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2012 Hyundai Elantra Touring: New Car Review

Pros: Big cargo bay, roomy back seat, low price.

Cons: Outdated engine and transmissions, subpar fuel economy, bland styling, sparse feature set.

Introduction

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 By today’s standards, the Elantra Touring is generally outdated and unworthy of your hard-earned cash.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.

Technology

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.

Safety

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.

Driving Impressions

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.

AutoTrader Recommends

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.

 

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3 COMMENTS

  1.  I feel that the write-up about this great vehicle is unfair and biased toward more costly vehicles.  I was sad when I learned that 2012 was the last year they were made, but glad that I got one before it was classed as obsolete. Bought my 2012 new in the fall of 2011. I have LOVED it!! It handles easily and beautifully, and has been a joy for me to drive.  I love the cargo bay as I haul 40 to 50 lb bags of bird seed, squirrel corn, etc., and all I have to do is scoot them out into my wheelbarrow. Mine consistently gets 32 mpg with mostly around small town slow speed driving with an occasional run to Walmart or to shop 35 miles away.  It has 56,000 miles on it now, and I plan for this sweet vehicle to last me as long as I am able to drive (at age 79, I am hoping for 10 more years….)  It has never given me a moment’s trouble. Have replaced, at last, all four tires and the battery and windshield wipers. I take it for regular oil and filter changes, etc.  (Two of the tires were replaced at 35,000 miles and the other two at 50,000. That is a  long life for tires that came with the vehicle. Other cars I’ve owned required new tires a lot sooner than that.)

  2.  Hyundia had a lot of potential in the ET. I own a 2011 GLS. Sport (Canadian model) 5 speed manual. 

     The Replacement GT..is not a that huge of a leap forward over the touring model.
     A set of performance tires will turn the ET..into a incredible agile car and with the 5sp. Manual,  it’s never going to be a performance car and neither is the GT…or the revised 2016 Elantra….With fancy direct injection. ..it’s still not going to offer more zip than a Honda, mazda, toyota
    ..
     I enjoy driving my ET and old proven technology is best.
     6 foot 3 220 pounds and this car fits me…
  3. Hi, 

         I love my 2012 touring despite what you’ve written. It handles beautifully, in winter I added studded snows, and I am quite happy with the traction. It has a roof rack and a lot of room for cargo & the heated seats are amazing & I’ll never by another car w/out them. True it doesn’t have fantastic gas mileage, but It’s so right for my lifestyle. I am a female, age 56 & although I miss my old minivan this will do for now! I looked everywhere for a small wagon in the price range and this was the only one for me.

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