2010 Hyundai Elantra
Most carmakers call their environmentally friendly products "green." At Hyundai, the company uses a different primary color: "Blue."
At least, that's the case with the 2010 Hyundai Elantra Blue, a new model that was added to the Elantra lineup this year. The Blue's green cred isn't that it's a hybrid or diesel, but rather, that it achieves an EPA rated 26 mpg city and 35 highway. It's also the entry-level Elantra.
What makes the Blue Elantra so green? Well, a "smart" alternator management system (Hyundai's words), engine components that generate less friction, changes to the engine's calibration and the transmission's gear ratios, and a shift indicator. Oh, and there's unique "Blue" badging.
A five-speed manual paired to a 138-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder doesn't hurt, either.
The price of entry for this entry-level sedan is inexpensive: My tester based at $14,145. Standard features included ABS, side curtain airbags, front side airbags, 15-inch wheels, A/C, a tilt steering wheel, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, heated sideview mirrors, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat back, and a rear-seat center armrest with cupholders.
Options were few, and dominated by the $1,700 Comfort Package (AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 6-speaker audio system, iPod and USB ports, cabin air filter, cruise control). Other options included carpeted floor mats ($95) and an iPod cable ($35), plus a wireless cell phone link ($325). With a mandatory $720 destination fee, the as-tested total came to $17,020.
Econocars often get knocked for bland styling, cheap interiors, and poor performance. Let's take those in reverse order, shall we?
For starters, the Elantra Blue is surprisingly quick off the line, moving with a briskness that a car with 138 horsepower has no right to. That's not to say you'll be slaying Mustangs any time soon. We're talking about acceleration for around-town stop-and-go. Toyota Prius owners should be nervous, however.
The 5-speed manual offers a mixed bag: On the one hand, the throws are about the right length. On the other, the shifter feels a bit too light to be truly engaging. It's fine for frequent shifting around town--and thanks to the rev-happy engine and tall fourth and fifth gears, frequent is the right word--but it's not particularly satisfying to the enthusiast.