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2019 Hyundai Elantra Limited: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

As other manufacturers have done, Hyundai has designed its compact Elantra to bridge the divide between buyers looking for economy with comfort and those more focused on entertainment and sport.

The former is represented quite capably with the 2019 Elantra Limited four-door sedan and the latter by the 2019 Elantra GT N-Line four-door hatchback.

Large-34143-2019ElantraFor reference, think of the Volkswagen Golf and Volkswagen GTI. Or the Honda Civic and Civic Si or R-Type. In both cases, the base cars are oriented toward economy and everyday duty, while the others promise excitement.

Usually, the base cars come with less powerful engines and automatic transmissions while the performance variants are equipped with manual gearboxes exclusively or a choice of automatic or manual.

Both Elantra versions were driven for this review at the annual Spring Rally of the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) at the Road America racetrack in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Manufacturers provided 80 cars and light trucks for driving by about 100 automotive journalists. Some vehicles were designated for track use and autocross; others for street driving and off-roading.

Large-34144-2019ElantraThe Hyundai Elantra Limited four-door is powered by a 147-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 136 lb-ft of torque. It acquitted itself well as an economical and comfortable tourer that never felt short of passing power. Quiet on smooth asphalt highways, road noise intruded on rougher surfaces. It rode comfortably but needed frequent steering corrections.

Averaging 43.8 mpg of regular gasoline over 140 miles of highway driving at speeds up to 75 mph, the tester beat its EPA city/highway/combined fuel economy rating of 28/37/32 mpg.

It had a base price of $23,485, including the destination charge. The price included forward collision and blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and lane keeping assist, as well as dual-zone automatic climate control, SXM satellite radio, Android Auto and Apple Car Play, power driver’s seat with lumbar support, leather upholstery with heated front seats and hands-free trunk opening.

Large-33684-2019ElantraThe tester also came with a $3,350 option package that included adaptive cruise control, navigation system, collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, motorized sunroof, and memory settings for outside mirrors and driver’s seat. All that brought the bottom-line tested price to $26,960, or about $10,000 less than the current average price of a new car.

Though marketed as a compact, the Elantra sedan qualifies as a midsize according to the EPA’s definition, though just barely. The back seat is a bit tight but can accommodate two average-sized adults. However, the center-rear fifth passenger sits on a cramped and uncomfortable perch.

At the other end of the Elantra spectrum is the N-line. Hyundai has chosen N as the designation for its line of high-performance variants, not unlike BMW’s M vehicles or the AMG models from Mercedes-Benz. The N badge comes from Hyundai’s research and development facility in Namyang, South Korea, and also refers to its testing at the famed Nürburgring track in Germany.

Large-33665-2019ElantraAs a four-door hatchback, the 2019 Elantra N-Line is nine inches shorter than the sedan but has more room inside: 97 cubic feet for passengers and 25 cubic feet for cargo under the hatch, compared to 96 cubic feet for passengers and a trunk of 14 cubic feet in the sedan.

The N-Line also has a smaller 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, more powerful than the base 2.0-liter at 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque because it is turbocharged. It comes standard with a slick, easy-shifting six-speed manual gearbox, though a dual-clutch automatic is optional.

Equipped with full basic safety equipment but few of the frills on the Limited sedan, the Elantra N had a bottom-line sticker price of $24,195, or $2,775 lower than the Limited. For any enthusiast, what’s not to like?

Large-33966-2019ElantraThe base price included heated sport seats upholstered in sturdy cloth that hold the torso in place in hard cornering, pushbutton starting, dual-zone automatic climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, LED headlights and taillights, audio system with SXM satellite radio, and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.

Some estimates put the number of U.S. drivers who know how to shift for themselves at something like 2%. It’s a shame because that other 98% would not experience the joy of driving the Elantra GT N-Line or, for that matter, a stick-shift Mazda3, Volkswagen GTI or Honda Civic Si.

The shift linkage of the Elantra N-Line’s six-speed gearbox and clutch action are so easy-going that shifts up and down seem to happen almost by thought control.

Large-33686-2019ElantraSpecifications

  • Model: 2019 Hyundai Elantra Limited four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 147 hp, 136 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 96/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,844 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 28/37/32 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $23,485.
  • Price as tested: $26,960.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Large-34119-2019ElantraPhotos (c) Hyundai

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2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

What once was a slur of contempt now has become a badge of acceptance, as the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback can confirm.

Not long ago, hatchback was a dirty word—at least as far as most U.S. consumers were concerned. They overwhelmingly preferred traditional sedans with trunks, though the practical hatchback body style was popular in Europe and other areas around the world.

Hatchbacks actually did fairly well on these shores in a surprising number of iterations once you investigate. But manufacturers shied away from calling them hatchbacks. Somewhat the same thing happened with station wagons, which once ruled the American roads along with big Detroit sedans.

The 2017 Cruze Hatch offers 47.2 cubic feet of rear cargo room w

A few manufacturers soldiered on steadfastly with their hatchbacks, notably Volkswagen’s Golf. Others, like the Mazda3, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa and Ford Focus, came in both hatchback and traditional notchback sedans.

Luxury Europeans BMW and Mercedes-Benz tried hatchbacks like the 318i and C-Class, and then dropped them. In recent years, though, more hatchbacks have been sneaking through. Among them: Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Sonic and Spark, Hyundai Accent and Elantra, Kia Rio and Forte, the former Scion xA and xD, and Subaru Impreza.

Now there’s a new atmosphere, aided immensely by the runaway popularity of small crossover sport utility vehicles, most of which are tall hatchbacks with a choice of front-drive or all-wheel drive.

The first ever Cruze Hatch blends sporty design with the versati

It now has gotten to the point where manufacturers no longer are ashamed to embrace the once dreaded hatchback designation. The two most notable contenders for 2017 are the Honda Civic and the subject here, the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LT four-door.

The Cruze, as a four-door sedan, succeeded the undistinguished and forgettable Chevrolet Cavalier and Cobalt compact cars. Introduced as a 2009 model, the Cruze has found increasing acceptance and, in 2015, had 226,602 U.S. sales, in third place behind the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic.

Sales have dropped off in 2016 but the new Hatchback models are poised to give the Cruze some newfound popularity as buyers appreciate the advantages of well-designed hatchbacks.

There are two versions, both with options packages that further distinguish them: the tested Hatchback LT with the RS appearance package, which starts at $22,115, and the top-line Hatchback Premier with a starting price of $24,820.

The 2017 Cruze Hatch offers unexpected segment-exclusive technol

The Premier comes with a six-speed automatic transmission as part of the standard equipment. With a full set of option packages, it tops out at $29,465. So equipped, it resembles a near-luxury car with a high-quality interior slathered in leather and state-of-the art safety, connectivity and convenience features.

But you can get the same fundamental good stuff in the tested Hatchback LT with the RS appearance package, which is distinguished by a different grille, rear spoiler and other body treatments.

You’ll have to forego some of the luxury, infotainment and entertainment items, but you’ll sit in comfortable and supportive seats upholstered in quality cloth for a way-lesser tested price of $22,965. The base price is $22,115.

The basics, which are the same in all Cruze models, include a 153-hp 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 177 lb-ft of torque and city/highway/combined fuel economy of 28/37/32 mpg with the either the six-speed manual gearbox or the optional six-speed automatic transmission.

The first ever Cruze Hatch blends sporty design with the versati

Interestingly, the Cruze Hatchback LT is priced almost the same as the 2017 Honda Civic Sport Hatchback. The two cars have nearly the same passenger and cargo space, but the Civic is more powerful with a 180 hp 1.5-liter turbocharged engine with 177 pound-feet of torque and 30/39/33 fuel economy.

Both cars come with comfortable cloth seats. However, the Cruze LT has a more extensive level of equipment, including SirusXM satellite radio, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and Chevrolet’s OnStar connectivity with automatic crash notification and turn-by-turn navigation.

The main thing distinguishing the two is that the Civic is more sporting and driver oriented while the Cruze is softer and better appointed. Its manual shift linkage and clutch are not quite as slick as the Honda’s, but they work well – and you won’t notice much difference unless you compare the cars together.

Both have handsome exterior styling but different approaches. The Civic has a sloping body that resembles a modern sedan while the Cruze has a distinct hatchback look.

Chevrolet’s culture no longer tolerates ordinary cars destined for rental fleets. Two examples are the new Malibu, a midsize standout, and the Impala, selected by Consumer Reports as its top pick among large cars.

The new 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback rolls easily into that parade.

The 2017 Cruze Hatch offers the design, engineering and technolo

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LT w/RS four-door.
  • Engine: 1.4-liter four cylinder, direct injection, 153 hp, 177 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 94/23 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,910 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 28/37/31 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $22,115.
  • Price as tested: $22,965.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Photos (c) General Motors.

2017 Ford Focus RS: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Though not widely lauded, the 2017 Ford Focus RS epitomizes the ongoing revolution in the world-wide automobile industry.

First, it’s a four-door hatchback, a body style that American buyers rejected but now is getting new respect because of the way manufacturers reconfigured and renamed hatchbacks as crossovers.

A crossover generally is defined as a tall utility vehicle that is built with a unit body like a car, instead of with a body on frame, like a traditional pickup truck.

The biggest current change in consumer preferences is away from traditional sedans and toward compact and mid-size crossover sport utility vehicles. They are now setting sales records across the board, from popular priced to luxury. Even a high-altitude luxury brand like Bentley weighs in with its $229,000 mid-size Bentayga.

_42a1075_hrMany crossovers are little more than jacked-up four-door hatchbacks with all-wheel drive. They demonstrate the ingenuity of automotive designers and engineers, who took an orphan design and turned it into a star.

The Focus RS also has all-wheel drive, though it’s more of a performance feature than a utilitarian, all-weather enhancement. That, too, is a trend with no end in sight.

Most of all, however, the revolution is under the hood as manufacturers, thanks to creative computer software, extract ever more power from smaller engines.

No longer do people repeat the old mantra that “there’s no replacement for displacement.” That was once true. Muscle cars of the last half of the 20th century, despite poor handling and brakes but with big V8 engines, now are history though avidly sought by collectors.

16fordfocusrs_11_hrFour-cylinder engines, including the one in the new Focus RS, are becoming the norm. Often with turbocharging, they deliver horsepower and torque, along with fuel economy that only could be imagined even a decade ago.

The RS four-banger has a displacement—the total volume inside the cylinders—of 2.3 liters. That’s not much more than that two-liter soft drink bottle at the supermarket. Yet it delivers a whopping 350 horsepower and 350 pounds-feet of torque. With its six-speed manual gearbox and curb weight of 3,460 pounds, it can rocket to 60 miles an hour in less than five seconds.

That sort of performance doesn’t come cheap. Basically, the Ford Focus is a compact economy car with a starting price of about $18,000. The RS, with its high-zoot power, all-wheel drive and handling refinements, starts at $36,995. The test car, with options, had a suggested retail price at $40,475.

Base equipment includes Brembo high-performance brakes, selectable drive modes, pushbutton starting, launch control, satellite radio with Ford’s Sync system, dual-zone automatic climate control, fog lights and a rear spoiler.

focus-rs_12An options package on the test car included a navigation system, performance summer tires on painted alloy wheels, heated front seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel and heated outside mirrors.

Except for the custom 19-inch wheels and a few other styling fillips, the Focus RS does not betray its economy compact origin, which makes it something of a stealth bomber on the highway.

Even the interior does not depart much from the base car except for the aftermarket Recaro bucket seats with their generous side bolsters and high friction cloth upholstery with leather trim to grip the torso in spirited driving. They feel terrific but take a bit of extra effort to settle into.

focus_rs_09The RS’s standard launch control minimizes wheel spin in acceleration runs. It also comes with four different drive modes: normal, sport, track and drift. The last is a bit questionable because the motor sport of drifting involves busting the rear end loose around a corner in a display of tire burning smoke.

The RS all-wheel drive mitigates the drift. It features a standard torque vectoring system that can send about 70% of the power to the rear wheels.

The operative description of the Focus RS is “tight.” The steering, shifter, clutch, ride, seating—everything about this so-called “hot hatch” is tight and stiff. It’s a characteristic well loved by enthusiasts but not endearing to commuters. Despite that, however, the shift linkage is direct and intuitive.

The sport, track and drift modes deliver a rock hard ride so most owners likely will engage normal for everyday driving. The different modes adjust the suspension system.

This obviously is not a casual car. Many drivers likely would reject it out of hand after one test drive. The Focus RS requires skill and effort to bring out its considerable qualities. But over time it can deliver the automotive equivalent of a teenage crush.

_p9a2215_hrSpecifications

  • Model: 2017 Ford Focus RS four-door hatchback.
  • Engine:3-liter four cylinder, turbocharged, 350 hp, 350 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 91/20 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,460 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/25/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $36,995.
  • Price as tested: $40,475.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Ford.

2017 Hyundai Elantra: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

In Kenny Rogers’ poker playing song “The Gambler,” you’ve got to know when to hold ’em. That’s the plan for the 2017 Hyundai Elantra sedan.

The previous-generation Elantra surprised some when it was redesigned and won the 2012 North American Car of the Year title, voted on by an independent 50-member panel of automotive journalists. It beat the Volkswagen Passat and Ford Focus.

The Elantra was a fresh, youthful face in the competitive compact class with flowing body lines that Hyundai called “fluidic sculpture.” That and a long list of amenities propelled total sales to 913,042 from 2012 through 2015.

Now Hyundai looks to consolidate its winnings by offering a more mature-looking, even mainstream design. Most striking, and seeming to follow an industry wide trend toward ever bigger maws, the new Elantra features a large, bold hexagonal grille, along with LED taillights and running lights.

However, it maintains its compact dimensions. It is less than an inch longer than its predecessor and exactly an inch wider. But clever packaging results in a total of more than 110 cubic feet of interior volume, with 96 cubic feet for passengers and 14 cubic feet of trunk space. That classifies it as a mid-size car according to the EPA, though it is marketed as a compact.

2017 ELANTRA SEDAN
2017 ELANTRA SEDAN

The interior room becomes apparent as soon as you get inside. There’s decent head- and knee-room in back for two six-footers without infringing on the driver and front passenger. However, despite a nearly flat floor, the center-rear passenger is relegated to a hard, high and uncomfortable cushion.

Despite its intended audience of buyers with modest incomes, the 2017 Elantra delivers a host of available features usually associated with premium and even luxury cars. Among them:

  • Automatic emergency braking from up to 50 miles an hour with pedestrian detection.
  • Adaptive cruise control that maintains a preset distance from the car ahead.
  • Trunk lid that opens automatically when it detects a nearby key fob.
  • Lane departure mitigation with steering assist.
  • Blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert.

The base Elantra SE has a starting price of $17,995, including the destination charge. That model is the only one that offers a six-speed manual gearbox. There was no opportunity at the introduction to drive that version, but if the stick-shift is similar to the one on the previous Elantra, it’s a sweetheart.

The model tested for this review was the top-of-the-line Limited with a starting price of $23,185. With optional Tech and Ultimate packages, the tester topped out at $27,710. But the level of equipment was not unlike that of a premium-priced car.

It included all of the aforementioned safety and convenience equipment, plus leather upholstery, navigation system, Harman/Kardon audio system with satellite and HD radio, Pandora, Bluetooth telephone, Android and Apple car play, motorized sunroof, heated front and rear seats, lighted outside door handles, and memory settings for the power driver’s seat and outside mirrors.

2017 ELANTRA SEDAN
2017 ELANTRA SEDAN

The Elantra engine delivers 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque from 2.0 liters of displacement. Power travels to the front wheels through an easy-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. With a slippery .27 coefficient of drag, the city/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated at 28/37/32 mpg.

Unusual in this car class are economy, normal and sport driving modes. In the normal and Eco modes, the Elantra delivers a comfortable ride. Eco maximizes fuel economy, and the Sport mode tightens the steering and adjusts transmission shifting to provide more power at low engine revolutions, as well as delivering more rapid acceleration.

Even in the Sport mode, however, the acceleration is not snappy, but adequate for stoplight sprints and passing on two lane roads. However, the Sport mode delivers tighter and more responsive performance on twisting mountain roads. The six-speed automatic also can be shifted manually.

Later, Hyundai plans to introduce two other Elantra models: Eco with a new, 128-hp, turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a seven-speed twin clutch automatic transmission. A brief drive in a pre-production model demonstrated quicker mid-range throttle response than with the 2.0-liter engine.

There’s also an upcoming Sport model that will feature a 200 hp, 1.6-liter engine with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

With cars like the 2017 Hyundai Elantra and the 2016 Honda Civic, it’s easy to understand why the compact class is holding its own while larger mid-size cars falter in the face of an onslaught from compact crossover utility vehicles.

2017 Elantra Sedan
2017 Elantra Sedan

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited four door sedan.
  • Engine:0-liter four cylinder, 147 hp, 132 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and front wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 96/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,976 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 28/37/32 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $23,185.
  • Price as tested: $27,710.

Photos (c) Hyundai

 

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