The 2009 Hyundai Elantra models slot between the mid-sized Sonata and subcompact Rio. The Elantra was completely redesigned for 2007 to be wider, longer, and bigger on the interior; some consider the 2009 Hyundai Elantra more of a mid-sized sedan than a compact.
For 2009, a five-door hatchback model, called the Elantra Touring, joins the lineup; the edgier, more rakish profile of the hatchback stands in contrast to the more conservative look of the sedan.
The Elantra's 138-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is surprisingly responsive with the automatic and qualifies for SULEV (Super Low Emissions Vehicle) status. With either the standard five-speed manual transmission or the optional four-speed automatic transmission, the 2009 Hyundai Elantra has respectable acceleration.
The electric power steering system in the 2009 Elantra works very well, light at low speed and firm yet responsive at high speed. The 2009 Hyundai Elantra is quite softly sprung and soaks up jarring bumps with the finesse of a larger sedan, while Elantra Touring models get firmer springs and bigger stabilizer bars.
Seating in front is generously proportioned and comfortable in the 2009 Hyundai Elantra, and there's enough headroom and legroom in back for two--or, in a pinch, three--normal-size adults, which is unusual among small sedans. By the numbers, with 97.9 cubic feet of passenger room and 14.2 cubic feet of trunk space, it has the most interior volume for a sedan in its class. Matching Hyundai's other vehicles, the interior follows a soft--not edgy--design, with rounded borders and flowing curves. Switchgear and gauges in the 2009 Hyundai Elantra are straightforward and tactile, and the instrument panel's design, with the high-mounted sound and climate-control functions, is convenient.
It's also one of the quietest interiors, with very little road and wind noise; however, the engine in the 2009 Hyundai Elantra can grow coarse and booming under hard acceleration.
The 2009 Hyundai Elantra gets acceptable but not stellar crash-test results, including four stars for side impact in the federal government tests, Acceptable ratings for rear impact from the IIHS, and a Marginal rating for side impact. The Elantra did, however, garner top scores in frontal impact on both tests. Stability control and brake assist are also standard on the SE. Front, side, and curtain airbags are standard across the Elantra lineup; so too are anti-lock brakes and active head restraints.
Two trim levels are offered: GLS and SE. All versions of the 2009 Hyundai Elantra come standard with power windows, power heated rearview mirrors, power door locks, remote keyless entry with alarm and trunk opener, rear center armrest with cup holders, intermittent windshield wipers, and tilt steering wheel. 2008 added a telescoping leather steering wheel with secondary audio controls, a leather shift knob, 16-inch alloy wheels with P205/55HR16 tires, and a trip computer. 2009 adds XM Satellite Radio and auxiliary USB inputs for the audio system.
A Sun and Sound package combines a power sunroof and a 220-watt premium audio system. Options include a Bluetooth hands-free system, as well as a package that brings leather seating surfaces, leather door panel inserts, a leather armrest, and heated front seats.
The Bottom Line:
The 2009 Hyundai Elantra is one of the most practical--albeit bland--small-sedan choices, while the new Elantra Touring hatchback adds a little more spice.