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2008 Hyundai Elantra Test Drive Review

Picture of 2008 Hyundai Elantra GLS Sedan FWD Hyundai's best-selling car at a great price.

6.3 /10
Overall Score

New for 2007, the Hyundai Elantra enters 2008 with one fewer trim level and more safety features. It has fresh styling and is worth a look against established competitors like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Ford Focus.

Look and Feel

6/ 10

Compared to the bargain-basement Accent, the Elantra is large enough to look like a finished car, and it won't embarrass its driver. It's still not the futuristic aero showpiece that is the Honda Civic. It's bland like the inside of a CVS. From the front or rear, there are more than a few hints of Toyota Corolla. On the side, you couldn't pick the Elantra from a lineup of suspects. At least give it a neat tattoo on its grille or something.

The interior retains the good design from the Accent, only there are now more quality materials lining the doors and dash, some of which are softly padded. Silver accents on the steering wheel, climate control knobs, and center console brighten up the place. It's far more comparable to a Corolla in presentation and construction, which is a good thing.


6/ 10

A 2.0-liter inline-four makes 138 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque, sent to the front wheels with a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. Acceleration is good and both transmissions respond well. A new electric power-steering rack is light on feel and the suspension is too soft; it rolls hard in corners and can't absorb bumps at higher speeds. The engine is reasonably quiet, as is the ride. The brakes are good.

Form and Function

7/ 10

Visibility and room are generous in the Elantra. You can pack three friends in the car for medium-range trips and they won't complain. Storage bins are plentiful, too. Two covered bins (one atop the dash, the other behind the shifter), four cupholders, bottle holders on the doors, and a sunglasses case join the usual center cubby/armrest. The trunk is a large 14 cubic feet and the seats fold down in a 60/40 split. All controls are easy to operate and most are backlit by a pleasant blue glow at night.

Tech Level

4/ 10

Power windows, locks, mirrors, and keyless entry come standard on the Elantra, but not cruise control, air conditioning, or a stereo. Those are optional, along with fog lights and satellite radio, on the base GLS with the Preferred package.

The Limited was dropped for 2008, so the SE moves from the mid-level to the top trim. It includes 16-inch alloy wheels instead of 15-inch steel wheels, plus a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. Leather upholstery, heated front seats, and a sunroof are optional.


7/ 10

New for 2008 is a tire-pressure monitoring system. The SE comes with stability control and brake assist, the latter of which delivers 100-percent braking force if the driver quickly jabs the pedal in an emergency. These features are not on the GLS. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, dual front airbags, dual front side airbags, anti-whiplash front headrests, and front and rear curtain airbags are standard.

In crash tests, the Elantra scored the best Good for the moderate overlap front by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but only a Marginal for the side test and a higher Acceptable for the head restraints and seats. The Elantra scored four out of five stars in side-crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for driver and rear passenger, and five stars for both passengers in the frontal tests.


8/ 10

The 2008 Elantra's MSRP starts at $13,970 for the GLS and $16,670 for the SE. Fully loaded with an automatic transmission, the Elantra is just under $20,000. Fuel economy is EPA estimated at 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined for the automatic and 24/33/27 for the manual. Hyundai includes a 5-year/60,000-mile warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty that no other automaker comes close to matching, plus 5 years of roadside assistance. From a design and performance perspective, the Elantra falls behind the competition. But it's very competitive at these prices.


Clifford Atiyeh is a reporter and photographer who has spent a good portion of his life driving cars he doesn't own. He is vice president of the New England Motor Press Association and committed to saving both manuals and old Volvos.

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