Pros: Big cargo bay, roomy back seat, low price.
Cons: Outdated engine and transmissions, subpar fuel economy, bland styling, sparse feature set.
The 2012 Hyundai Elantra Touring wagon is the automotive equivalent of a lame-duck politician. Everyone knows it's about to retire, and hopes are high that its de facto replacement, the 2013 Elantra GT hatchback, will constitute a great leap forward. Once upon a time, the Elantra Touring had a lot going for it-but, well, that was a few years ago. By today's standards, the Elantra Touring is generally outdated and unworthy of your hard-earned cash.
If we wanted to be nice, we'd praise the Elantra Touring for its massive cargo hold, which measures 65.3 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded-that's crossover SUV territory. The Elantra GT can't hold a candle to hauling chops of such magnitude. But that's really and truly the only outstanding feature of the Elantra Touring. Otherwise, this Hyundai uses old technology, equipment and styling-it's based on a world-market wagon from 2007-and these facts are simply impossible to ignore.
Our recommendation, then, is not to make any contributions to this lame duck's cause. You know it's on its way out, and something better's coming soon. Do yourself a favor and wait till then.
Comfort & Utility
The 2012 Hyundai Elantra Touring comes in either GLS or SE trim. The GLS starts with humble 15-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, a tilt-only steering wheel, cloth upholstery, power accessories and a six-speaker audio system with iPod/USB connectivity.
The SE upgrades to 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, roof rails, a leather-wrapped tilt-telescopic steering wheel, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a height-adjustable driver's seat with manual lumbar, a B&M Racing sport shift knob (manual transmission only), a trip computer and cruise control.
Some of the SE's features are available on the GLS via the Preferred package; so are GLS-specific 16-inch alloy wheels. Bluetooth is an option on both trims.
The Elantra Touring's front seats are somewhat squishy and unsupportive no matter which upholstery you choose. The GLS's tilt-only steering column is a problem for long-legged drivers. For them, the available telescoping function is a must. The Elantra Touring's gauges are straightforward and legible, but decidedly free of frills. The controls are simple to figure out because there's no pretense to sophistication-the buttons and knobs just do what they're supposed to do. Materials quality is below-average, and the overall look is distinctly dated. There's hardly any visible relation between the Elantra Touring's cabin and Hyundai's new interior designs in the Elantra, Sonata, et al.
The Elantra Touring's back seat is a highlight, boasting plenty of room and support for a pair of adults. There's 24.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seat and a gargantuan 65.3 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded.
It's nice that Hyundai includes iPod/USB connectivity with every Elantra Touring, and Bluetooth is easily added as a standalone option. However, there's no navigation or infotainment system of any kind-nothing with a significant display screen-so there's not much more for us to talk about in this section. The GLS doesn't even have a trip computer. The Elantra Touring is an unapologetically basic car, a throwback to the days when you could expect to find bare-bones, versatile compact wagons on every dealer lot. It's the last one standing.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The front-wheel-drive Elantra Touring comes with a 2.0-liter inline-4 rated at 138 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. This is a noisy, underpowered engine by current standards, and the transmissions are low on both gears and refinement. Fuel economy is also subpar, checking in at 23 mpg city/31 mpg highway with the manual and 23/30 mpg with the automatic. The 274-horsepower Sonata 2.0T sedan is rated at 22/34 mpg, for goodness' sake.
The 2012 Hyundai Elantra Touring comes with standard stability control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, active front head restraints and six airbags (front, front-side, full-length side-curtain).
Neither the government nor the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ever got around to crash-testing the Elantra Touring.
We want to like driving the Elantra Touring, because it's supposedly made for tight European roads and we typically enjoy cars like that. Unfortunately, the Touring has vague steering and a lot of body roll in corners. It's not the kind of car that makes you want to take the long way home through the hills. At least the ride is reasonably smooth and quiet for an affordable wagon.
Other Cars to Consider
Hyundai Elantra GT - The new Elantra GT is much more attractive, we think, as well as more fuel-efficient, and although it doesn't have anything like 65 cubic feet of cargo space, its handy hatchback design will get the job done most of the time.
Ford Focus hatchback - The Focus seriously delivers on that promise of Euro-spec dynamics, striking an excellent balance between athleticism and refinement. It's also got a nicer interior and better fuel economy than the Hyundai.
Mazda 3 hatchback - With the new SkyActiv 2.0-liter inline-4, the 3 has vaulted close to the head of the class in fuel economy without losing Mazda's traditional performance edge. Worth serious consideration if you don't mind the big smiley face of a grille.
We honestly don't recommend the Elantra Touring. It's not a bad car on its own merits, but you can do much better these days-unless you simply demand 65-plus cubic feet from your cargo bay.