If you want a nice surprise, check out the 2007 Elantra.
This is a car that lists for less than $14,000 for starters -- and is better equipped than some cars selling for about half as much more. It's got front and rear side curtain air bags, active front head restraints and adjustable head restraints, full power equipment, remote keyless entry system, tilt steering wheel, rear center armrest with cup holders, center console with two-tier storage compartment and more.
It's got so much interior volume that the federal government places it in a class size above the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic -- there's more interior volume than you'll find in Acura's TL entry-level luxury car.
And don't think you get all this in a Plain Jane car. The new Elantra is curvaceous, not flat and angular as some compact cars seem to be. It's got a flowing character line along each of its flanks and an aggressive-looking grille. Inside you'll find interiors with two-toned themes and touches of aluminum and chrome trim.The 2007 Hyundai Elantra.
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Power comes from a 2.0 liter, 132 horsepower four-cylinder engine with mileage ratings of 28 mpg city and 36 highway. Prices range from $13,395 to $17,845.
The other star of Hyundai's lineup this year is the all-new 2007 Santa Fe small crossover.
The Santa Fe has several competitive advantages. It offers a third-row seat, which is a big deal for shoppers these days; two transmissions and two engine choices -- both are V-6s, a 2.7 liter 185 horsepower version (rated at 21 mpg city/26 highway) and a 242 horsepower model (rated at 19 city/24 highway); and, of course, a 10 year/100,000 mile warranty.
It comes with a full complement of safety equipment, including electronic stability control, anti-whiplash active head restraints and six air bags, including side air curtains.
The new Santa Fe has more flowing lines than its predecessor, and you don't see the odd character lines or sharp angles and odd wrinkles that were part of the previous car.
Inside, there's more luxury and comfort than you might expect: dual zone climate controls; blue backlighting for all interior gauges, switches and buttons; and soft touch, high quality materials and low-gloss surfaces through the car.
Prices range from $20,945 to $27,945.