How did a car so easy on the eyes, so much fun to drive, so unbelievably affordable and with such a mind-boggling warranty — 5 years/60,000 miles — slip by me until now? Hello Hyundai Elantra.
By Janis Hirsch
THE BIG PICTURE
Hyundai. Who knew?
Have I spent too much time Googling that thing on my back, Prince Harry’s latest stripper/hostess and Lindsay Lohan’s face that I simply didn’t notice such an entire line of really nice cars? Because, as God is my witness, I will never let a Hyundai sneak past me again.
When the parking lot attendant told me my Hyundai Elantra was “over there,” I figured she’d been breathing fumes in that little booth a few weeks too many: “over there” was a sleek red ride that literally sparkled in the Arizona sunshine. But I beeped the key fob and that sleek red ride didn’t so much as beep back as laugh at me for underestimating her.
My husband and I got in the Hyundai Elantra and both of us were impressed by the sound of the closing door. Sometimes car doors sound as solid as the plastic flip top on a Tic Tac box. This one closed tightly and firmly, letting us know we were going to be just fine.
The seat tilted and glided to my exact specifications and the steering wheel did the same. Everything I needed was mounted on either the steering wheel or in easy reach on the dash. With clean and clear symbols, word prompts and colors, everything was easily readable, too. A quick glance at a Stop sign and I was good to go from FM to CD, from toasty to cool, from “where the hell am I?” to “here we are.”
The seats in my test vehicle are leather, although not the plushest kind. My suggestion? You want that good leather smell, buy a car that costs five times as much as this Hyundai or go to a gay bar. You want leather that breathes, that cleans up well (that iced latte while driving up a curvy mountain road seemed like a good idea at the time) and that doesn’t peel off a layer of skin when you sit in it on a hot day, you’ll be more than happy with the Hyundai Elantra Limited’s interior.
Air conditioning is key in Phoenix and I’m happy to report that this one worked fast and efficiently. And I consider myself an air conditioning expert: as a Jew, I know that the minute our people walked out of the desert, we never went anywhere again unless it was chilled such that our grandmothers could wear their fur chubbies in July.
It’s a four door that doesn’t make you feel like you’re driving a four door. It feels smaller, sportier somehow — like a coupe. The back seats three, two if you’re zealous about your personal space and prefer an armrest-cup holder over company. There is ample adult legroom, although I wouldn’t suggest putting Vegas showgirls in the backseat. Besides, they tend to shed sequins in confined spaces and that’s not pretty.
Because I’d never driven in Phoenix before, I quickly learned (and learned and learned again) what a nice tight turning radius the Hyundai Elantra has: U turns R us.
On our way from the glorious Arizona Biltmore to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, we were tooling down the freeway when my husband asked if it was windy. There wasn’t tumbleweed tumbling for miles so I asked why he asked that. He then stared at me which made ME stare at me and I realized I was having so much fun in the Hyundai Elantra that I was pretending to “TV drive,” you know, where you gently rock the wheel back and forth even when you’re going straight down an alley. Here I was on a freeway in a city I’d never been in, in a car I’d never been in and I was so relaxed that I was being, well, I call it playful but you can call it negligent if you’re into being all judgey and stuff. Besides, the road was completely empty and in L.A., that only happens during the Oscars and then only during Best Picture.
I’m really trying to think of something negative to say so you won’t think I’m a mouthpiece for the man. Okay. How about this? I still love my Prius more than I love the Elantra. Heck, I love my Prius more than one of my stepchildren. (Kidding! Sorta.) The Elantra’s backseat wasn’t as easy to fold down as, well, my Prius’, and it’s hard for me to remember how to spell Hyundai. That “u” really throws me for a loop. So other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, I really enjoy this play.
Air conditioning that can tame the desert.
Tight turning circle.
Tricky rear fold down seats.