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Hyundai has high hopes for new Elantra


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Hyundai has high hopes for new Elantra

Updated 10h 54m ago

By Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY


LA JOLLA, Calif. — In these tough times, Hyundai has built its success around offering more for a buck.

Now, as it tries again with the new Elantra compact, Hyundai is shooting for the first tier of mass-market import brands —Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

The first step came earlier this year with its Sonata flagship sedan. The well-regarded sedan could see sales top 200,000 this year. It's already up 65% for the year, Autodata says. Hyundai thinks Elantra could see similar gains.

The new Elantra has a new 148-horsepower engine and six-speed manual and automatic transmissions that achieve 40 miles per gallon in highway driving, 17% more than the outgoing model. Its shapely new looks offer some of the slipperiest aerodynamics in the segment. There are unexpected features, such as optional heated rear seats. Starting price: $14,830, plus $720 shipping.

Elantra is considered a compact, classed with such cars as Chevrolet Cruze, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra. But George Peterson of AutoPacific says the car to watch, which could knock Elantra off its perch, is the next Ford Focus, due in showrooms in February. It also promises at least some models that get 40 mpg on the highway.

"The Elantra, for a short time, will be considered one of the best-in-class small cars," says Peterson, one of those who drove the Elantra here last week at a Hyundai-sponsored event. "The Elantra is probably top of the heap."

The new Elantra is arriving at showrooms now. More than 100,000 will be sold next year, predicts Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik. Most will be from Hyundai's plant in Alabama.

The South Korean automaker is hopeful about timing. Nearly half of compact-car buyers are downsizing from larger cars, and a search for better gas mileage is the chief reason, says Brandon Ramirez, Hyundai's product planning manager. The weak economy could drive more big-car defections.

Even though considered a compact, Elantra is now classed as a midsize by the Environmental Protection Agency. The new version has a wheelbase that's 2 inches longer than the outgoing model. The car is an inch longer overall.



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