Other than wearing an Elantra badge, there's virtually no sheet metal that's shared between the sedan and the Touring, which was originally designed for the European market where compact wagons are even more popular. From its open-mouth front air intake to its oversized vertical taillamps, the Touring appears more sleek than utilitarian.
Interestingly, the tale of the tape reveals that the Touring is about an inch shorter and a half-inch narrower that the sedan, but enjoys a two-inch advantage in distance between the front and rear wheels. The result is more rear-seat leg room and less body overhang, especially in the rear.
Still, Hyundai says you can cram more stuff in back with the rear seat folded than in either the Toyota Matrix, Mazda3 or Dodge Caliber as well as some major heavyweight haulers such as the BMW 3-series or Audi A4 Avant wagon.
In its own economical way, the Touring tries to emulate its pricier German rivals by tweaking the steering and suspension to provide a sport-wagon driving experience and not a station-wagon driving experience. Significantly stiffer springs, larger front and rear stabilizer bars and short-sidewall tires are the order of the day plus the steering rack has been adjusted to deliver more direct "feel."
The sense of sportiness extends to the interior where a set of sport bucket seats with extra bolstering helps keep everyone in their place. The five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed automatic transmission is available) comes with a short-throw shifter from California-based aftermarket-parts company B&M Racing. Sporty doesn't mean brash, though, as Hyundai has installed additional sound deadening material to keep the experience a pleasant one.
So far, so good, but don't expect to find a fire-breathing dragon under the Touring's hood, just the sedan's 141-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder that twists out 137 pound-feet of torque. However, this powerplant has served the Elantra sedan well and should be capable of propelling the 3,000-pound Touring with adequate gusto.
Hyundai has graced the Touring with a veritable full load of gear including air conditioning, tilt and telescopic steering wheel with built-in audio controls, automatic speed control, keyless remote entry, eight-way adjustable driver's seat (including lumbar support), heated outside mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels and a complete range of safety gear. The Touring also comes with a six-speaker 172-watt sound system that also includes XM satellite radio.
In fact, the Elantra arrives so complete that the only options consist of a power sunroof, heated front seats and 17-inch wheels.
Hyundai has yet to announce the base sticker for its upcoming wagon, which is expected to arrive early in 2009. But you can be sure that, with its history of competitive pricing, not to mention its standard five-year basic warranty coverage, the Elantra Touring will become a highly sought-after model and another feather in the company's cap, along with the Genesis, of course. Whether you're a buyer or you work at a Hyundai dealership, there's plenty of excitement. And that's understandable.