Urgh, another rental. Wait, I have a blog, so I can tell you all about it!
I got to Enterprise yesterday and was asked if I wanted to upgrade to something roomier than the midsize I booked. Uh, no. Thank you, but no. I asked for something smaller, and the manager just sighed, wandered off, and eventually handed over the keys to a brand new (seriously – 102.3 miles on the odometer) 2017 Hyundai Elantra. I took it home, loaded up my stuff, and headed out to visit a plant in the middle of OH. Possibly the most boring road trip ever.
The stripper rental car was doomed when Volkswagen decreed in the early 90s that all cars shipped over to our shores should have at a minimum air conditioning. By the early 2000s, Honda had caught on, and by the mid-2000s, it was almost impossible to find a true stripper any more. There isn’t even a delete option for most automotive features now, so good luck with sweating. All this change has meant that your average rental car is now actually a decent place to be, like this Elantra.
The Elantra I got was a bit of a surprise to me. The 2016 was ok, but not something I would consider renting again. The 2017 has a few tricks up its sleeve that make it a particularly good choice at the counter, the first being the incredibly adjustable front seat. Yes, I am swooning about a seat that is otherwise kind of stiff, not particularly supportive, and not really pretty either. The shear range of positioning is what makes this seat so great: in fact, the entire ergos for the car are far better than I expected, and frankly, might set a standard. The vertical adjust on the driver’s seat is nearly six inches. This means that I, as a person who does not enjoy the Actros or Mack seating position, can get the seat (and my H point) down to somewhere sensible. Forward and backward are manually adjustable and also generous. The seat is missing lumbar adjust, something that would prevent me from purchasing the car. Regular notched seatback angle is also impressive in range.
Complementing the extreme seat manipulation is a very adjustable steering wheel. It pulls out about five inches and has significant up and down motion. While it might not look like an F1 car on the outside, those of us who prefer the F1 seating position can almost get there. And still see out of the greenhouse. One noteworthy feature – the seat is nearly perfectly in line with the steering column. Otherwise perfect ergonomics have been ruined by misalignment of these two critical parts, so it’s nice that Hyundai has taken care here.
The rear window has a nasty fogging effect from its internal lamination that obscured vision in the lower driver’s quadrant. At first, I thought I had the generous AC cranked too far up, but the rear defroster did not help. Some investigation and reduction in solar angle of incidence revealed the tell-tale dot pattern of optical adhesive. Otherwise, visibility was very good, even with the seat all the way down.
The stereo works pretty well, and was minimally difficult to figure out. The base stereo and button-intense control surface seems almost quaint in today’s world of full-color TFT touchpads. XM works as expected, with three bands available for presets. The preset function is super-easy to use. I would recommend this stereo for technophobes, it’s straight out of 1995, but with more words on the screen.
Climate control controls were scattered and took me a few minutes to sort out. Seriously, though, GM-level AC in this thing.
Riding down I75 in Detroit, the car started beeping at my, with no indication in the instrument binnacle of the source. I quickly learned how to operate the steering wheel controls, the various functions on the dash, and a few other odds and ends before realizing that my purse, coat, and adapter bag were enough weight to trigger the passenger airbag/seatbelt interlock and warning. Ooops. I swished my purse and coat to the floor and the beeping stopped. The angle of the late afternoon sun had made the warning light on the center stack very difficult to see.
The car struggled with grooved pavement and winds, with very unsteady tracking. The first one hundred miles or so of the two-hundred mile trip were difficult. Once I was through the grooves in Michigan and the construction zones in OH, the car started to settle down a bit. The sensitivity may be related to the tall-sidewall tyres the car is shod with, or to air in the steering rack. I don’t know, but it was super annoying and made an otherwise pleasant ride into a more stress than it should have been.
The engine is plenty powerful for rental abuse, and the transmission is remarkably not annoying. In sport mode. In regular and eco modes, it is a dog. Way too much lag off the line. Gear-hunting was rare, downshifts were smooth, and no clunks or lurches. No shifter weirdness because the shifter is like the radio – an artifact, but a very welcome and pleasant artifact. If it ain’t broke… you know, don’t “fix” it.
The interior is not upscale, but it’s also not downscale. It’s extremely neutral. Hyundai uses a better quality hard plastic and textures it to avoid surface glare. The upholstery is smooth, but looks to be a fine knit that may pill or pull. Time will tell. No one is going to mistake this thing for a Genesis, that is for sure, but it’s noticeably better than a Corolla. The trunk includes a rear seatback release button and is roomy.
It’s a car with decent looks and controls. It’s boring, but predictable. Overall, you won’t go appreciably wrong by selecting the 2017 Elantra at the rental counter.
(pics coming soon)