Ride & Handling

Before driving the Elantra, I had my reservations about its driving dynamics. Some of Hyundai's other small models, like the Tucson crossover, don't offer the best driving experience, and I wondered if Hyundai had figured things out with this car. After spending a day driving it in and around San Diego, it's clear the automaker has. The Elantra's combination of ride comfort and handling should please both everyday commuters and those who like to tackle a winding road now and then.

I consider myself in the latter category, and Hyundai's drive route — which took us close enough to Mexico that we could see the border fence just a few hundred yards from the road — provided miles of serpentine asphalt.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Elantra is how willingly it tackles curving roads. The car resists body roll, even when pushed hard into a corner, and lifting on the gas slightly had the effect of helping bring the tail through the corner more quickly, enhancing the car's already nimble feeling. The Elantra's suspension tuning makes it a sporty choice in the style of the Mazda3, which ranks as one of the more engaging mainstream compact cars available in the U.S.

I also got a feel for the car in more mundane driving, like highway cruising. Here, ride quality isn't as sensitive to rough pavement as it is in a Civic nor as isolating as in a Corolla, but it skews more toward the Civic. The ride is taut, but not overly so. Suspension rebound over dips and bumps is controlled, and there's a solidity to the design that's been missing in some other Hyundais, which have noisy suspensions. It's also quiet enough in the cabin at highway speeds to hold a conversation without having to raise your voice.

The Elantra has electric power steering, and it doesn't take much effort to turn the wheel. The car has very good straight-line tracking. The only time the steering seems to get a little flustered is in sections of continuous switchbacks where you need to turn the wheel back and forth again and again; there, the wheel feels numb.

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