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2007 Elantra First Impressions
My first impression was that this is a very sharp and distinctive looking car, especially the SE in grey with the 16" five-spoke alloys. It doesn't look anything like a Corolla--it's much sleeker, even sexier. The 15" steel wheels on the GLS were too small for the car IMO, and made the car look cheap. The 16-inchers filled the wheel wells and really make the car I think. I would get the SE just for the alloys, but also there are several other nice features in the SE vs. the GLS such as the telescopic wheel with audio controls, trip computer, and leather wheel and shift knob. BTW, to the earlier question re tires, they are Hankook Optimas on both models--no more Michelins!
The fit and finish on the car was excellent. The paint, especially on the grey SE, was glossy and smooth (the black GLS looked a little dull, maybe because it was in the shade and dirty). Panel gaps were narrow and even. The doors close with a solid "thunk." No obvious gaffes inside. The dash is mostly a nice-looking black padded vinyl. The side panels are hard plastic, but with pleasing textures (e.g. a dot pattern on the light grey panels above the armrests). Also, there are thick pads on the armrests for elbows. The light grey fabric was pretty boring I thought, but that might be intentional based on the flak Hyundai got for its more adventurous texturing in the Sonata.
The best news for me was that I was able to find a comfortable position in the driver's seat even with the single-lever height adjuster. I was worried about that because the Sonata has a similar height adjuster, and it tilts the seat forward as it raises. The Elantra did not have this problem; the seat stayed much more level as it went up. Not as adjustable as the old dual-knob setup, but acceptable, and easier to use. There's a HUGE dead pedal, and with the telescopic wheel on the SE the driving position seemed quite comfy. The black leather 3-spoke wheel felt good also. And there is a mode control on the wheel for the audio system--Hyundai learned from its mistake on the 2006 Sonata.
I really like the appearance and layout of the center stack. The controls are clear and fall easily at hand. There's a covered bin on top of the center stack (the sales rep it's a placeholder for a future nav system option!) and also a covered bin at the bottom of the stack. The HVAC controls are three big silver knobs, used increasingly by Hyundai and other automakers. They are smooth and intuitive. Metallic trim around the HVAC knobs and the gated shifter lend an upscale appearance. The shifter itself is small, with leather and a metallic insert. Cruise controls are on the wheel now, instead of a stalk. The glove box is rather small but easily accessible. The center console has a thickly-padded armrest with a two-tier storage compartment. Cupholders are right in front of the center console, as on the old Elantra, but now have spring-loaded grippers. There's a bin for phones etc. in front of the shifter, right below the dual 12v outlets and the aux input jack. With the door bins with integrated bottle holders and the netted pockets on the front seatbacks, there's lots of storage in the cabin. Like the old Elantra, the new one has a damped sunglasses holder and maplights in the overhead console, and it now has dual lighted vanity mirrors with sliding doors. There are silver-painted plastic door handles and lock buttons. They look OK but feel cheap (c'mon Hyundai, spend a few extra bucks for metal door handles!). Layout of the power window/locks/mirror switches is similar to that on the old Elantra, on a canted panel on the driver's armrest.
The rear seat did not seem a lot roomier than on the old Elantra, with one exception: there was a LOT more room for feet under the driver's seat. There might be a little more knee room also. I was very comfortable sitting "behind myself"; I expect adults up to at least 6' will fit pretty well in back. The seat bottom and back provided good support. There's a center armrest with cupholders now. Three adults would probably be tight back there, and the middle person has to straddle the hump and sit against the folded armrest. At least they have their own adjustable headrest.
There's now a power trunk release on the driver's door. The trunk is quite roomy and tall. The seatback releases have been moved to pulls in the trunk, more convenient and secure. Gas struts would have been nice, but they are unusual in this class of car.
Just based on appearance and "sit", I think the new Elantra is a big improvement over the old model and now fully competitive with the best in its class--and even a lower-priced alternative for 4-cylinder midsized sedans given its mid-sized interior. I'll have to see how it drives and how the crash tests pan out before confirming it on my "consider" list for my next car (in SE MT trim most likely). Also there's that upcoming hatchback to check out...