By KBB.com Editors
It's funny how money can change perception. When times were good and gas was cheap, large and inefficient vehicles were in vogue. Now times aren't quite as good, gas isn't exactly inexpensive, and shoppers are considering smaller, more efficient alternatives. Enter the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring, a car that shares its powertrain, outstanding warranty, and little else with the Elantra Sedan. Buyers of the don't-call-me-a-wagon Touring will also be treated to 24.3 cubic feet of cargo room, sharp German styling, and a slew of safety features, such as electronic stability control. Unfortunately, those same buyers will be sitting on stiff seats, may become lost without an available navigation system, and won't be enjoying the fun or refinement provided by competing models from Mazda and Volkswagen.You'll Like This Car If...
You could say there's something for everyone in the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring, from its slick five-speed manual transmission to its 31-mpg highway rating and impressive list of standard safety features. All that, plus Hyundai's 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and more interior room than the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen.You May Not Like This Car If...
European styling gives the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring a sporting image, but drivers looking for handling on par with the MAZDA3 5-Door will be left wanting. The stiff, flat seats also leave a good deal to be desired.What's Significant About This Car?
After a nine-year hiatus, Hyundai is once again offering a wagon variant of its popular Elantra model. The Elantra Touring aims to satisfy the needs of buyers seeking usable space and efficiency, all of which is packaged in a stylish, affordable package.Driving It Driving Impressions
While the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring's 138-horsepower engine delivers adequate power for the daily commute, drivers will be wishing for more oomph when it's time to pass quick-moving traffic. There just isn't a lot of power in reserve, so plan on downshifting frequently. The five-speed manual transmission adds some fun thanks to its precise shifter, but when the engine was revving near 4,000 rpm on the highway, we wondered if employing a standard six-speed gearbox wouldn't have been a better idea. Our test car averaged 25.4 mpg. From a ride and handling perspective, the tight and firm feel of the Touring's steering and suspension inspire confidence around town without being overly jarring. Head out on a twisty road, however, and you'll discover that this Elantra quickly meets its limits, and despite best intentions, doesn't measure up to class leaders like the MAZDA3.Favorite Features
Five-Speed Manual Transmission
Hyundai station wagons are not supposed to be fun, but apparently that's news to engineers of the Elantra Touring's manual transmission. Drivers who opt to row their own gears will like the light-effort clutch and the short, precise action of the shifter.
Though the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring comes very well equipped, there are a few desirable bits that can only be had as part of the Premium-Sport Package. Those include dual-setting heated front seats, a power sunroof, and partially-chromed 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Kumho tires.
Nothing is perfect. Case in point: the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring's interior. To its credit, this versatile hauler provides plenty of room for the driver and front passenger, soft-touch materials on the armrests and dash cap, decent upholstery, excellent outward visibility, ample storage provisions, and an expandable cargo area. And then there are the areas that need a little fine-tuning. We're talking about cheap vinyl visors, insufficiently illuminated climate controls that make it hard to decipher if something is on or off, hard front seatbacks that will make a tall passenger's knees very unhappy, and flat, stiff seats.Exterior
What we call an Elantra Touring is what the rest of the world calls a Hyundai i30 CW, a wagon that doesn't share a scrap of sheet metal with the Elantra Sedan. Designed in Germany, the Elantra Touring features a grille distinct from any other Hyundais sold in the States, and sports vertical taillights reminiscent of recent Saab and Volvo models. Serving to add a bit of flair are standard fog lights and 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels.Notable Standard Equipment
Since it shares its name with an inexpensive sedan, one could assume that the Hyundai Elantra Touring reserves the good stuff for its options list. On the contrary, standard goodies include a cooled glovebox, heated mirrors, and a bounty of safety features consisting of six airbags, anti-lock brakes, a tire pressure monitoring system, and the security of electronic stability control. Audiophiles will appreciate USB and auxiliary audio jacks in the center armrest, though the closest power outlet is located below the instrument panel. You get many of the same items in the MAZDA3 5-Door, albeit for an extra $2,000.Notable Optional Equipment
Aside from five exterior and two interior colors, options for personalizing your 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring are rather limited. Up first is a four-speed automatic transmission, fitted to the Touring in lieu of the standard five-speed manual. Next is a Premium-Sport Package, designed to boost style and comfort quotients by replacing 16-inch alloy wheels with larger and flashier 17-inchers, fitting a power moonroof overhead, and adding dual-setting heaters to the front bucket seats. Bluetooth capability is offered through an accessory kit. Interestingly, a navigation system is not available.Under the Hood
Like the Hyundai Elantra Sedan, the Elantra Touring draws power from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that's good for 138 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque. When outfitted with a standard five-speed manual transmission, Hyundai's little wagon achieves an EPA-rated 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway (the latter drops to 30 mpg with an optional four-speed automatic). By comparison, the comparably-powered Toyota Matrix delivers up to 26 mpg in the city and the 158-horsepower Scion xB returns up to 22 mpg around town.
2.0-liter in-line 4
138 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
136 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/31 (manual), 23/30 (automatic)
Hyundai starts the bidding for its 2009 Elantra Touring at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $18,500, with a fully-loaded version climbing north to the $21,000 range. That's not a princely sum to pay for a loaded carryall, and actually makes Hyundai's wagon more affordable than the MAZDA3 5-Door and Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen. Serving as an alternative to each of those models is the less-expensive but similarly-equipped Scion xB. However, you'll pay full sticker price for the Scion, whereas the Hyundai, Mazda, and VW are selling under MSRP. These figures can change, so check our Fair Purchase Prices before negotiating with your dealer. Resale values have yet to be calculated for the all-new Hyundai Elantra Touring, but if the Elantra Sedan is any indication, those figures will lag behind competitors such as the MAZDA3 5-Door and the Scion xB.