Pros: Unbeatable value for the $, solid build quality, style, warrantee, spunky to drive.
Cons: Unproven long-tern reliability, only 95% as solid as a Honda or Toyota.
I recently had the opportunity to spend some quality time behind the wheel of an Elantra while renting the car for business. In fact, I specifically requested the Hyundai because I've seen so many good reviews of the car, and I must admit that the style, price, and warrantee coverage of the car are very appealing. In short: I'm sold. Though I'm not in the market for a new car, I absolutely would buy an Elantra based on my experience.
In my view, this car will do for Hyundai what the Civic did for Honda so many decades ago. Then, Hondas were unproven, funny-looking little cars with no reputation and now they are the benchmark for small cars. Sadly, 2001 Civics are priced accordingly; one can spend as much as $18,500 on a loaded Civic, which is on the pricey side for an economy car.
For thirteen grand, I feel that the Elantra is every bit as good a car as a Civic or a Corolla, and the value in the little Hyundai is amazing. My Elantra was a very nice little car. It drive well, and it's zippy engine and smooth transmission left nothing to be desired, though I will admit that the engine sings louder and harsher at higher RPMs than the two Japanese rivals. It was VERY solid, and passed the door-slam test with flying colors. This little car does not feel like a tin box at all.
Most impressive is what one's money buys with the Hyundai. Power widows, height-adjustable seats (which were very comfy until I had more than 5 or 6 hours behind the wheel straight), cruise control, a nice stereo, side-impact airbags, and an attractive layout are all part of the basic package. The interior materials all feel quality--this is no luxury car, to be sure, but the cloth seats were nice (comfortable and tasteful, and not chintzy feeling) and the hard plastic on the dash was attractive and solid-feeling. There were a few rattles in the dash, though.
It seems to me that one cannot go wrong with the new Elantra. $13K buys you a nice, solid, zippy little car with loads of features. Furthermore, for at least 5 years, the car is fully covered, so whatever risk one is taking with the unproven reliability is minimized by such excellent coverage. I found the Elantra to be VERY impressive, especially given Hyundai's troubled past. Safe, solid, roomy, fun-to-drive (and fun to pay for with such a low price), and loaded, I'd buy an Elantra over a Civic, Corolla, Focus, or Sentra any day.