Base price $15,849; as-tested $22,699
The Hyundai Elantra was best-in-class in only one measurable factor, fuel efficiency. In almost every subjective measure, though, I found the Elantra stood at the top, or close to it, compared to competing entries Ford Focus, Subaru Impreza and Volkswagen Beetle.
And price surely needs to be considered. The Elantra carried an as-tested sticker of $22,690, approximately $1,200 less than the Subaru, $5,100 below the as-tested Focus, $5,280 under the Beetle.
The Focus accelerated fastest and the Impreza stopped shortest in measured testing. The Elantra’s Natural Resources Canada ratings of 6.9 litres/100 km city and 4.9 highway set the standard for fuel-saving.
As it happens, fuel efficiency counts for 10 per cent of an entry’s score in the small car over $21,000 category in the weighting AJAC has developed, making it more significant than any other factor. (In higher-priced classes, though, litres/100 km matters less; for instance, 5 per cent in the scores of luxury cars.)
Acceleration? Among these economy cars, the stopwatch reading from zero to 100 km/h and 80 to 120 counts for only 3.5 per cent, and braking 4 per cent. If the Elantra takes a second longer than the Focus getting to 100 km/h, or 0.2 of a metre more to stop, it’s no deal-breaker for most small-car buyers, in AJAC’s reckoning.
Interior space, quality of materials and appearance do matter and the Elantra rivals or tops last year’s overall Canadian Car of The Year, the Chevrolet Cruze, in these measures. It’s a handsome four-door resembling in silhouette its larger sibling, Sonata, boasting the same attributes of stretch-out room, plenty of places to stow things, and high-quality cabin materials.
Base price $22,399; as-tested $27,779
What a car, but what a price. If it wasn’t some $5,000 more than the Elantra, it’d likely have won. I assigned high marks across my score sheet save for its ride over bumpy pavement, rougher than the Elantra or Impreza. The handsome and comfortable interior felt like an expensive car’s. Hey, wait, this is an expensive car.
Base price $23,895; as-tested $23,895
All-wheel-drive distinguishes the Impreza from its competitors and the shortest stopping distance in the braking test from 100 km/h builds the Subaru’s case for its safety. Accelerating to 100 km/h in 11.1 seconds, however, was slowest of the four entries. But it was my favourite in the category.
Base price $26,575; as-tested $27,975
In the previous New Beetle, drivers sat low in the middle of the car behind a deep, deep dashboard – a little weird really – but the new model feels much more like an ordinary car. Improvements include more trunk room and livelier performance. Too bad about the price, which surely cost it points.