Thursday, May 10, 2012



My son John Henry was on the phone from where he lives in California wondering why what I have blogged about the 2012 Hyundai Elantra Touring isn't as enthusiastic as what I say on the phone.
Because, I said, I think it's a wonderful downtown car but the ride is too damn hard and my mileage has only improved a bit.
Maybe cars still need to be broken in, even this Elantra which is so loved by car journalists. And I suspect that tire pressure may be far more important in affecting mileage than in larger cars.
I have now done more than 12,000 kms in my Elantra Touring, much of it in the toughest kind of driving, Toronto traffic, too much of it downtown where you sit almost as much as you move.
My last trip to the cottage, much of it at 116 km/h, took 7.2 litres per 100 kms. Now that's more like it.
And my latest stop-and-go driving around the city took 9 litres per 100. Now I can (almost) live with that. But those mileage claims by the company are aggressive, if not dubious.
It certainly is a nimble car, as I have written in a couple of blogs. But until recently that consumption was so high in routine driving that both my mechanic of several decades, Kirk Stibbe, and I wondered whether there was something wrong. Yet Stibbe likes the Hyundais.
Now if only the ride would improve. There's no chance Toronto streets are going to improve, not with the current crop of councillors who make you cringe when they squabble like tired kindergarteners.
I consulted Consumer Reports before I bought the Hyundai and it did warn about a "rather stiff" ride but it seemed like the outfit hasn't really tested the model since 2009. Then again, I may be wrong.
 CR continues to be an awkward source. Their presentations can be more baffling than informative. Much like the manual that comes with the Hyundai. I asked the dealer what one section meant. No one knew. They say they would ask. Still waiting after 14 months.  I guess that's the price you pay when you buy a really popular car.
Buyers should be warned that Hyundai's boast of unrivalled economy of 4.9 litres per 100 km  (believe it or not, and I don't) apply to the sedan, the Elantra, nor the Elantra Touring, You certainly pay a price for that peppier engine!
There are two other gripes I have about the car.
Whenever I try to change from AM to FM on the radio, I have trouble hitting the tiny button that does the trick. Every time!
It's maddening, because the second you take your eyes off the road, this car starts to wander.
The car comes with a fancy eerie blue light display that gives you such interesting data as what mileage you're getting (funny, we don't say what litreage) and how far you can go with what's left. I can't read it at the best of times. In daylight, with my sunglasses on,  it is impossible. My eye doctor says changing the glasses won't help.
Too bad the engineers can't deal with such minor irritants which bug me on any trip longer than 50 kilometres.


The column above may seem dated but it really isn't because Hyundai says the policy of compensating drivers of various Hyundai models does not apply to Elantra Touring drivers.
I was told by phone and by Internet that the wrong calculation for the ads didn't happen to the Touring. But as I said in reply, why should I believe you on any mileage figure that you give because you've been caught in a significant exaggeration?
Was it a deliberate lie? An accidental goof? Or just sheer stupidity by Korean engineers who have a big rep for not making such mistakes.
What is revealing and significant about this consumer horror is that Hyundai was caught out by Americans using American standards, which are tougher, for now, than Canadian rules. Canada is moving in a year or so to broaden its testing which unfortunately seems to be necessary.
Still like the car. Still hate the ride, the radio tuning and the dashboard display.
Better, however, than my first car, a 1930 Model A sedan.
That may seem a silly thing to say but younger drivers don't realize just how much better today's cars   are. Remember as winter approaches how we used to have to use block heaters and winter thermostats and there was something called a carburetor that always needed a screw adjusted to get the right mixture.
And everyone could tell you precisely what their mileage was. Hyundai would have been caught out in the first month of a new model.