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Previewed in its domestic "Avante" form at the Busan International Motor Show earlier this year, the all-new 2011 Hyundai Elantra made its formal debut in U.S. form at the LA Auto Show. In keeping with Hyundai's current product mission, the fifth-generation of this now mid-size front-drive sedan has received a major shot of visual and mechanical sophistication aimed at raising its profile both visually and conceptually.

Hitting the showrooms later this year, the 2011 Hyundai Elantra embodies the same kind of "fluidic sculpture" design cues found on the also-new-for-2011 Sonata. Dramatically flowing contours mix with more aggressive character lines to give this new Elantra added presence while dropping its drag coefficient from 0.32 to 0.28. Although it retains an almost identical "footprint," the 2011 variant also gains 2.0-inches of wheelbase and benefits from significantly wider front/rear track dimensions, more handling-oriented chassis tuning and an all-new body structure that's 37-percent stiffer than the current model but significantly lighter.

>See more new cars unveiled at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show

Inside, the 2011 Hyundai Elantra displays its own new and more elegant take on the "fluidic" theme, with GLS and leather-lined Limited trim levels bringing varying degrees of standard or optional comfort and convenience touches to the well-appointed basic formula. With 110.4 cu-ft of total interior volume, the 2012 Elantra offers better passenger and trunk space that most of its competitors, including the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Both 2012 Elantra variants can be fitted with optional touch-screen navigation systems as well as a 360-watt premium audio package, rearview camera and auto headlamps that are all included in the GLS Navigation Package and the Limited Premium Package.

There's equally big news under the hood of the 2012 Hyundai Elantra in the form of a new 1.8-liter "Nu" engine that replaces the old 2.0-liter Beta four. In base trim, the Nu makes 148 horsepower and 131 lb-ft of torque (145/130 in PZEV form), compared to the Beta's 138/136 stats. However, its all-aluminum construction makes this more compact motivator 74 pounds lighter while tech touches that include Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (D-CVVT) and a two-stage Variable Induction System (VIS) plus electronic throttle control let it deliver superior overall driveability as wll as net EPA city/highway numbers of 29/40 mpg whether paired with a standard six-speed manual transmission or the optional new Hyundai-designed six-speed autoshifter that's also both lighter and more efficient than the outgoing five-speed.

Building on its admirable safety record, the new Elantra steps up its game by adding a more comprehensive Vehicle Stability Management system that is similar to the one found on Hyundai's premium Equus sedan. It integrates the standard stability control with the electric power steering assist system to provide an extra measure of corrective input when the car encounters uneven traction conditions. As before, the Elantra also features anti-lokc brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and front/front-side/side-curtain airbags.

Pricing for the 2011 Hyundai Elantra GLS will start at $15,500 while the 2011 Hyundai Elantra Limited is set to open at $20,700 and the fully loaded Limited with Premium Package will command $22,700.

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