Hyundai’s New Elantra Touring

Station wagons aren’t dead. But, Hyundai isn’t calling its upcoming wagon version of the 2009 Elantra a wagon. It’s a “Touring.” Very European. Which is appropriate considering the Europeans appreciate wagons, um… tourings, as much as anybody… and the Elantra Touring is as handsome as any from The Continent.

Said John Krafcik, vice president, product development and strategic planning, Hyundai Motor America, “The all-new Elantra Touring is a fun-to-drive, functional five-door. Elantra Touring provides buyers a unique offering in the compact segment, raising the bar as Hyundai likes to do in value, safety and quality.”

Well-penned forms provide a flowing shape from front to rear with tension lines down the sides, giving the car a handsome and athletic feel. The front looks like a cross between a Honda Civic and Mazda RX-8, which aren’t bad company for a cargo machine. If Audi or Volkswagen had launched this car, nobody would have been surprised. Interior design is very similar to the mid-size Sonata, which is to say modern, handsome, and functional. It all looks very good.

All Elantra Touring models come with a 2.0-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine producing 141 horsepower and routed to the front wheels through a five-speed manual or four-speed SHIFTRONIC® automatic transmission. The latter has a manual shift mode for fun driving. Fuel economy should be close to 25/35 mpg city/highway.

Options read as upscale as the exterior looks. For safety, buyers can get electronic stability control, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, side curtain airbags, and front side airbags. Remote keyless entry, eight-way adjustable drivers seat, MP3 input, XM Satellite Radio, power sunroof, heated front seats, and 17” alloy wheels are all available.

Wagons are certainly not dead, and with high gas prices, could soon be at a premium. Hyundai is on top of it, offering the value for which it is known, and with style that could send some European automakers to the drawing board. Expect prices to start around $16,000. Competition will include the Toyota Matrix, Pontiac Vibe, Chrysler PT Cruiser, and Saturn Astra 5-door.

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