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Hyundai's big little 2011 Elantra

Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 09:02 AM

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I'm a huge groupie when it comes to Hyundai's swoopy-looking Sonata sedan. It looks terrific, it offers Maytag-like reliability, the fuel economy of a weed-whacker and amazing bang for the buck.

OK, so what do you get if you put the Sonata into the automotive tumble-dryer, crank up the temp and leave it to tumble for maybe a week?

You get the latest 2011 Hyundai Elantra compact, that's what.

Until now, the only small package I've salivated over has been Eva Longoria. But this new pint-sized Hyundai is a true feast for the eyes. To my baby-blues, it looks even cooler than the Sonata.

I can't think of the last small car that I walked away from and instinctively gazed back over my shoulder for another look.

Yet here is a car that stickers at $15,550 in entry GLS Standard form. Add a mountain of standard features, like six-speed automatic, a/c, remote keyless entry, cruise – the list is endless – and you get the GLS Popular model at a bargain $17,800.

Just got a tax refund? Then blow $22,700 on the Limited Premium with its leather seats with front and rear seat heaters, sunroof, thumping stereo and rearview camera.

But this new Elantra isn't just a pretty face. Did I mention that it'll average a hugely impressive 40 mpg on the highway and 29 around town?

This handy Hyundai gets its power from a new, lightweight 1.8-liter four-cylinder that cranks out a useful 148 horses. And it's mated to a silky smooth-sifting six-speed auto – a rarity in this class.

Inside there's room for four in a cabin that's impressive for its sleek design and exceptional quality and fit and finish. The trunk is like a PODS storage unit.

This is one very cool little car that's fun to drive and a delight to live with. Think of it as a Sonata Petite.

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