H/dropcap]yundai’s Elantra compact sedan has been around since the 1990s, but it wasn’t until much more recently that the car became a household name to rival the marketplace recognition of more established models like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.
A 2011 redesign brought a new level of style to the Elantra, sparking big-time interest in a car that, like its predecessors and other Hyundai models, boasted a lot of standard equipment for the price. That was enough to drive sales so high that, for a short time, the Elantra challenged the Honda Civic for the title of Canada’s best-selling car.
It never quite achieved that milestone, but this generation of Elantra has played a big part in helping establish the Korean brand as an equal to its Japanese competitors.
Reliability problems are few. Hyundai issued a service bulletin to help its dealer technicians identify engines with a manufacturing flaw that caused an ominous-sounding knocking noise when the engine was first started from cold. The fix was to replace the engine.
A failing fuel pump presents a less-serious fault, but can still be a serious inconvenience. In the Elantra, a pump that’s on its way out manifests in an engine that cranks for an abnormally long time before it starts.
A few Elantra owners have complained of steering that feels like it “sticks” at the straight-ahead position in highway driving. Hyundai revised the car’s steering system for 2012, but that fix didn’t satisfy everyone.
Hyundai has replaced, under warranty, a number of steering wheels whose covering began to peel off.
And finally, some Elantra sedan owners say they’ve returned to their parked cars to find the trunk standing mysteriously open. There’s some debate as to whether this is due to an electronic fault with the car, or an overly-sensitive trunk-release button on the key fob that is inadvertently pressed when the key is in the driver’s pocket or purse.
In 2013, Hyundai rolled out the Elantra GT, a hatchback variant based on the European version of this car. Body style preferences notwithstanding, we prefer this car for its more sophisticated suspension and better-sorted ride.
Bottom line: The Elantra is a stylish small car whose looks make it appear more impressive than it is once you drive it. The Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla remain safer bets for long-term durability, but the Elantra’s lower prices on the used market and solid reliability make it a smart buy for anyone looking for good, basic transportation.