All things must come full circle.
When working with vehicles to review, the focus is usually turned onto the singular subject. If one works to review every vehicle in a singular segment, mental comparisons come into play. In this case, you choose a benchmark – or a few. These benchmarks do not have to point to being the best, but they are good at above the competition.
Compact cars became this kind of segment for me. I have driven every model and, yes, there are some benchmarks that I look to for measurement. The newest Mazda3 represent performance and driving dynamics. The Nissan Sentra is noted for space utilization and rear seat room. The Ford Focus has the engine/transmission and the ride quality part of the compact car equation. The list can go on to identify every little benchmark in the class.
Benchmarks are great, but what if someone wants a little bit of everything? What about the complete package? What if someone just wants a car that will get to work, school, the grocery store and to the relatives two hours away without making a complete fool of themselves?
In July of 2011, I reviewed the current generation of the Hyundai Elantra for V&R and, later, for Lavender magazine. Despite some concerns, it turned out to be a good car. The following March, I received another Elantra for a different kind of story – a commentary on luxury models in the compact class and why the price you pay for a top shelf trim in a small car should be a shock to you. Having received my third Elantra, I figured that I would do two things with it.
For one, I am writing a proper review on it for CarSoup.com. However, for our purpose, I figured we should revisit the Elantra and see if it still as good of a compact car after driving everything else in its class.
To do so, I tasked the Elantra to be my gofer.
A "gofer" is an old journalist term for a person you have to do the menial jobs. You want to get lunch from the deli downstairs; you get the gofer to get it for you. You want the copy off of the Teletype; you get the gofer to grab it. Meanwhile, the gofer will try to learn what you do, despite your workload and the sundry frustrations that come with working in the newsroom.
The newsroom is no longer the place to be. We are on assignment anywhere. Our laptops do our work – whether it is over breakfast at some restaurant or in bed before you turn in for the night.
This particular Elantra is actually right for the job. The new base model SE – supplanting the GLS moniker – offers enough frills to make driving easy. This red example adds the Preferred package with another level of equipment that does not break the bank. In other words, I have a well-equipped, relatively affordable compact car that looks meek, but is not. Trust me, there is a point I will be making here…
A gofer has to be resourceful. Luckily, the Elantra SE Preferred package is exactly that. On top of SiriusXM satellite radio, the package includes Bluetooth, a backup camera and a new TFT screen. Everything was as it was three years ago in the GLS – the Fluidic Sculpture design inside and out, the nice seating and space. I never felt tense or uncomfortable when driving the Elantra over miles of gofering – to St. Cloud, for example.
The gofer needed a day of rest. However, the Elantra was not going to get one. I was invited to join a cruise group on Facebook and had my Sunday free. They scheduled a cruise out of Excelsior, on the south shore of Lake Minnetonka, for a loop around the lake and down to Chanhassen. You could say that the Elantra got quite the workout in following a group of quicker vehicles.
As much as it was not attracting the cameras amongst the cruise group, the Elantra still played gofer – my camera in the back seat and laptop in the bag. As I mentioned before, a gofer needs to be resourceful.
Again, the gofer needed to change priorities. I am in the midst of a transition in employment and what better vehicle to have to go interviews and such is an economical, meek compact. With a ready sports jacket hanging from the rear headliner to go along with the interview ensemble, it is worth noting that the Elantra turned a fuel economy average of 33.0MPG in its time with V&R. That is great, if you count the fact it has a small fuel tank – 12.8 gallons, to be exact. For fuel economy to work in an owner’s favor, you need range to go along with it.
Is the Elantra still the same after three years? Rather, is the Elantra still a solid choice in the compact car field? "Yes" on both counts. The typical compact car buyer wants something in the middle of the road. They want a superlative, but do not want to sacrifice something that takes away the overall driving experience. The idea of compromise is there, but they want quality and execution that will satisfy them for the years to come.
This is truly the Elantra coming full circle after experiencing what the rest of the class has to offer. It has come home and did what it had to do. It could be your gofer, too.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Hyundai Motor America
All photos by Randy Stern