2012 Hyundai Elantra Touring wagon reuses the 138-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder that powered the previous-generation Elantra sedan. The ’12 Touring is again saddled with behind-the-times five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions but shows its European design roots with above average ride and handling, courtesy of an all-independent suspension.

Features: Hyundai astutely outfits the 2012 Elantra with a range of high-impact features while throwing in a few amenities – such as available heated front and rear seats -- that help this compact stand out from the herd. Every 2012 Elantra sedan again includes in its base price a USB iPod interface as well as power windows and locks, and heated mirrors. Also included as standard are remote keyless entry, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks, and a dashboard trip-information display that shows distance to empty and average gas mileage. For model-year 2012, Hyundai adds fog lights and a front-passenger sunvisor extension to the Preferred Package option available on the Elantra GLS sedan.  

Nonetheless, the carmaker makes some compromises to keep the base-price of the GLS sedan at an Internet-search-friendly $15,195, not including destination fee (see 2012 Hyundai Elantra Prices below). For example, that entry-level GLS comes with manual transmission and requires a $1,250 option package to acquire air conditioning, cruise control, and to add a telescoping function to the standard tilt steering wheel. These popular features are standard on the automatic-transmission 2012 Elantra GLS sedan. Similarly, Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity is still unavailable on manual-transmission Elantra GLS sedans. Bluetooth -- in effect a safety item that’s arguably of particular value to stick-shift drivers – is optional only on automatic-transmission 2012 Elantra GLS sedans and is standard on Limited models.

Moreover, the 2012 Elantra sedan is no longer unique among compact cars in offering a navigation system on all its trim levels. Hyundai had broken with tradition and made the navigation system available on the 2011 Elantra GLS. For model-year 2012 it confines the option to Elantra Limited sedans. This falls in step with most rivals, who also relegate navigation to their more expensive trim levels. Still, Elantra’s navigation system is a good one, utilizing voice activation, a 7 inch dashboard touchscreen, and incorporating a rearview camera and a 360-watt premium audio unit with satellite radio. And the 2012 Elantra Limited retains a class exclusive with standard heated front and rear seats.

The 2012 Hyundai Elantra Touring should again account for fewer than 20 percent of Elantra sales. It returns in GLS and SE models with feature content that roughly mirrors that of the GLS and Limited sedans, though the Touring does not offer a navigation system or such perks as heated rear seats.

2012 Hyundai Elantra Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2012 Hyundai Elantra sedan is $15,955-$21,205. (All base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee; Hyundai’s fee for the 2012 Elantra is $760.) In general, the 2012 Elantra’s pricing undercuts that of most rivals at the entry-level of the lineup. It runs neck-and-neck for the most popularly equipped versions in the middle of the roster, though Hyundai typically includes more features-per-dollar than direct alternatives. And at the top of the line, the 2012 Elantra sedan undercuts key competitors on price while matching or exceeding them on available features.   

Base price for the 2012 Hyundai Elantra GLS sedan with manual transmission is $15,955. To equip this model with air conditioning, cruise, control, telescoping steering, windshield shade band, and 16-inch steel wheels instead of 15s requires the $1,250 GLS Comfort Package option.

The 2012 Elantra GLS sedan with automatic transmission is priced from $18,205. Its standard equipment includes the contents of the manual-transmission GLS’s Comfort Package, plus the ActiveEco system. Hyundai says GLS models account for some 60 percent of Elantra sedan sales and that the single most popular iteration is an automatic-transmission GLS equipped with the GLS Preferred Package. This $600 option adds 16-inch alloy wheels, steering wheel audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity, fog lights, cloth-insert door trim, a front sliding center armrest, illuminated vanity mirrors with driver’s sunvisor extension, and an illuminated ignition switch.

Base price for the 2012 Hyundai Elantra Limited is $21,205. This model includes everything in the GLS Preferred Package and adds as standard 17-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, power moonroof, one-touch-up and down driver’s power window, and turn-signal mirrors. For an additional $2,100, the 2012 Elantra Limited Technology Package adds the navigation system with its 7-inch screen and rearview camera and the 360-watt premium audio setup, plus automatic-on headlamps, remote keyless entry with pushbutton ignition, and an anti-theft engine immobilizer.

Base prices for the 2012 Hyundai Elantra Touring are $16,755 for the GLS model and $20,255 for the SE. To add automatic transmission costs $1,200 for the GLS and $800 for the SE. Among standard equipment on all 2012 Elantra Touring models is air conditioning, a USB iPod interface, heated mirrors, tilt steering wheel, remote keyless entry, and a glovebox cooled by the air conditioner; automatic-transmission versions also come with cruise control. Available on Elantra Touring GLS models, the $1,050 Preferred Package adds 16-inch alloy wheels in place of 15-inch steel wheels, telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, and a cargo cover.

The 2012 Elantra Touring SE includes all of the above, plus leather upholstery with heated front seats, 17-inch alloys, a moonroof, and fog lights. The 2012 Elantra Touring is not available with a navigation system.   

Battling an early reputation for poor quality, Hyundai more than a decade ago instituted a warranty that’s since become a selling point. The 2012 Elantra is covered for 5-years/60,000-miles bumper-to-bumper and 10-years/100,000-miles powertrain. Owners also qualify for 24-hour roadside assistance at no extra charge for 5-years/unlimited mileage; the service includes emergency towing and lockout service. The automaker charges no deductible for any of this coverage, though only the original purchaser gets the full 10/100,000 powertrain coverage. The powertrain warranty for any subsequent owner reverts to 5/60,000 from the date the vehicle was manufactured.

2012 Hyundai Elantra Fuel Economy back to top

The 2012 Hyundai Elantra fuel-economy ratings are unchanged from those of the 2011 models. The 2012 Elantra sedan has fuel-economy ratings of 29/40 mpg city/highway and 33 mpg combined city/highway, regardless of transmission.

This once again keeps the 2012 Elantra sedan in the upper echelon of compact-class fuel economy, though it has more company there than did the 2011 Elantra sedan. For model-year 2011, the only other non-hybrid or non diesel-powered compact car to claim a highway rating of at least 40 mpg was the Chevrolet Cruze, and then only for the manual-transmission version of a specially tuned extra-cost model called, appropriately enough, the Cruze Eco.

For model-year 2012, the Elantra sedan and Cruse Eco are joined in the compact class’s 40-mpg club by two newcomers: the 2012 Ford Focus with automatic-transmission and the extra-cost SFE (Super Fuel Economy) package, and the 2012 Honda Civic in extra-cost HF trim. Still, Hyundai pointedly notes that rivals require special equipment to achieve 40 mpg while every version of its Elantra rates 40 mpg highway.

The 2012 Elantra Touring fuel economy ratings are 23/31 mpg city/highway, 26 mpg combined with the five-speed manual transmission and 23/30/26 with the four-speed automatic.

2012 Hyundai Elantra Release Date back to top

The 2012 Hyundai Elantra went on sale in May 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Hyundai Elantra back to top

The previous-generation Elantra lasted just four model years, 2007-2010, a relatively short lifespan once common in the automotive industry but remarkably brief in today’s climate of stretching a design to maximize return on the investment. The trick, of course, is to redo a car before it withers on the vine. Thus, the midcycle freshening.

A midcycle freshening is designed to stoke consumer interest as a model nears the end of its lifecycle. It typically involves no more than minor cosmetic upgrades and seldom triggers a spike in sales. The previous-generation Elantra in fact didn’t have a chance to get a midcycle freshening. But the all-new Elantra design that bowed for model-year 2011 probably will be around long enough to get one. It should occur around model-year 2014, a couple of seasons ahead of the next fully redesigned Elantra, which isn’t likely to show up before model year 2016 or so.

Meantime, the 2013 Elantra Coupe slots in as a two-door version of the Elantra sedan. It’ll be among the roomiest coupes in the class, with adult-sized rear-seating, and will match the sedan’s 14.8-cubic-foot-trunk, giving it more cargo volume than any direct rival. Based on an overseas-market Hyundai car, the 2013 Elantra GT is slightly smaller than the Elantra sedan and Coupe – and the 2012 Elantra Touring wagon. It, too, follows Hyunai’s “fluidic sculpture” school of styling, but the daring lines and creases that make the sedan and Coupe look dramatic don’t translate as well to the taller, stubbier four-door hatchback GT. All three of these 2013 Elantra body styles will use the current 1.8-liter engine and transmission choices.

2012 Hyundai Elantra Competition back to top

Honda Civic: Honda aims to maintain its compact-class sales leadership with the redesigned 2012 Civic, the first all-new Civic since model-year 2006. It probably will, given Civic’s vast and loyal following. But the 2012 Civic sedans and coupes won’t excite many buyers with their looks or performance. The styling is a rehash of the 2006-2011 Civics and seems staid against the newest Elantra and Focus. Performance is no huge step forward, either, with Civic sedans retaining a 140-horsepower four-cylinder (and five-speed transmissions) and Hybirds a gas-electric system with 110 net horsepower. The Civic Si models do step forward with 201 horsepower and more torque, but represent a fraction of sales and come only with manual transmission. On the plus side, 2012 Civic sedans have an airy and genuinely spacious cabin, handling, ride quality, and refinement are top-notch, and all models benefit from Honda’s well-earned reputation for reliability and resale value. Sedans have a base-price range of $16,555-$24,205 and fuel-economy ratings of 28/36/31 mpg with manual transmission, 28/39/32 with automatic, and 28/41/33 for the HF. Si sedans start at $23,155 and rate 22/31/25 mpg. Hybrid sedans are priced from $24,800 and rate a pleasing 44/44/44 mpg.      

Ford Focus: The 2012 Focus is the all-new and long-overdue replacement for Ford’s creaky old compact sedan. The 2012 Focus boasts true European-bred engineering, including a 160-horsepower direct-fuel-injection four-cylinder engine mated to a manual transmission or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. It offers four-door sedan and four-door hatchback body styles. Both have designer-label sheet metal over all-independent suspensions and interiors packed with the latest in infotech electronics. Rear-seat space is tighter than in the Elantra or Civic sedans, but ride and handling are best in class and the hatchback has 44.8 cubic-feet of cargo room. Base-price range is $16,995-$24,090 for sedans, $18,790-$24,215 for hatchbacks. Fuel economy is 26/36/30 mpg with manual transmission, 28/38/31 with automatic, 28/40/33 for the SE SFE model. Ford added to the lineup the 2012 Focus Electric, a pure-electric hatchback the automaker says will go 100 miles on a single plug-in charge. It debuted in California and New York and will see wider distribution for model-year 2013. Model-year 2013 also sees the addition of the 247-horsepower turbocharged Focus ST hatchback.           

Chevrolet Cruze: If you recoil from haute couture styling in your small car, Chevy has a safe choice for you. Cruze came to the U.S. for model-year 2011 to replace the Cobalt and presents understated but handsome lines and a squared-up cabin that’s quiet but not overly generous on rear-seat leg room. Ride is nicely controlled, handling unsporting but secure, cabin quality solid. Naturally aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinder engines are available, neither with an abundance of power at just 138 horsepower for the pair. But Cruze is frugal enough, with non-turbo models rated 24/36/30 mpg with manual transmission and 22/35/27 with automatic and prices that start around $17,000. Turbo versions have a base-price range of some $19,000-$23,000 and rate 24/36/28 with automatic transmission. Eco versions use the turbo engine, cost nominally more, and rate 28/42/33 with manual transmission, 26/39/31 with automatic.