About a month ago I read an owner review of the 2016 Hyundai Elantra. This would be an unremarkable car for most readers of this site, but given that I have inherited a 2005 Hyundai Elantra as my “daily driver” (this car currently clocks up less than 5,000km per year, but I’ll get onto that later), I read this review with awe and amazement about what an accomplished car it is when compared to its ancestor.
You see, the 2005 Elantra was from the time when Hyundai was Hyundai; cheap cars with little technology, indifferent handling, good ownership credentials. And that’s it. While it is arguable this is still true today (the $19,990 i30 for example), all of Hyundai’s current products are comparable with garden variety Toyotas (well since the Getz has gone away) and back in 2005 this was not the case; Hyundai was an emerging brand.
So what did you get with a 2005 Hyundai Elantra 5-door hatchback? You get a 2 litre naturally aspirated 105kW engine, 5 seats, 5 doors, a 4-speed automatic and 5-year/130,000 km warranty. Yeah sure the equipment levels were good for price and the time (electric windows/mirrors/locking and a CD player), but the people who bought these just wanted to get from A to B cheaply with the additional reassurance of that long warranty. Everything else was an afterthought.
The handling is woolly, with bags of understeer and body roll if you get adventurous. The OEM Kumho tyres were awful and had the grip qualities of gigantic bars of soap in the wet. Safety equipment was light-on, with only 2 airbags, no ABS, no traction control and no ESC (this is also borne out in ANCAP historical crash analysis, giving this car a death-trap-worthy 2-star rating). And the four speed auto puts the “slush” into slush-box, with the initial impact of throttle applications being gobbled up by the ponderous torque converter.
The car is not without positives though; ride comfort is great, with the 65-series rubber and soft suspension gobbling up inner-suburban speed humps and cobble stones. It is also fair to say that the gearbox will generally kick-down readily when you give it the boot, with good acceleration when the engine is above 4,000rpm (the engine is a bit old-school with torque only presenting itself in the upper reaches of the rev range). However, the gearbox won’t kick back into first once you’re in 2nd gear at around 50km/h (it should still have a couple of thousand rpm in hand), so this can take some management when squirting around at commuting speeds.
In terms of ownership cost, the car’s getting a bit old now, so servicing is starting to add up (around $650 per service; and yes this is expensive but I take it back to the dealer in deference to car’s actual owner’s preferences), but depreciation is non-existent and fuel economy is around the mid-12s, which is OK given the congested urban driving it mainly does.
So, in summary, a 2005 single-owner Hyundai Elantra with less than 70,000km on the clock is great if you want a cheap and reliable means of automotive transportation. However, it is also completely soulless and has all the prestige of a pair of worn-out tracksuit pants; I pretty much avoid driving this car whenever I can, which reflects the low annual mileage. The only possibly interesting thing about this car is its sportsback shape, which no one seems to produce anymore for cheap hatches (and for some reason is now exclusively a shape for some niche BMW's and Audi's). So if you want to enjoy your driving, look elsewhere, but that was never the point of this car.