A Cabin That Matches the Exterior's Promise

The Elantra's exterior sets high design expectations, but the cabin gets a fair dose of style itself. It's stylish in numerous ways, from the simple yet elegant ventilation system knobs to the slender control panel in the middle of the dashboard. The cabin is unequivocally modern Ч but not at the expense of occupant comfort.

For a small car, the front of the Elantra's cabin feels spacious, easily accommodating my 6-foot-1 frame. The standard height-adjustable driver's seat is a nice feature, and the seat went far enough back for me to sit comfortably. However, the steering wheel's optional telescoping feature doesn't extend far enough for taller people.

Besides giving the cabin a unique look, the slender center panel opens up more room for your knees than many conventional designs offer. You don't feel cramped in this car, and headroom is still pretty good in models with a moonroof Ч a feature that tends to rob space.

There was a time when roughly finished cabins were more common in this class, but refined interiors are becoming the norm, and the Elantra's compares well with the best of them. It features mostly high-grade materials Ч some of which have interesting patterns Ч and good fit and finish. Hyundai even went so far as to give the Elantra's fiberboard headliner and sun visors an upscale, woven-fabric pattern.

A few minor shortcomings did crop up. Faux-metal trim is prominent on the dashboard and doors, and while the shapes of the pieces are interesting, their appearance isn't that compelling. It also doesn't feel that great when you have to grab hold of it to close the front door. The flat-black plastic surrounding the audio system looks a little low-rent, the center dash vents can't be individually closed, and though Hyundai made the dashboard soft-touch, it neglected to do the same for the doorsill trim.

There's no question I was pushing the limits of space in the backseat; when I sat down, my head touched the rear window (the Elantra's 37.1 inches of rear headroom is similar to what the Civic, Corolla and Cruze offer). The Corolla and Cruze do have a few inches more rear legroom than the Hyundai, which has 33.1 inches, but I nonetheless had enough legroom in the Elantra Ч even with the front seat adjusted for me. The Limited trim has heated rear seats Ч an uncommon feature in this class.

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