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Elantra Mantra: Get new tires!
I complained about the snow in Hartford, but I have to say my rental Hyundai Elantra was a painful reminder of why I never want to buy another front wheel drive car.

Don't get me wrong, the latest model of the Hyundai Elantra is actually a pretty decent car (a worthy improvement over my mediocre review from 2003). Based on my initial impressions driving it out of the lot, I thought the Elantra was a 2008 with less than 10K miles. I was wrong. I was impressed to find that the car had 28K miles, so it was probably a 2007. The only indications of it's age were a funny rattling noise inside the dash when stopped at a light and an unbalanced tire that shook the steering wheel on the highway.

Usually a rental with that sort of mileage is pretty dingy, beat down and abused. Fords and GMs with that many miles are quite obvious based on how they look and feel and often times how they smell as well. This Elantra, however, did not show it's age, a testament to the strides Hyundai has made in the last 5 years (that Genesis Coupe they advertised on the SuperBowl looked pretty slick too).

In terms of driveability, the Elantra feels good. It has nice firm and responsive steering with good feedback. Suspension is stiff but not unpleasant (except when going over speed bumps) and the brakes are firm and quick. Even the parking brake was nice and sensitive (good for yanking to make turns in the snow). The four gear transmission is slow but not any worse than your average economy car. The interior was decent and didn't have that worn look or smell, plus the overall fit was still good. The heater was a bit weak and I had to crank it pretty high to maintain a comfortable temperature but it wasn't too bad.

Unfortunately, the poorly plowed snowy icy Hartford roads revealed one major disappointment: the tires. With a couple inches of snow on the roads, everything decent about the car went out the door. The car had absolutely no traction so even starting from a stop on a flat road was difficult. Sometimes just slightly touching the gas would cause the tires to spin.

As a result, I got stuck in a relatively flat parking lot that had some lumps of slush blocking the parking spots. It took a good 10 minutes of rocking back and forth before I finally got the car out of the small pit I was stuck in and could drive the remaining 10 feet into the parking spot. Unfortunately for me, someone waiting in the parking lot got to watch the whole ordeal and probably had a good laugh.

On the opposite end, when braking, the slightest touch would cause the ABS to go crazy. Since there was no traction to work with, the ABS was as worthless as if I had locked the tires, but more annoying. I was very tempted to pull out the ABS fuse because it was just too frustrating to have it activating all the time.

In conclusion, Hyundai has definitely come a long way in making their entry level car much nicer and competitive with others in it's range. Overall I'm quite pleased by the Elatnra, but to have such crappy tires is a shame. The car desperately needs better all-seasons from the factory. However, saving money with such poor tires may justify the cost of buying a separate set of winter tires and summer tires. The improved safety and handling alone may be worth it.
Posted 02/02/2009 08:23 PM in Cars, Reviews | Total Comments: (1)
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