Another 2011 Elantra Joins The CleanMPG Family Sub-Title - The Wife's Sonata Has A New Baby Brother... Somewhere in the northeast, a 2011 Elantra GLS PZEV in Desert Bronze Metallic has found its new home in a residential driveway in an undisclosed location. Here's the story... We've all heard by now that used car prices are at an all time high. That means trade values are also higher now than in the recent past. And anyone who knows me will recall my casual searches for something newer and more fuel efficient than my existing car. I shopped around for a Cruze Eco, another 2011 Sonata, the even the new Elantra, while waiting for more information on the arrival of the 2012 Accent later this summer. The Chevy had been paid off for over two years, and I started doing some online appraisals to see what it would be worth on a trade. To my surprise, the number has been going up steadily over the last year. Just last week, AOL Autos had an article titled, "Are you driving a gold mine?", showing a 2011 Hyundai Sonata and noting that a one year old Sonata is worth more today as a used car than it cost when it was new. Several cars have that enviable value appreciation, and the basic fact is that all used cars have been going up in value. Will prices go higher, or have they peaked and are poised to start falling sharply to a more realistic value? I started to think that I didn't want to wait to find out. Elantra or Accent? Having a car with a hatchback is a wonderful convenience. The strike against the Elantra is its sedan body configuration. The 2012 Accent will offer comparable EPA ratings and a stylish 5 door option. Having spent some time at the NY Auto Show this past April, digging around inside and under the hood of the next Accent, I have a good impression of what the car will be when it appears at my local dealer in a few months. And I have the preliminary pricing information, which places it a bit above the current Accent and below a comparably equipped Elantra. Which brings me to "comparably equipped"... Over the past several months, there have been some serious construction delays on roads I travel. Some roads are being closed for months, causing extensive delays and requiring detours on secondary roads. One of those detours is in northeast PA, on the highway I travel to get "home" up there. To avoid the six mile backup, I would need to take side roads through sleepy towns - roads with no signs (or poorly placed signs) that tend to meander off in the wrong direction. So I started thinking my next car should have a navigation radio. It comes in handy when driving on vacation trips to unfamiliar territory, and I've done that plenty of times. The 2012 Accent will not offer a navigation system, and so I started looking at the Elantra again. And I began keeping track over the last few months of exactly how many times I needed the hatchback capability. We took the Sonata on the last two vacatirips and we found the trunk to be more than large enough for our needs. This past weekend, my wife actually brought home a small tree (a 'weeping lilac') in the Sonata. Yes, it fit. So the mandatory-hatchback rule was no longer a problem. I have a friend with a minivan that I can depend on to haul anything large - furniture, building materials, etc - in the event that I have some need to do so. Narrowing the choices... So I really had to choose between two candidates - the Cruze Eco or the Hyundai Elantra. The Ford Focus is priced too high to compete, and I wanted a car with a conventional automatic instead of a dual clutch unit. A manual transmission wasn't considered because I have a recurring problem with sciatica and the heavy traffic conditions around here make driving a stick a constant-clutch affair. When they develop a new "Vw Automatic Stickshift" with the clutch disengaged by pressing the shift lever, a manual will be a realistic option for me. Until then, I can drive the Sonata when traffic is light and I feel the need to shift for myself, and then afterward return to driving with one foot resting on the floor. The Cruze Eco would have cost me less overall because I have a GM Card credit card with a bunch of unused cash sitting out there waiting to be used. But... The Cruze Eco is not available with the navigation radio. If you want the navi setup, you have to choose the LT or LTZ, which also includes the lower 24/36 EPA rating. Let's head to the calculator. Based only on EPA estimates, the Elantra will offer 20% better mileage in the city and 10% better on the highway. The Elantra has better warranty coverage, so money "saved" by using the credit card bucks doesn't need to be spent on a Major Guard extended warranty to bring the Cruze warranty coverage up to near Hyundai levels. Compared to the Cruze LT/LTZ, the Elantra will save me about $250 a year in fuel costs, or $1500 over six years. And the winner is... The deciding vote was cast when I located a 2011 Elantra PZEV. The local dealer had five of them, in four different colors - Each one a GLS with the navigation package (also includes auto-headlights and rearview camera), and sticker prices in the low 20s. Three of the five were PZEV, so I had my choice of three colors - White, Harbor Gray, and Desert Bronze. My wife said the Bronze looked best, and I thought so too. Now comes the fun part Car dealers, and the overall car buying process, are two things people tend to dread. It doesn't have to be a bad experience if you do the homework ahead of time. Before I left for the dealer, I already knew the value of my trade (from three different sources), the sticker price of the car and also the price quoted from those "auto purchasing" websites, like ZAG. I knew what was being offered in financing terms, so they couldn't play the game of "here's your payment" instead of "here's the APR". Since my wife has a back injury, seating position and the shape and firmness of the seat are important attributes that determine whether she can drive or ride in a car for any length of time. Also important are the roofline height, seat height, and the height and width of the rocker panel. That determines how much effort is needed to get in and out of the car. We stopped at the dealer on Saturday, and head over to the black GLS on the showroom floor. She gets comfortable in the seat, and now we wait to see if the seat is going to cause any soreness. During that time, I show her all the various features, and the sales guy is standing behind me listening. He said he'd be happy to help me with any questions I have about the car, but that I sound like I probably know more about the car than he does. The next step is to see what they had on the lot. Since they're selling so fast, an online inventory listing doesn't guarantee the car isn't already sold but not yet billed and removed from inventory. There were a bunch of Elantras on the lot with the word "sold" and the salesperson's name resting on the dashboard. We went out and looked at the cars in the sunlight to decide on which color would be the nicest. Anyone who hasn't seen a new Sonata or Elantra up close needs to go and look for themselves. The paint they use is incredible, both in the deep metallic shine and the pearlescent flip-flop color changing effect. After considering each of the cars they had, I chose the bronze. Depending on lighting and viewing angle, it turns from gold to silver (actually, more like pewter) to bronze. So it seems to have first place, second place, and third place all in one paint job! Next step came the test drive. It was an abbreviated test drive of a couple of miles of local streets, probably because the showroom was mobbed and it seemed as though everyone there was looking to buy. With a crowd of hungry buyers, no salespeople want to spend the day riding around in a demo car. For the test drive, I casually reset the aFCD as we left the lot. With three aboard and the A/C running, the aFCD read 27.8mpg. Close enough to the 29 EPA rating considering the A/C was on high, we had three people in the car, top speed was maybe 35mph for a few short blocks, and there were 8 or 9 stop signs and 3 red lights. The navigation screen is large and easy to read, even in bright sun, and is intuitive enough to use without cracking open the owners manual. As we walk back toward the showroom, he asks me if I might be interested in buying a new Elantra. I said the next hurdle is to have my car appraised for trade-in. As we are walking in the door, I said, "I already know what it's worth, so this will be a good test to see if the appraiser is honest." He asked how I knew what it was worth, and I told him I already had three others give me a number for it. The three "others" were Edmunds, BlackBook, and NADA, but I didn't name names. He took the keys and the registration card and disappeared for five minutes. He comes back to the desk, and asks, "How much do you think your car is worth?", and I tell him the number I had. He smiled and said, "we may be able to do business". They were low on the trade, but not insultingly low. I had printed a "check" from their website - the usual "Take $1000 off any new car* in stock" - where the asterisk (I thought we were saving them?) pointed to the disclaimer of "select models only". Well, the Elantra is not one of those models. So I told him no, since there is nothing wrong with my car, its paid off, it does what I need it to do, and so I don't really need a new car. Then I said "but feel free to make me an offer I can't refuse". They increased the value of the trade to $350 more than what I had in mind when I walked in the door. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. The difference between the trade value on my Chevy and agreed price of the new Elantra GLS Nav was about $10k. I wrote a check for the tax&tags and financed the $10k. Even on a hot seller like the Elantra, they offer rates from 1.9% to 4.9% for 3 to 6 years. My insurance will go up by $16 every six months - not enough to worry about. We signed papers last Saturday, and I picked it up this past Monday night. I still haven't preset all the radio stations or brought the bag-o-crap (everything I took out of the old Chevy) outside to pepper the Elantra with trinkets that will make it my very own. The ceremonial "placement of the digital tire pressure gage in the center console so it is always at my fingertips if needed" has yet to occur. There is no SG/UG plugged in yet. The Elantra has the OBD port in the fuse box, so you need to remove the cover and leave it off to plug in a gage. I asked the salesman how much a new panel would cost. Since the panel is there and in perfect shape, he seemed puzzled that I was requesting one until I explained that I want a spare panel so I can cut a hole for the OBD connector. He said stop back in and he will get me one at no charge. Window sticker for 2011 Elantra GLS PZEV Preliminary impressions First, it will be a challenge to break the FAS habit, but it's something I will need to do. The Elantra "flat towing" note in the manual is "less than 10mph, less than a mile", which means ok to FAS at a jogging speed, but nothing more. The car has 19 miles on it, so it is the exact opposite of broken in - meaning the engine is tighter than a cr@b's @ss. Fuel economy will understandably be lower than expected while the engine starts to loosen up, the transaxle learns behavior and adapts algorithms, and tires (pressed to placard numbers) and braking surfaces wear in a bit. With driving so far only on residential streets infested with traffic lights and stop signs, I think I know where all those "bad mileage" claims for the Elantra are coming from. I reset the aFCD when leaving the dealer and drove it "my way". Using light timing, I was able to keep rolling in the 25-30 range in the 30 zone. I got stopped at two lights along the way, and each time, I'd approach in N and key off as the car stopped. Reaching the driveway, the aFCD read 32.8 - not bad for road conditions far worse than EPA city FTP75. Then, heading back out to a restaurant, I drove it in "average joe" mode (stop for the red light with the engine idling for over a minute, backing out of parking spaces, etc), and parked the car with 24.2 on the aFCD. I don't have the gage plugged in yet, so I don't have any steady state numbers and no gph at idle, but I think I have a few conclusions: 1 - The car hates to idle. Reset the aFCD and drive for five or six miles and every time you sit at a light with the engine running, you can see the average mpg nosedive. You will see this happen with any car, and maybe it's just more noticeable because the mpg number is so much higher in the Elantra and so it has farther to fall if you love to idle your engine for prolonged periods. 2 - The car seems to be more fuel efficient at 25-30mph than it is at 20mph. I wanted to see if driving in "granny mode" would have any effect, since there are so many uneducated drivers who think "hypermiling" means driving at very low speeds. The aFCD fell at low speeds, and picked up again when speed was increased to 30mph. 3 - With the smart alternator, the car drags down during closed throttle, even at speeds too low for fuel cut. Once I get the gage plugged in, I can see if NICE-on coasting costs too much due to the engine idling up to charge the battery, or if the smart alternator is smart enough to let the engine idle at low load and charge the battery afterward. Since I don't drive that many miles per year, it will take quite a while to get to 5k miles - the time when Hyundai engines really wake up and deliver mind-boggling fuel economy. But that won't stop me from exploring what the Elantra can offer in traffic conditions ranging from urban congestion to vast velvet-smooth interstate. It is going to be fun "learning" the new car, and exploring which techniques work best, which don't work as well, and how to take each tank as far as I can.