We’ve occasionally stumbled across prototype vehicles in parking lots or traffic, but we’ve never had one fall into our laps before. This 2012 Hyundai Elantra prototype, however, did just that. We were tending to business in the office when the forthcoming four-door literally parked right beneath our window.
We conveniently chose to take our lunch break at that exact moment, and meandered down to have a look for ourselves. Admittedly, there’s little mystery surrounding the new subcompact sedan since it’s already been launched in Korea (shown here with plates reading Avante), but this was our first close encounter with the new Elantra here in the U.S.
Our thoughts? It’s hard to see much beneath the lumpy camo, but it’s a safe bet the new Elantra — much like the 2011 Sonata — will be a quantum leap over its predecessor, especially when it comes to styling. The new car is leaner and longer than the current model — in fact, from a distance, its side profile almost reminds us of the latest Mazda6.
If you’re not sold on the Sonata’s razor-blade grille, you’ll be happy to know designers are retaining a simple one-bar grille arrangement, much like the one currently used on the Elantra Touring. We dig the headlamp clusters, which appear to have a thin, ribbon-like strip that wraps into the headlamp lens. We doubt it lights up, but it does remind us of Audi’s recent DRL designs.
A bashful engineer managed to cover up the dashboard with a tarp before stepping out of the car, but we managed to glimpse a quick peek inside as he drove away. We did spot a radio with a touchscreen display installed in the dashboard. Seeing as the current Elantra is available with a navigation system, this could have been a next-generation unit.
We’ve heard the 2012 Elantra will utilize a new version of Hyundai’s Theta-II 2.0-liter I-4 that’s good for 168 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. We wouldn’t be surprised if a 138-horsepower, 1.6-liter I-4 — which is offered in other global markets — arrives stateside for either a fuel-miser model like today’s Elantra Blue.
Expect more details to emerge closer to the Elantra’s debut, which is currently expected to occur in mid-2011.