The last couple of generations of the compact Elantra have been like Toyota Corolla wannabes, but now, the Corolla's looking positively ancient and even the new Honda Civic seems conservative. Long celebrated for reliability and environmental responsibility, the Elantra is all-new, and seems much more expensive than its price now. The environment inside is stunning in its design as well as materials and assembly.
The 1.8-liter, 148-horsepower engine makes the car feel fairly peppy, although my only disappointment was the fuel economy. I averaged just over 27 mpg--pretty decent--but the sticker says 29 City and 40 Highway, and I drove a lot of miles on the freeway.
My tester, a GLS in a gorgeous Metallic Sky Blue, was only $19,510, not including transportation.