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Motoring: Hyundai's Elantra upgrades has sedan on top

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | April 6th, 2009

Earlier this year, Hyundai took top honours in the North American Car of the Year and AJAC Car of the Year with their luxurious Genesis sedan.

As great as their new flagship is, we must not forget that the core business conducted by this car company is in offering affordable, reliable transportation with cars like the Accent sedan and hatchback. That is this company's bread and butter product, but what if you want something more than just an Accent, what do you get then?

The answer since 1991 has been the Elantra sedan. The current model has been on sale since 2007, but for 2009 you not only get a vastly improved interior, you also get to pick between two body-styles. For the second time in this models history, a wagon body is being offered alongside the popular sedan. However, the word used by Hyundai to describe it is not ‘wagon', call it ‘Touring.'

I recently spent a week with both versions of the new Elantra to see which one is best.

We'll start off with the styling.

Typically cars in this segment are pretty boring to look at, just take the current Toyota Corolla as an example. Have you ever wondered what a turd with wheels would look like? Well if you have, I bet it looked like the new Corolla. I would like to meet the man who designed the Corolla and ask him what inspired him to come up with the most boring car design ever. Actually, I wouldn't like to meet that man, because I bet he is very boring and probably wears suits from the 1970s.

The Hyundai Elantra might not be an outstanding looking car; at least it is better than the aforementioned Corolla. The Elantra sedan is a decent looking car, but the Elantra Touring is actually quite nice. I love the fact that Hyundai didn't just draw a straight line on the roof and connect it with another straight line in the back to turn it into a wagon, they went about restyling the car too. As a result, the wagon design looks fresher and better than its sedan sibling.

It is the same story inside, both cars may have some essential similarities, but they look different, and as far as the interior design goes, I prefer the Elantra sedan. My test car even came with leather, sunroof, heated seats and automatic climate control. I liked thinking of it as a budget priced Jaguar.

The sedan was comfortable and quiet too, which is not what I was expecting from it. You might think that on comfort and quietness the Elantra Touring would be the same, but it's not. First of all, I don't think the Touring rides as well as the sedan version, and it certainly isn't quiet in here. The reason for that is the fact that the rear suspension is housed in the cabin, not blocked off by a trunk like in a sedan. So all the suspension noise and the tire roar just echo into the cabin, which makes it painful on longer trips. I honestly felt tired after spending an hour in it on the highway, so if you do a lot of highway driving, you're much better off with the sedan.

If you have small children however and you spent most of the time driving in the city, than the Touring would be better suited for your needs. It certainly can swallow more stuff so throwing strollers and diaper bags are a cinch.

I mentioned earlier that the sedan rides better than the Touring version, but in everyday driving situations, I thought the handling on both cars was quite similar. Neither version will entice you to go carve up a mountain road, but both are decent handlers.

Both vehicles also come with identical and decent power plants too, a 2.0-litre, double over head cam, in-line four cylinder engine with variable valve timing and it produces 138hp. Sure it won't set the road on fire, but the O.P.P. frowns upon such actions anyway.

Mated to that engine is either the standard five-speed manual gearbox, or the four-speed automatic, which let me tell you has got to be the smoothest shifting automatic I have ever come across in an economy car. Who needs CVT gearboxes when automatics can be this good. Fuel economy is also very good indeed. I averaged 9.8-litres/100km on an urban cycle with the Elantra sedan and 10-litres/100km with the Touring on a similar run.

If you still can't decide between the two versions, maybe pricing will. The base Elantra sedan is yours from just $11,995, while the base Touring is $14,995.

No matter how you cut it, these cars are amazing value for money. If I had to choose between the two versions, I think I have made it quite clear; I would rather have the sedan.
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