Used Car Feature: 2007 Hyundai Elantra / Kia Spectra

by Rick Harrell on November 4, 2008

2007-2009 Hyundai Elantra

People just aren’t buying new vehicles.  Sales figures from nearly every manufacturer confirm the trend.  With the Global Economic horizon not looking so rosy, the advice is to hang on to what you have, buy what you need, and ride out the storm.  But what if your vehicle finally gave up and is too costly to repair?  It’s time for a “Pre-Owned Vehicle”.  This is the first in a series of used vehicle reviews intended to spotlight vehicles that may be more obscure, yet readily available and inexpensive to purchase, own and operate.

2007 was a good year for Korean Automakers.  Hyundai began to inject both itself and subsidiary, Kia Motors, with increased build quality, overall appearance, and better driveability.   Compared to Hyundais of the past, drivers of these new models were pleasantly surprised.

Elantra Rear 3/4

So, why not a Civic or Corolla?  This question may come up often.  Frankly, the longtime reputation of these models lend themselves to often-inflated pricing and high miles on used units.  The Hyundai (and its Kia Spectra twin) were chosen for their value and the frequency of finding cars with fewer miles.  A quick search noted models in the sub-50K miles range, for $9-11,000.  This mid-sized sedan (or 5-door hatch with the Spectra5) is a great buy for a small family or daily driver with the need for a 3rd or 4th occasional passenger.

Front 3/4

I had the chance to drive several of these variants since their debut on rental lots in 2006 (which also can bring down the overall price: fleet usage).  The first impression was a good one.  Back then…

I’m really stretching here to find problems with this car, but perhaps the rounded edges make the rear-half look mild, whereas a frontal perspective re-affirms a more aggressive design.  I was fully expecting it to have the Spartan, no frills interior that other compact Korean vehicles have provided. Instead, a carefully crafted dash, driver-oriented center stack, and electric-blue accents (even in the power window switches) gave the indication that some attention was spent on design and implementation.

Elantra Interior

The fit and finish of these models are actually better than the new, 2009 Toyota Corolla.

Steering is crisp and precise with it’s electronic steering rack, despite the softer ride. Before heading out on the road, I had visions of nearly all Hyundais tested before: a disconnect among the front and rear suspension, body of the car, and consequently the driver. But that wasn’t the case at all. City driving was enjoyable with turns and curves presenting no challenge. The tilt wheel felt to be properly weighted and sized. Quite simply, the sedan felt light on its feet and fun to drive.

The list goes on and on.  Higher-end models can be found with leather appointments, a bevy of airbags, and a 6-disc sound system.  Base models can be found with a 5-speed manual, while all models offer the 1.6L, 4-cylinder.   What’s even better is the transferable 10-year/100K mile powertrain warranty.  Honestly, I don’t think you’ll need it.  These are solid vehicles.  Certified used models offer further bumper-to-bumper protection. In addition, the rare 5-speed models are out there with better overall fuel economy.

So how is the fuel economy?  My tests, with mostly highway speeds, cold-weather usage, and spirited city driving, yielded 34.6 MPG.  My Wife and 3 friends (with a car-load of luggage) took the same car from KC-Chicago-KC, noted plenty of room, and mileage closer to 30-31 MPG.  That’s pretty good for mid-sized sedan at capacity.

Elantra Front 3/4

The Data as Tested:

Trim: 2007 Hyundai Elantra SE, 4-speed Automatic
Engine: DOHC, 16-valve, 2.0L Inline-4 cylinder, rated at 138 HP, and 136 lb-ft torque, FWD
Curb Weight: 2747 lb.
EPA: 28 City, 36 Highway, 31 Combined Cycle
FE: 34.6 MPG (ScanGauge Verified)
Vitals: 4.9 hours, over 278 miles, using 8.0 gallons, at a 57 MPH average

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{ 1 comment }

1 Unforgiven November 19, 2008 at 10:14 am

The subtle styling cues of the Spectra used to draw my attention more than the Elantra. Now adays the Hyundai Sonata fits my appreciative bill a bit more, but it is a different vehicle. Past driving of the Spectra felt a touch rough with a noisy engine, but I expect that improvements have been made since I last drove one.

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