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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For It's cheap, well equipped and some are still covered by the five-year warranty

Against It has old-school looks, mediocre refinement, weak handling and modest space

Verdict It's very cheap, but most rivals are better to drive and more spacious

Go for… GSi cars

Avoid… None

Hyundai Elantra Hatchback
  • 1. Meticulously maintained, immaculate cars shouldn't be too hard to find. If the car's in merely average nick, keep looking
  • 2. Avoid cars with uneven tyre wear and those that don't drive straight, as the suspension could be damaged
  • 3. Check the air-con blows cold - it's potentially expensive to fix if it doesn't
  • 4. Ensure the engine runs smoothly and is free from knocking noises
  • 5. Boot space isn't great by class standards - many rivals are better
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Hyundai Elantra Hatchback full review with expert trade views

If you want a solidly screwed together, reliable and well-equipped new-ish car for not a lot of cash, the Elantra should be on your shopping list. When they first rolled out of the new car showroom, they had a five-year warranty, so used ones benefit from the reassuring manufacturer safety net for longer.

What you won't get is an enjoyable car to drive or as much room as most other family cars. In fact, cabin and luggage space are closer to those of small family cars, such as the Ford Focus, than the Mondeos and Vectras of this world.

The Elantra drives reasonably well, but it doesn't handle brilliantly - there's little front-end grip, and steering that's more vague than a politician on Newsnight. The engines are mediocre, too.

On the other hand, they're stashed full of kit and, if you can put up with the tyre roar, reasonably refined on a long haul.

Trade view

John Owen

Great warranty, what else can you say?

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

Earlier cars offer three engines and all have something in their favour.

The 1.6 petrol is quite flexible and offers good fuel economy, while the 2.0 petrol isn't that much thirstier but is a fair bit swifter. The third option is a 2.0 turbodiesel, which is noisier and less refined than the petrols but has far more mid-range pull and better economy - both very welcome in the real world. On later cars, the petrols were dropped from the line-up, so you're looking at diesel only.

We'd go for the practicality of the five-door hatch, but despite having split/fold rear seats, neither three- nor five-door is hugely roomy for a full-sized family car.

All models do well for kit. Even the base Si model has air-con, CD player, electric front windows and remote central locking. The GSi, our choice, ups that further, with alloy wheels, climate control and leather seats.

Hyundai dealers are the place to find a good one, but the classifieds can throw up gems, too.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Very low failure rates - expensive parts when it does go wrong. Excellent reliability overall

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The Elantra sheds value quickly over its first three years, but after that, depreciation is pretty average. So the Elantra adds up as a used buy, financially at least.

Servicing won't be cheap. Routine maintenance at a franchised dealer will set you back more than, say, for a Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Vectra. Independent garages will be cheaper, but remember that they must carry out work to the manufacturer's standards if you want to keep that five-year warranty valid.

If your Elantra is still under warranty, that should take care of unscheduled repairs, but Hyundais rarely go wrong so you shouldn't have too much of a problem there.

Or at the fuel pumps: the petrols give mid- to high-30s to the gallon and the diesel mid-40s. Insurance, too, is reasonable, with group 8 for the 1.6 and group 13 for the 2.0 petrol and diesel.

Trade view

John Owen

Great warranty, what else can you say?

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

The Elantra tends to appeal to those who take good care of their cars, so tracking down a meticulously maintained, immaculate car shouldn't be too hard. If the car's in merely average nick, keep looking.

The Elantra is very dependable, with no widely reported common faults. Even so, insist on a full service history and watch out for signs of abuse.

Too many knocks against the kerb can put the wheels out of alignment, so avoid cars with uneven tyre wear and those that don't drive straight.

Watch out, too, for cabin damage caused by a careless family. Check the air-con blows cold - it's potentially expensive to fix if it doesn't.

On low-mileage cars, ensure the engine runs smoothly and is free from knocking noises. Chances are, such a car will have done most of its running on a cold engine, when most damage occurs. Likewise, the exhaust and brakes will have had a harder life on low-mileage town cars, and you may well need to budget on replacing them.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Very low failure rates - expensive parts when it does go wrong. Excellent reliability overall

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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