I bought this car when it was one year old with only a few thousand miles on it. Exterior styling of this car met the needs of both my wife and I. It has held up very nicely overall as well except for one area. The joint between the bumper and rear quarterpanels over the tires rust terribly. The rust on my car began at about 6years of age. Every other Elantra from the same era (+ and - a few years) rusts terribly there as well.
Fuel economy was very important to us when we bought this car. It was rated 28 city, 32 highway. With 135000 miles on it currently, I am getting 27 mpg city, 30ish highway. I am very hjappy with these numbers, especially when all our friends have a hard time hitting these numbers with their older vehicles!
Handling and comfort on the road feels like a car in this price range (better than American made, worse than a BMW). This is a family car. It has been on 12 hour trips full of camping gear and children. Seats are comfortable, steering is responsive, we love this performance area. Winter driving is a lot of fun. I have lost traction, but this car tracks and responds in slides like I would expect. I have always been able to easily regain control from driver error without sliding into another lane or off the road.
Ride noise is on the average to high side, but overall it is about what one should expect from a vehicle in this price range.
This is a struggle for our vehicle. When the tires are inflated to the proper pressure to dealer specs, the front tires always look low. I lost count of the number of times someone warned me of low tire pressure because of the tire compression (air was always spot on). Another struggle is that even with alignments, the front end has chewed up tires much faster than dealer specifications. I recommend a high quality tire rather than cheap tires. Cheap tires only last a couple years on this vehicle, where quality tires (I have a set of Perelli's on that I love!) will last much better!